Psycho Killer

ankor wat

Saturday, 16 April, 2011

Battambang, Cambodia

Our Thailand visa restricted us to fifteen days. So, we took a short trip to Cambodia to ensure we applied by the visa rules – because while we come across as really bloody cool, we are also good, old, law-abiding folk.

The first activity that we wanted to do while in Cambodia was visit a floating village.

A community decided to relocate their entire village to the middle of the Mekong River after the war. I have no idea about the stress that comes with such events, I know, but the practicality has to come into question on that choice, surely?

I imagine that this village must brew its fair share of weirdos. I was watching a documentary the other day about Amish people and they were a loony bunch because they’ve never watched TV – so, imagine how you turn out when your neighbours are fish. If your daughter marries a stingray, you only have yourself to blame.

I was absolutely fascinated by the village as our boat steered towards it.

It was a small town on water. The place had a floating church, a police station, and even a basketball court. I remember playing football in the street as a kid, missing the target would mean going into that angry, old man’s garden to get the ball back – here a bad shot means asking mum for the life-jacket.

There was, unfortunately, a downside to the visit. Those residing within the village seemed adamant that we, and presumably any other guest, ‘owed them’ money – putting constant pressure on us to hand over some coin at every given opportunity.

The most outrageous example was when they forced us into their, I want to say corner shop, but it was floating alone and in the middle of everything. So, we will just call it their shop. Based on the prices of the products, it was immediately clear that this place was created more for the guests than the locals – that or the prices differ depending on the customer.

The shop’s purpose was to allow visitors to get a gift for the villagers. However, with instant noodles being priced at $15 a packet, the odds of me helping them had suddenly slimmed dramatically. I used to eat these things in university for 20p – I found it very important to appropriately balance money correctly between food and beer in those days. So, $15?! Come on, behave yourself. I would love to give you the exact increase regarding the price of noodles in Cambodia, but I’m too lazy to do the maths – probably a rise of about 10000000% or something though, I reckon. Crazy or what?

While the noodles hit closer to home than most of the scams, the fun didn’t end there. We witnessed seven-year-old kids standing close to the water with a giant, living snake wrapped around their necks – this bizarre image was like nothing I had ever seen before.

Unfortunately, the second I reached for my camera her mum or manager rushed over asking for money. I didn’t get the photo and she didn’t get a tip for the exploitation of her child.

However, the ultimate scam. The winner. The antic that required superpower ninja skills, didn’t actually occur until we were back on land.

Two young girls approached us in the car park and offered us a couple of tacky, small, silver plates. This kind of act has happened regularly on the trip, so with little thought, we just waved them away and went about our regular business. They weren’t ready to give up just yet though and proceeded to shove the plates right up against my eyeballs.

I noticed something very peculiar this time around – those plates had our faces on them. Our bloody unaware faces! But, when did they even… you know what, never mind. This is hilarious. We laughed a great deal about this one, and on reflection, I kind of wish I purchased them because it was so weird. If their pals weren’t pricing noodles at $15, I may have not maintained such a reluctant mindset and they could well have had a sale there.

Oh well, one thing is for sure. Cambodia now has some really stunning cutlery, which frankly, should probably cost even more than their noodles!

Next up, we took a trip to see Cambodia’s biggest draw.

“You have to go and see Angkor Wat!!” Said everybody, ever.

We visited the monumental temple and the architecture we were looking at was truly divine, that I can’t deny, but this place is a 500-acre site – making for a lot of intellectual information to wrap our heads around. My history teacher in school had a really boring voice, which appears to have had an effect on my interest in the past. Perhaps I would be suited to a life in North Korea? They don’t seem to value factual history much, either.

Basically, the Angkor Wat experience exhausted my brain and for every Vishnu inspired, 12th century discovered temple my head was expected to absorb – the more it wanted to rebel and think about irrelevant nonsense, such as the difference in plug sockets around the world. This genuinely entered my mind and bothered me as I explored the grounds of the world-famous temple. Seriously, I get why language and currency may need to differ, but why do plug sockets? That’s just a plain inconvenience.

The experience did naturally come with some fantastic highlights though. For instance, picture sitting on top of some ancient temple ruins in the middle of the jungle, as you patiently relax and wait for the sun to set – that was special. Of course, it is hard to fully concentrate on the beauty mentioned when you are fully aware of the unsolved plug socket issue playing havoc across the world every day.

What is left to say? Well, a lot actually. As I said, the place is 500-acres – that is even bigger than the massive Primark that has just opened in Leeds’ city centre. However, I am not the right man for the job. If you want to know more about the great Angkor Wat, just go on to the monuments Wikipedia page or something.

Here is a random joke…

How does a train eat?
It goes chew chew.

Ok, enjoy that for a minute. Cool, now I’m going to tell you about the Cambodian killing fields.

So… Pol Pot was nuttier than a squirrel’s house party, wasn’t he? Jesus Christ! Basically, he wanted to be the most intelligent person on the planet, however, wasn’t prepared to start wasting time studying textbooks – that would be far too time consuming. Instead, he killed anybody wearing a watch or glasses, as they were the competition, apparently. Somewhat of a controversial method to achieve one’s goal, it must be said.

Such a destructive level of insanity made the 1970s a brutal decade for those in Cambodia – seeing images alone has made me feel rather queasy on various occasions this week.

While in Battambang, we visited a killing cave. A cave in which ten thousand people were murdered – without getting into the brutal details, most of those victims were bludgeoned to death. As far as ‘lunatic evil dictators’ go, this guy certainly gives those North Korean boys a run for their money.

I remember music class in primary school very distinctively for one reason. I was seated next to a girl that would frequently shove the mouthpiece of her recorder into her ear, wax up her sound tool and then lick the end before she played along to ‘hot cross buns’. I tell you this because she also wore glasses – a 1970s Pot would have shut off her little genius brain quicker than Mrs Woodham could say, “God Damn it, Sarah. Take that recorder out of your ear!”

Perhaps the most notable feature from this trip was the glass walled memorial containing pressed together bones of those murdered, including a large number of skulls. The view was hard to understand, why would a person consider so many lives so invaluable? We live in a mad world at times.

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