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Posts Tagged ‘Cambodia History’

Day 8, January 7: Phnom Penh to Kampot

This was another beautiful day along the Mekong. Our 8 AM departure was delayed while a misplaced passport was relocated. On our way out of Phnom Penh, we stopped at the trendy (and socially responsible) Java Café for box lunches.

Krouser Themy Shelter for street children supported by Friendship with Cambodia

Krouser Themy Shelter for street children supported by Friendship with Cambodia

Then we headed to Krousar Thmey (KT), where Phanna, the manager of the drop-in street children’s shelter, Chetra, Coordinator of KT’s Child Welfare Division, and Ari, an advisor from France, talked about the street kids’ situation. Friendship with Cambodia helps fund this shelter.

Tour participants learn about the street children's shelter

Tour participants learn about the street children’s shelter

It was a school holiday (celebrating liberation from the Khmer Rouge by the Vietnamese), so we missed the usual classroom clamor, but we heard the firsthand reports by these three dedicated men. Krousar Themy is a French NGO that counsels street kids, provides resources, and resettles many with foster families, which KT employs and monitors.

We left Krousar Themy at 11 AM and battled the traffic for an hour to reach Choung Ek, Phnom Penh’s major killing field where prisoners from S-21 (Tuol Sleng) were executed and buried.

Memorial at the Killing Fields

Memorial at the Killing Fields

We picked up audio-phones and individually toured the site and the new museum. Much of the information was provided by personal stories.

The horror of genocide

The horror of genocide

Like at Tuol Sleng, it is hard to grasp the horror that occurred here. We ate our lunches in silence, each lost in thought as we drove towards Kampot, stopping just once for toilets and cold drinks at a new and modern gas station.

At 4 PM, we arrived at the Diamond Hotel in Kampot. At 6:30 PM, we had dinner at Moliden Guest House, where we were free to order from the menu.

Group dinner at Moliden Guest House

Group dinner at Moliden Guest House

Most of our meals prior to this had been pre-ordered, due to the size of our group. It was interesting to see what people ordered when freed from the set menus we had been having—fish amok or a cheeseburger. I enjoyed my green peppercorn steak and a large Angkor beer.

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By Kevin Wiles, MS
For those who do not know the history of the FCC (Foreign Correspondents’ Club) in Phnom Penh, the pictures on the stairway to the club provide a glimpse into its history. The monochrome images of war, with the faces of soldiers ranging in age from elementary school boys to grizzled veterans offer a glimpse of the times in which the club gained its notoriety.The FCC  was the meeting place and base of operations for many journalists, and a haven during the days of the Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia. From this club came the dispatches detailing the initial atrocities; journalists and ex-pats gathered here also for evacuation from the country when it became dangerous for foreigners.

The current club has a relaxed atmosphere, and offers a full bar and menu. If you are missing aspects of an American style bar, continue looking elsewhere, because with the exception of the alcohol prices, this is pretty far removed from your corner watering hole. An air of aged elegance exists in the somewhat spartan interior. I can picture Humphrey Bogart walking in, and Bing Crosby crooning in a corner. The well-worn cream colored walls, the wrought iron and wicker furniture, and the open walled construction lends itself to imagining the good times and conversations that took place in years past as you look down onto the brightly lit street and the diverse flow of traffic. A sense of privilege follows the view, as this is not a club that your average citizen frequents. Offering a voyeuristic peek into the street life of this city, visitors can watch from on high the tuk-tuk drivers competing for space on the curb with children selling trinkets and beggars with children crying out for alms.

Image

The view from the FCC

The food is good, the beer is cold, and the drinks are ample. What makes the FCC is the ability to experience the city’s past and present in a single location. The club deftly offers privacy and openness which makes for comfortable meetings and the ability to get a little rambunctious in the same setting. Having a dinner party on the veranda, with the ceiling fans moving at high speed is reminiscent of a warm, breezy night on a beach in the tropics.

Recommendation: Definitely spend some time here. The Cambodian people are some of the most industrious I have ever met, and I find myself reeling from the surroundings and the activity within the city. The FCC gave me a place to reflect and compare my life to that of others. The reminder and the time to ponder this in comfortable setting provided me with the ability to understand what I am experiencing daily.

To learn more about the FCC, visit their website: http://fcccambodia.com

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