A new chapter is starting in my life... but I have no idea yet what it will be called, though perhaps this is always the case unless one is blessed with uncommon prescience or cursed with absolute predictability in life. I will be travelling to Latin America (via San Fran) and then back 'home' to Southeast Asia (via Dubai) over the course of 5-6 months. I hope to share (some of) my stories with you as they unfold.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Dusk at the lavish Royal Palace complex in Phnom Penh, where a procession of fabulous Khmer buildings with those trademark multi-tiered roofs and pointy gable-ends is interrupted by a bizarre iron house, a gift from Napoleon III.

As the sun sets over the Royal Palace, the Phnom Penhois come out to play, chat, hang out, eat, have their fortunes told etc on Sisowath Quay, by the confluence of the mighty Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. Many of the locals are amputees (as seen here in the foreground) as a result of landmine incidents. Landmines continue to be a great problem in this country, with an estimated 8 million mines still out there and a further 2000 mine victims every year.

But at least the amputees are still alive -- thousands of other Cambodians lost their lives in the Khmer Rouge years between 1975 and 1979, tortured at S21 and then systematically killed at Choeung Ek, known to the rest of the world as "The Killing Fields". There is now a hollow stupa at Choeung Ek containing some of the skulls excavated from mass graves there. The information pavillion on the site rightly points the finger of blame at "the clique of Pol Pot criminals" but then interestingly goes on to say that these people "have the human form but their hearts are demon's hearts" which I think wrongly attributes evil to an Other that sits outside of our shared humanity, when in fact the potential for such great wrongdoing is wholly human, just as is the potential for great goodness. Which is why we need always be vigilant.

My obligatory "steamy market scene" photo, taken at the Russian Market (Psar Toul Tom Poung) where we had lunch today.


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