Again the day began at 3:30 AM. We both woke up determined to not be up at 3:30 again tomorrow. The plan is to have a busy morning followed by a short nap nap and then coffee, lots of coffee if necessary, to keep us up past 8 PM.
That busy morning includes a trip to a gun range followed by a tour of the killing fields. McKayla says it needs to be in that order, otherwise the irony might weigh a little too heavy.
Tang took us way out past the airport so we could get McKayla’s hands on some high-powered weaponry. There are a few places that offer the chance to shoot pistols, rifles, automatic weapons, you could even pay to throw a hand grenade or… wait for it… shoot a rocket launcher. So we pull up to this place and a guy brings us inside and sits us down at a table. He then brings us a menu. On each page of the menu is a picture of a different weapon and the cost in US dollars of how much a clip costs, or in some cases how much it is to throw or launch a grenade. I know you’re wondering what the cost is to shoot a rocket launcher and blow up a small makeshift shed. It’s $400. McKayla settled on the AK-47. She had 25 shots for $50 to show the coconut and a target what she was made of. She even fired its trademarked three round burst. After McKayla took her revenge on a fallen coconut, she got a brief Rambo photo shoot and checked one more thing off her bucket list.
After our brief stay at the Armory we hopped back in with Tang and headed for the killing fields. Between 1975 and 1980 the communist regime known as the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, ruled Cambodia. During this regime, 3 million people out of a total 8 million were killed. Some starved to death, some were worked to death, many were executed. These killing fields were one of several areas throughout the country where doctors, artists, politicians, foreigners and anyone else the Khmer Rouge considered a possible threat was brought to be executed.
This monument had a very well narrated personal audio tour. We got our headphones and went through the field learning the horrors of each area. I will spare the details but if you were interested in learning more I would encourage anyone to research the subject.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana
Nate and I are both reading “First they Killed my Father” by Loung Ung. It is hard to believe a mass genocide happened so recently. The book is very sad but I’m glad we’re reading it so we have a better understanding of what these people went through. Everyone we have encountered so far is friendly and helpful. Wan, our tour guide at the Royal Palace, was very happy and fun but there was a sadness in his eyes and his voice lowered when he briefly mensioned the Khmer Rouge. It is incredible that this country and these people persist and progress. I have great respect for them.
With Loung’s story in mind as we walked through the killing fields and the narrator on the head phones painting the picture, the horrors of what happened in that field come alive. It ends with music and the whir of a generator, the final sounds many heard before their brutal deaths.
Our long tuk-tuk ride back into Phnom Penh was silent as we both imagined the city as a ghost town and tried to process the tour.