//

But that’s what I’m most afraid of ; existing, and not living. I don’t want to go to high school and do well to go to college and do well to get a job and do well and get married and do well and have kids and do well. I want to know what its like to get drunk and get high. I want to walk through edgy side streets. I want to skydive and bungee jump. I want to scare all the kids one Halloween. I want to go down ‘up escalators’ and go up ‘down escalators’. I want to sail across an ocean, through storms and tides. I want to camp in the Amazon Rainforest. I want to take part in a street race in L.A . I want to shave my hair and donate it for cancer. I want to spend a night under the stars. I want to let go of a floating lantern. I want to go to the Salem Witch house. I want to attend a masquerade. I want to cliff jump. I want to be the kind of mom who plays paint twister with her kids. I want to get a tattoo. I want to dye my hair. I want to play paintball. I want to play my soul out on the piano. I want to publish a best selling book. I want to see the Titanic from a submarine. I want to buy tickets at the airport for a random flight. I want to party in Las Vegas. I want to float in the Dead Sea. I want to learn to stop caring about what people think. I want to get a dog. I want to try climbing Mount Everest. I want to make my mom and dad proud.  I want to live carefree, happily and unapologetically.

~m.k


Part 2 coming soon.


 

A Secret with a Bear

So I’m going to start uploading these short stories and excerpts and entries that I write. I’ve been writing on all sorts of topics(love, life, pain, etc) or just random stories like this. And if you have any ideas, challenges or topics for me, feel free to share em’ with me in the comments :))


It is so beautiful, so peaceful here. I don’t ever want to go home. All there is at home is city lights, shopping malls, traffic and fake people. This is Yellowstone National Park.

I look to my right, and there’s my mother and father, free from their stress from work, smiling. And that made me happy. We had pulled up on the way to the top of a hill. Not many people came to this side of the park. I put my sketch of this current view down.
“I need some water.” I say, and cross the road to our car. I open the door away from the road and my backpack falls out, and it tumbles down the edge, down a slope.
“Shoot!” I whisper to myself. Hey, at least it wasn’t a cliff, I could slide down and get it.
And so I did.

But it was steeper than I thought it would be. I stopped becoming a slide, and I began tumbling down, rolling, uncontrollably.
Finally, I stop.
“Oof!” I say, getting up.

I look up at the slop, from where I’d come from. It was too steep to climb, and I hadn’t yet found my bag. If my parents found out about this………… I would die. I had to hurry up and find it, and find a way up. Trees, leaves and grass – That’s all I saw. I walked around, looking for it.
It had gone off the slop a little ahead of where I came down from. It was lighter then me too, hence, I jogged up ahead, eyes wide open.

I reached a small stream, and there was a small cave, on the other side. I looked 270 degrees, and bingo! There is was, right there, next to the cave, on the other side of the stream. I take a few steps back, then run, and jump.
I land onto the ground, sideways, on my hip. “Bullseye.” I whisper to myself, and go towards the bag.

I was just about to reach it, but there it came out, straight out of the cave – A Bear. There it was, a few metres ahead of me. I recognized it as a Grizzly, after all the Ranger Talks we had attended. It was huge! 5 times my size! And what’s worse – Its a mother! Its cubs peek out, looking at me – their next meal.

The bear looks straight into my eyes, and I look straight into its eyes. It has beautiful dark brown eyes, like chocolate buttons. I wondered what it was thinking right now. But I thought, ‘Mama, Papa, I love you.’. I thought of all the things I hadn’t done in life – gone to college, skydived, – and the bear interrupts my thoughts, with a loud, ferocious growl.

I took a few steps back, telling myself not to run, tears in my eyes. I needed a solution,  and I needed it now. And then it hit me – bear spray ! It was in one of my water bottle compartments of my bag. I can see it.

Your life depends on this, Mihika Kumar. If you’ve managed to escape serious trouble from the principal at school, you can do this. I unexpectedly kick a rock into the stream, and the bear looks at it, falling for my trick. I dive towards my bag, and it comes after me, but in those seconds, I was faster than Ussain Bolt. And I was going to live. I had brought this upon myself, and the bear could not go down for killing me, for my mistake. I dive onto the bag, pull out the spay, and sprayed, and looked away. I didn’t want to see a mouth full of teeth, if I wasn’t going to make it. I look back. It worked !

I got up and ran, and I didn’t stop. I could run a marathon right now. I jumped over the stream, and ran, and ran, and ran. The backpack on my shoulder, fear in my mind, and fire in my heart.

I was so scared, I ran up the entire slope without realising that I had.
I coughed, exhausted, next to my car, relieved.
“You okay, sweetie? You’ve been there for a long time.” My mother says, turning around.
“Yeah, I’m cool.” I say, quickly shoving my bag into the car, slamming the door and dusting the dirt off myself.
I survived, and the bear will too.
I hug my mother and father, and they were pretty confused as to why I was being so love-y.

I hop back into the car, and we drove away, me with one hell of a memory, which no-one would ever know about. Dear Bear, its our little secret, okay?

~m.k


The above writing is based purely on fiction. No event that occurred in it has been personally experienced. 


 

Hurricanes

i’ve begun to notice,
the blueness of you eyes,
not like the majestic ocean,
from the day we first met.
now it’s more like a hurricane,
in which i will have my death.
as you say these words,
your tears are the rain,
you soft hands the lightning,
the words altogether the thunder.
you lash out at me,
and i just stare.
my daddy taught me, one fine day,
that we all need a little hurricane.
to save each of us, and baby,
i don’t regret my choices.

~m.k

Carving A Sky

day by day,
i’ll lift myself up.
week by week,
i’ll pour my own coffee into a cup.
piece by piece,
i’ll paint my life.
step by step,
one day i’ll be a wife.
years and years,
some day i’ll slowly die.
but at least for now,
i’ll try carving a sky.

~m.k

The Problem with Society

This is one long topic, rather a debate. And, you obviously may have different opinions than me, but that’s okay. I’m allowed a right to an opinion and here it is.

Society. The exact definition, copy pasted from Oxford Dictionary is,

“a. The totality of people regarded as forming a community of interdependent individuals: working for the benefit of society. b. group of people broadly distinguished from other groups by mutual interests, participation in characteristic relationships, shared institutions, and a common culture. “

But, there’s so much more to that word in my head. Its the reason you feel judged for whatever you do. That whatever you do is wrong, even if you feel it’s right. Its the reason you never feel that you’re enough. Its the reason why you’re afraid to follow your dreams. Oh, I could ramble all day.

Society judges you. Universal fact. “Wear less makeup.”, “Wear more clothes.”, “Wear some makeup.”, “Study more, play soccer less.”, “Learn to sing more high pitched.”, “Do this.”, “Do that.” Its disgusting. We, the human species, is the saddest, most horrifying species in the history of the world. Why can’t we just live, and let live? We all have our differences, whether if its our interests, our priorities, our dreams, our choices. That’s what makes each and every one of us unique. Uniqueness is not a special physical feature. You can, and will find someone with a similar physical feature. If one’s dream is to become a basketball player, society will say “There’s no chance. Learn computers and maths.” even if the player works extremely hard. If one’s priorities is developing their company, society says “At least wear some makeup. Dress up. Look good.” when the entrepreneur is focused on making a product that will change the world. Lets say you become a celebrity. Society will say “Oh, she needs to slim down more.” or “He needs to get bigger muscles.” Regardless of how amazing your dream is and how wonderfully you’re executing it. Society will always judge. So, here’s some life advice. You’re going to get criticized anyways, so you might as well do whatever the hell you want.

Society is making kids grow up faster than they need to. With so much information so easily available, on TV shows, movies, the Internet. Songs give kids information that they don’t need to know. Its not cool to ‘stay a child.’, and you need to ‘grow up.’

New trends come in everyday, and are out the next. Whether its got to do with clothes, a quote from a book or movie, or a viral thing. You get whatever it is, and never use it from the next day. Because its ‘so yesterday’. Not only is this bad for the environment, but there’s so many people in the world that will die to use the things that you buy, but never use.

Obesity. Eating out is so ‘cool’ nowadays. Sure, McD and KFC and Dominos’s and all of that is AWESOME food. But, heath is wealth in the end. With no health, you can’t do awesome things in life like Scuba Diving, SkyDiving, going to basketball/football/cricket games or anything like that. Sure, once in a month is totally fine, but eating out every alternate day is just too much.

Another big thing is virtual communication and social media. If you’re a parent and reading this, I know that you’ll be surprised by this coming from a 13 year old girl. Social Media is totally cool, I have no problem with it. I have an Instagram and Snapchat. But, we LIVE on social media nowadays. And if you don’t have social media then you’re ‘uncool’. We’ve become slaves of the digital world. We’re too addicted to our phones. If we don’t get x number of likes, our self esteem goes down. If x person does not comment it means that they dont care. These are all the things that we think about and prioritize. Texting is cooler than talking in person, pictures are ESSENTIAL when meeting friends. We’re all becoming so two dimensional, letting tiny objects control our lives.

Two out of every three people faces depression. That’s right. There’s a lot of reasons that don’t have to do with society, but there’s a lot of reasons that do. Like, if you’re not popular, or if you don’t get x number of likes. Even if you don’t have social media. Depression leads to alcohol, smoking and drugs.

There’s so many reasons, and I have to make a part 2 of this post. Keep smiling 🙂

Oh wait, I forgot the biggest reason. We blame society, but we are society.

 

Vietnam : Culture and History

Vietnam : When you hear it, the first words that come to your mind are probably ‘Vietnam War’. Well, Vietnam’s got a potful of history, but it’s also got a potful of beauty and another potful of culture.

We flew into Ho Chi Minh city, formerly Saigon (Capital of former South Vietnam) on the 16th of February from Phenom Penh, Cambodia. Check out my Cambodia blog -> click here.

Once we got off the plane, we were greeted by swarms of crowds of people, everywhere, after getting a sim card and exchanging some money. We were hungry, and it was breakfast time. Burger King was on one side, and Popeye’s on the other. The Popeye’s cashier did not really understand us, and there was nothing vegetarian except biscuits for my mother. We went over to Burger King. The cashier understood us, and was able to do a burger with just tomatoes, lettuce and cheese. The french fries were cold, and the coke was over-iced.

We had to catch a bus to Can Tho, so we headed off quickly by taxi to the bus station. Vietnam is one of the only five communist countries in the world. The others are N.Korea, China, Laos and Cuba. We later learnt that even though there is only one communist party, Vietnam is not exactly communist, because not everyone gets equal shares and education/healthcare is not free, etc.

The bus was very different and very innovative. It was a double-decker bus, with seats where you can extend your legs. You’re meant to take off your shoes, and when getting off at a break stop, they give you slippers!

We reached Can Tho, a town famous its floating markets. Can Tho also has a beautiful promenade by the Can Tho River, a branch of the Mekong River. The two floating markets we visited were – Cai Rang and Phong Dien. At night, electric lanterns are lit along the promenade. We began our search for a boat the next day. We wanted a boatman who could speak basic English, take us to the Rice Noodle Factory, through small canals and to both floating markets for 600 Dongs. One dong is $22,700. Usually, prices mean three zeros in the end (multiply by 1000). Its really hard to understand sometimes.

We were able to find a couple of people, some didn’t know English, some weren’t professional at all.  We decided we’d just take the chance of getting a boat in the morning. We ate at the #1 rated restaurant on Tripadvisor. Its was not fancy, and had good prices. It had things like snake, crocodile and ostrich on the menu! (We didn’t try any!)

The next morning, we set off from our hotel at 4:30 AM. We reached the dock around 4:45, and we saw the same faces as we did yesterday. We went to the lady who was most professional,  and knew the best English. She got very angry. It reminded us of our very own country. She said “I told you yesterday! You no book yesterday!” In brief, she was very angry that we didn’t book yesterday. Soon enough, we found a lady who was willing to take us at a good price and also take us wherever we wanted. Her younger sister was our boat-girl, and she was extremely nice. She knew good English, and was very kind.

Cai Rang was the better floating market of the two. It had so many more boats, and so much more variety of selling items (mainly fruits). We bought a coconut and a coffee. The boat selling looked like a chemistry lab! It had vessels, pots and jars full of things and steam coming out of several! The coffee and the coconut were both amazing. Wholesale boats (bigger ones) sold goods to the smaller boats. It was a unique site indeed.

Phong Dien, the other market was much less lively, with only about 15 small boats selling things. Nevertheless, a floating market is still unique.

The rice noodle factory was also unique. We saw traditional people making the traditional rice paper used for noodles and spring rolls. It was not a proper factory, but it was the traditional way of making it with no machinery.

We sailed through several small canals, with mangroves and water coconuts on both sides, reminding us a little of the Amazon and the Sunderbans. We stopped at the fruit gardens, and had a juice there. We got to see the local village there as well as several fruits.

That pretty much ended the day, and honestly, it was not up to expectations. Plastic was filled in the water, and continuously got stuck in the motor, and once, a small bird or butterfly flew out of a plastic bag!

The next day we headed to Bentre (pronounced Ben-Chaay), by taxi. The taxi ride lasted about 2 hours, and was very comfortable. We reached in the evening, to Oasis Hotel. We were here for 2 nights, and 1 day.

The next day we did the tour of Bentre. In all, we visited a coconut factory, a coconut candy factory, a mat weaving factory and had lunch at a local place. We also got to generally ride on a boat around the area. Keep in mind that these factories, are not proper buildings with uniforms and rooms for different activities.

The boats were really fascinating, with two eyes painted in the front to scare away crocodiles! So innovative!

The coconut factory produces various goods such as cosmetics,bowls, etc. Coconuts, we learnt, were the main source of livelihood for many. Since we went on a weekend, most people were off duty, but we got to see men husk coconuts one by one. We learnt that the men earn money based on how many coconuts they can husk in a day. If they’re fast, they earn $15-18 a day. They also have to send their kids to school. In a communist country, you’d expect school to be free. Hong, our wonderful guide, told us that when she was in school, school was $6 per year. Now, its $50 per month! If you calculate, that’s $600 per year. 100 times the amount of when she was in school.

Coconut kernels put into hot water for coconut milk

The next stop was the coconut candy factory. First, they put the coconut milk into a big pan over a flame along with some sugar and an additional ingredient to make it flavored coconut candy (chocolate, durian, etc). Then, they continuously stir it for about an hour until it becomes as thick as required. Then, they let it cool down for about 5 minutes. Then they spread some oil on a table, so that when they mould it, it wont’t stick. They mould it using a small piece of plastic/paper/cardboard (was not sure). They leave it for a long time after moulding to cool. Then, they wrap it in their desired wrapping (usually paper) and pack it off. We bought an original flavored one, as well as a chocolate flavored one. They also had snake/scorpion wine to try! My dad tried it, and said it tasted like bad whiskey!

Snake/Scorpion Wine!

Next stop was a mat weaving factory. Locals weaved sedge grass into mats extremely fast on a traditional weaver. It was incredible! My mother tried and was 1/10 times their speed! Many people from villages still prefer to sleep on these as they keep you feeling cooler.

After that, it was lunchtime. We had a wonderful meal, specially vegetarian for my mum. We also got to see fresh spring rolls made live, using rice paper, water and the filling! It was great! After that, we returned to our main boat by small boats through small canals, and we got to wear traditional rice hats!

We departed the next day to Ho Chi Minh City, satisfied with what we had done here. We ate a wonderful (DELICIOUS!) at Hum Vegetarian, highly recommended on TripAdvisor. Its very close to the War Remnants Museum.

The War Remnants Museum was awesome! It gave us such a great insight to the Vietnam War and Agent Orange especially. We were truly devastated at the amount of damage that America caused. It really made us cry, and is a must to go to.

Much worse effects of the Agent Orange were shown, but we were much too devastated to even take a picture. 🙁

 

For more info -> click here. I will be sure to upload a summary of the Vietnam War after some time.

In the evening, we went to the Ho Chi Minh square, the more posh area of HCMC. The classic HCM statue is there, along with many restaurants, cafes, and shops. We also saw girls wearing to local attire – Ao Dai, similar to the Salwar Kameez in India.

Another highlight of HCMC was the Cu Chi Tunnels. We had a fantastic guide who was hilarious! He told us to call him Mr.Bean (Hahahaha!) and he was a great guide. The Cu Chi Tunnels were built by the North Vietnamese guerrilla forces to hide away from the Americans. They strategised, ate, slept and did almost everything in there! Its crazy small and they used to run! Mr.Bean said that the main reason the Vietnamese won was because they didn’t eat hamburgers! The Cu Chi Tunnels extended upto hundreds of kilometers! But we only walked about 40m before we felt claustrophobic! You are allowed to walk 120m maximum.

A booby trap for dogs!
Going into the tunnels!
Sniper Home used to hide last minute!

Other than that, HCMC doesn’t have much. The reunification palace had really bad reviews, so we decided to skip it. HCMC is just a big city. From HCMC, we flew to Da Nang, and drove to Hoi An.

Hoi An is a very beautiful little town, not much ‘sightseeing’ to do, just a beautiful vibe around. It is also known as the ‘Home of Vietnamese lanterns’. It has beautiful Japanese and Chinese architecture that make up the ‘Old Town’. Hoi An is a big tourist destination and you can do lots of souvenir shopping here.

From Hoi An, we went to Hue. Hue is known for its tombs or the Emperors and its citadel. We were greeted by fog, rain and clouds. The tombs are much prettier than the Citadel. The Pagoda is also very beautiful.

From Hue, we went to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city. Honestly, we shouldn’t have given it as much time as we did. In Hanoi, the main attractions are the Vietnamese Ethnology Museum, Ho Chi Minh Museum and Mausoleum, the Night Market (Friday evening to Sunday evening), the Hoa Lo Prison and the Riverside.

Vietnamese Ethnology Museum
Vietnamese Ethnology Museum
Vietnamese Ethnology Museum
Hoa Lo – Women’s room
Hoa Lo Prison
Riverside

Next up was the famous Halong Bay. It is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Its a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We went on the Bhaya Premium Cruise, and we didn’t regret one bit of it. The crew was fantastic, the boat was fantastic. We had only 12 other people on the boat, and we also got free a free Tai chi lesson and cooking class! The food was also just DELICIOUS! Our crew manager – Huy was absolutely great, and made sure that everything was nothing less that excellent from our view.

We also got to visit Surprise Cave, which reminded us of the Jenolan Caves in Sydney.

 

 

 

Cambodia : A Week of Beauty

Cambodia was on our itinerary for 6 days, which included Siem Reap (Angkor Wat and other temples) and Phnom Penh (Killing Fields and Genocide museum). Cambodian History is horrific (after the Khmer Rouge came into power). Click here to know more.

From Krabi, we took a flight to Bangkok, and transited to Siem Reap, home to the Angkor Wat and other religious buildings. We were staying very close to Pub Street, so we lots of eating options to choose from. ‘Fish Spas’ are all over Siem Reap, the common price $2 with a free drink included. Its basically putting your feet into a tank of fish. The fish actually suck off your dead skin! Most of Cambodia accepts USD, but also the local Riels.  We also found the tuk tuks here quite interesting – a cart like structure made of wood attached to the a motorbike. Our driver for the next 4 days – Sukham was great, very helpful and very gentle. Guides come at an extra charge, and don’t expect your tuk tuk driver to know great English. Go prepared on which gate you want to enter from and where you will meet him.

We visited the World’s largest Religious building – Angkor Wat in the evening for sunset. To be honest, Angkor Wat is overrated. I think for us, it was because there were too many people and lines to take pictures. Angkor Wat was designed to represent Mt. Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology and surrounded by a moat, to represent the seas.

The next morning was a big stop at the Angkor Wat for sunrise. Thousands of people gathered around as if an alien spaceship had just landed. The sun came only after sometime, and that was the real beauty. Most people leave by then, but we were lucky enough to look back, and then go back. We highly recommend buying a book – ‘Ancient Angkor’ which can be bought cheap after bargaining. We bought ours for $6.

The sun started rising, and the light was immortal

We headed to the Angkor Thom, an ancient area with many temples, the gateway entrance being a major beauty. With ‘The churning of the ocean milk’ being depicted, the Demons were on one side and the Gods on the other, the Naga serpents used as a rope.

The Gods on the left side
The Demons on the right side
Naga Serpent

We headed to Bayon, personally our favorite of all the temples in the Angkor area. Bayon is well known for its multitude of serene and smiling stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak. The outer wall of the outer gallery features a series of bas-reliefs depicting historical events and scenes from the everyday life of the Angkorian Khmer.

Close by, the Elephant terrace is widely visited. It is a 350m long platform, best viewed from the ground with mostly elephant sculptures. There is a small entrance, to a beautiful maze of sculptures and fine artwork known as the ‘Hidden Wall’, part of the Terrace of the Leper King.

The Hidden Wall
The Elephant sculptures in the Elephant Terrace

In the evening, we visited Angkor Wat once more. Angkor Wat is known as ‘The 8th wonder of the world’ and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country’s prime attraction for visitors. The temple stands on a terrace raised higher than the city. It is made of three rectangular gallaries rising to a central tower, each level higher than the last. A lot of the galleries depict scenes from the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Marine animals in a gallery

We were done for the day, after all, the sun won’t hide for you. In the evening, we visited the famous ‘Pub Street’ known for its restaurants. Most of them are overpriced, but the side streets are just as good for a better price. Another famous thing we noticed was ‘Fried Ice Cream Rolls’ which were delicious!

Fried Ice Cream Rolls

The next day we visited Banteay Samre, Banteay Srei and the Cambodia Landmine Museum.

Banteay Samre is much less appreciated, as it is far away. It is very beautiful and peaceful. It is similar to Banteay Srei. It is a Hindu Temple built in Angkor Style.

Banteay Srei is a little crowded, as there is less walking space. But, it is very beautiful with much intricate sculpture work. It is a Hindu Temple dedicated to the God Shiva.  The buildings themselves are miniature in scale, unusually so when measured by the standards of Angkorian construction.

Garuda – Eagles, Vishnu’s mount

The Cambodia Landmine Museum gave us a great insight to the bombings in Cambodia during the Vietnam War, since the Ho Chi Minh Trail passed through Cambodia. For more info -> click here. Aki Ra has worked for a long time to remove landmines, after thousands die every year. His story is very emotional, and is a great one indeed. The museum itself has lots of info.

The next day we visited Preah Khan, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei and the Cambodia War Museum.

Preah Khan is flat in design, with a basic plan of successive rectangular galleries around a Buddhist sanctuary complicated by Hindu satellite temples and numerous later additions. Like the nearby Ta Prohm, Preah Khan has been left largely unrestored, with numerous trees and other vegetation growing among the ruins. Make sure that if you enter from the East side, you tell your driver to meet you on the West side.

Ta Prohm, unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm is in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor’s most popular temples with visitors. UNESCO inscribed Ta Prohm on the World Heritage List in 1992. Today, it is one of the most visited complexes in Cambodia’s Angkor region. The conservation and restoration of Ta Prohm is a partnership project of the Archaeological Survey of India and the APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap).

Banteay Kdei also known as “Citadel of Monks’ cells”, Its structures are contained within two successive enclosure walls, and consist of two concentric galleries from which emerge towers, preceded to the east by a cloister.

The Cambodian War Museum focused on how Cambodia was bombed in the process of the Vietnam war. There’s LOTS of information, a free guide (a real victim) and lots of rusty old tanks and planes.

Phnom Penh was next. It is the capital of Cambodia, yet it felt like a not-so-crowded city, because we are from India. The name itself feels like a jewel. The main tourist attractions there are – Choeung Ek Killing Fields and Toul Sleng Genocidal Museum (s-21 prison).

The Toul Sleng Genocidal Museum was formerly the S-21 Genocidal Prison of the Khmer Rouge. Many horrors occurred in there, and information is very well given. We highly recommend the Audio Guides ($3), otherwise you will be lost! The Audio guide also gave us a huge insight to how things operated in there, stories of victims, etc. Its crazy, what happened in there, and we couldn’t help, but only shred tears and hope that humanity will do better. For much more info -> S-21 / Cambodian History

Interrogation Room

Single compartments, where prisoners were kept before death

The Choeung Ek Killing Fields was the main killing field in all of over 300 killing fields in all of Kampuchea (Cambodia). Over a million people were executed there, and any prisoner transported there never left. It was only a matter of who was killed first. Prisoners were transported blindfolded, hands tied behind their backs in trucks. There were many mass graves, the biggest contained over 400 bodies. A separate grave was found of headless bodies, another of naked women and children (who have suspected to be raped before execution). There is a special ‘killing tree’ which was used to kill children. Children were smashed onto this hard, rough tree and after death, were thrown into the mass grave. How can humans be so cruel to have a special tree for execution? Trees are meant to give oxygen for life, not to be smashed on for death.

And so our Cambodian adventure ended. Be got a big gulp of darkness of Cambodian history, a gulp of the famous Angkor Wat and other temples and in the end, we got information and knowledge. And information and knowledge is always good 🙂 Next up, Vietnam! 🙂

 

Cambodian History : A horrific story

This blog is meant as more of a prologue to my Cambodia blog. In Cambodia, we learnt about what the Khmer Rouge did, as well as visited the s-21 Genocidal Prison and the Killing Fields in Phenom Penh, and it truly heart-broke my heart. Its a truly sad story, and genocide is never the key to happiness and growth.

Cambodian History is very dark, although it was all pretty much okay until the Khmer Rouge came into power (1975-1979) and before the Vietnam War. Cambodia’s religious stems came from India, actually. Most of the temples, like Angkor Wat, all have Hindu Mythology and Gods depicted. I honestly was not too interested about the history of the Angkor Empire and ancient kingdoms, but you can find out more in the link above. Cambodia was colonized by the French 90 years, until 1953. After their independence,  Cambodia’s golden years began with creative thoughts and optimism. Soon after, their king – Sihanouk abdicated his throne because he was very young and did not want to be thought of as a ‘king’. He established a party called Sangkum Reastr Niyum (People’s Socialist Community) and won every seat in parliament Sep 1955, and he was to dominate Cambodian Politics for the next 15 years. Sihanouk was afraid of the Vietnamese communists, and also considered South Vietnam and Thailand allies of, in his eyes, mistrusted USA. So, he declared Cambodia neutral, and refused to accept any further US aid. In 1965, he was convinced that the USA was plotting against him and his family, and veered towards North Vietnam and China. He also let them use Cambodian territory, against South Vietnam and USA. Sihanouk later took residence in Beijing, and started a revolutionary movement, and nicknamed it Khmer Rouge. By my research, if you talk to former Khmer Rouge fighters, they say that they knew nothing of Mao and Marxism and were fighting for their king. In 1969 the USA had begun a secret programme of bombing the Ho Chi Minh trail, from where the North Vietnamese sent arms to their forces in South Vietnam, and the trail passed through Cambodia. For the next four years, until bombing was halted by the US Congress in August 1973, huge areas of the eastern half of the country were carpet-bombed by US B-52s, killing what is believed to be many thousands of civilians and turning hundreds of thousands more into refugees. Undoubtedly, the bombing campaign helped the Khmer Rouge in their recruitment drive, as more and more peasants were losing family members to the aerial assaults. It was a ‘secret’ programme because USA’s President Richard Nixon had sent the B-52s, without the permission of the Parliament. On 17 April 1975 – two weeks before the fall of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) after the US forces had retreated– Phenom Penh surrendered to the Khmer Rouge. Within days of coming into power, the Khmer Rouge had sent the entire population of Phenom Penh and other provincial towns marching to the countryside to work in fields for 12 to 15 hours a day with barely any food. Disobedience of any kind lead to immediate execution. Post offices were halted, and Cambodia cut itself from the outside world. Angkar ‘the party/organisation’ was all that the people were supposed to know. No more religion, no more schools, no more hospitals, no more stages and stadiums, no more sports fields. Hundreds of thousands of people were executed by the Khmer Rouge leadership, while hundreds of thousands more died of famine and disease. Meals consisted of little more than watery rice porridge twice a day, meant to sustain men, women and children through a back-breaking day in the fields. Disease stalked the work camps, malaria and dysentery striking down whole families; death was a relief for many from the horrors of life. Some zones were better than others, some leaders fairer than others, but life for the majority was one of unending misery and suffering in this ‘prison without walls’. The Khmer Rouge detached the Cambodian people from all they held dear: their families, their food, their fields and their faith. Even the peasants who had supported the revolution could no longer blindly follow such madness. Nobody cared for the Khmer Rouge by 1978, but nobody had an ounce of strength to do anything about it…except the Vietnamese. As Vietnamese tanks neared Phenom Penh, the Khmer Rouge fled westward with as many civilians as it could seize, taking refuge in the jungles and mountains along the Thai border. The Vietnamese installed a new government led by several former Khmer Rouge officers, including current Prime Minister Hun Sen. The Vietnamese then staged a show trial in which Pol Pot and Ieng Sary were condemned to death for their genocidal acts. A traumatized population took to the road in search of surviving family members. Millions had been uprooted and had to walk hundreds of kilometers across the country. Rice stocks were destroyed, the harvest left to wither and little rice planted, sowing the seeds for a widespread famine in 1979 and 1980. Today, Cambodia is trying to get past its horrific past and make way for a bright future.

What did the Khmer Rouge do? A genocide prison we visited – S-21 (Tuol Sleng) , gave us a big insight to what happened. Everyone was basically tortured. Anyone who had any relation to any former government official, any intellectual (lawyers, teachers, musicians, teachers, engineers, etc) was almost immediately executed. Others were tortured, wanting to die. Being chained up and given nothing to eat, and then one night riding in a truck to your death. In one story we learnt, a man was whipped heavily, and was almost about to die when he was taken to the medicine room. No medicine was given, instead salt water was poured on his back, on all his wounds which gave him a roaring pain, to make him come alive again, for more pain. Sometimes, prisoners were chained up while they were hurt with various objects. Women were extremely mistreated. The killing was done in killing fields, where a truck load of people from the prisons would go blindfolded with hands tied behind their backs, and were one by one hit in the head, or injured in some other way, and then thrown into a pit.

This is a brief History of Cambodia, and how the Khmer Rouge treated people. For more info ->                                                                   Cambodian History                                                                                  Khmer Rouge Rule.                                                                                             I hope this helped you in any way, and gives you a brief insight on Cambodian History.

 

Sukhothai + Chiang Mai + Krabi

These three places constituted about 2 weeks of our stay in Thailand. Sukhothai was absolutely spectacular, with lots of ruins and calmness. Chiang Mai – for recollecting memories from when I came when I was 4 years old! Krabi was more for relaxation, and beautiful cliff-y beaches. Bangkok Blog : click here.

We came to Sukhothai after we visited Khao Yai National Park. The name ‘Sukhothai’ means ‘the dawn of happiness’.  It is located in lower Northern Thailand, and is famous for its ruins. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We also visited Si Satchanalai Historic park, which has some really beautiful ruins just 1 1/2 hours away from Sukhothai.

We reached in the afternoon, when it was burning hot, so we didn’t step out. In the evening, around 4, we went to see the Northern Zone of the Sukhothai Historical Park. Wat Si Chum and Wat Phra Luang are the main two Wats to see. The most common mean of transport is bicycle, which can be rented from rental shops or your hotel. The evening breeze is really nice and overwhelming, and the sunset is beautiful.

Wat Si Chum seats a Buddha image over 11 ft high inside a Mondop. The Buddha’s elegant fingers are much photographed. Jataka inscriptions are visible in a passage, but now blocked.

Wat Phra Phai Luang is a somewhat isolated Wat, and features three Khmer style towers – bigger than the ones in Wat Si Sawai of the Central Zone.

A wonderful dinner at Maeboonmee made us all satisfied, with great food (plenty of choice) and great price. That’s where we had our dinner the next night too.

The next day, we went to Si Satchanalai Historic Park. 50km North of Sukhothai, it is similar to Sukhothai, but more peaceful.

Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng is situated on the hill overlooking Wat Chang Lom. About 20 of the approx. 100 steps up, you’ll be tired, take it easy. A large stone Buddha and columns that once supported a roof are well visible.

Wat Chedi Jet Thaew contains seven rows of Chedi, the largest alike to one at Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai. An interesting brick-and-plaster effect on many, makes a design like barred windows.

Wat Nang Phraya – The “temple of the queen” is the first in a line of temples leading from the southeast wall up to the ridge that divides the city. It has the best remaining portion of wall that displays the intricate stucco-work that once decorated all of the temples at Si Satchanalai.

Wat Chang Lom or the ‘Temple surrounded by the Elephants’ has a Buddha image at the East end, and the Elephant sculptures are made of brick or stucco.

Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat – When entering the temple compound through the eastern gate, do not forget to look above the gate. There is a marvellous decorated pillar on top in good condition, with a Brahma head in four directions. Behind the main prang (the walkways are narrow) there are the remains of a stupa (chedi). Archaeologists suggest in is a Mon-style stupa, indicating it is an early structure at the site.

Wat Chao Chan is draped in trees, the multi-tiered prang has reticulated corners that resemble lotus pedals rising to a pointed top.

The next day, we decided to do the Central Zone of the Sukhothai Historic Park. We left around 8 from our hotel, and returned around 10:30, to catch a bus. It is absolutely beautiful in the morning, and extremely peaceful.

Wat Si Sawai‘s main feature is famous for its three Khmer style prangs. It initially started as a Hindu temple, but became a Buddhist Wat later.

Wat Sa Si is located a couple of hundred meters North of Wat Mahathat. It is located on its on small island surrounded by the lotus-filled  Tra Phang Tra Kuan pond.

Wat Mahathat is the most impressive and most important temple in the Sukhothai Historic Park. Main structures at Wat Mahathat include : the central group with a lotus-bud shaped chedi, four corner smaller stupas and four Khmer-style prangs in the cardinal positions ; assembly hall (to the east) with seated Buddha Image ; two mandapas (square buildings) located north and south of the central group, each with a tall standing Buddha Image ; ordination hall to the north, with seated Buddha Image.

That ended our beautiful visit to Sukhothai. We took a bus to Chiang Mai from there. We made a big mistake by not taking a bus from the company ‘Wintour’, and chose ‘Esan’, only because there was a toilet on the bus! The bus was late, and there was no toilet! But anyways, we reached Chiang Mai around 6:30 in the evening, and headed straight to our hotel to relax.

Chiang Mai was on our list, mainly because I had gone there when I was 4 years old, and wanted to recollect some memories :). Our first day was a relaxed day, with only the Australian Open Men’s Finals : Roger Federer vs Rafal Nadal occupying our agenda. Our hotel’s TV was not showing it, so my father had to research a place to watch it. He found DownUnder Pub, run by an Aussie. They show all kinds of sports : cricket, tennis, etc. My father is a HUGE Federer supporter, and was glad to find no-one who didn’t there.

The second day we visited the Wats of Chiang Mai – Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Doi Suthep and Wat Phra Singh.

Our favourite was Wat Doi Suthep, which is actually located on top of a mountain, and the journey up itself is a pleasure. Once up, you have to walk 309 steps to get to the temple, and 309 back out. It features an enormous golden Chedi, 600 years old.

View of Chiang Mai from the top!

The stairs- Just keep going!

Wat Chedi Luang – the Temple of the ‘Royal Pagoda’, was built about 600 years ago, and most of the Chedi is destroyed. Like most Wats, it is occupied by Buddha images.

Wat Phra Singh  is regarded as the most interesting Wat in Chiang Mai. You find yourself in a parking lot, after which you see the main prayer hall. There is a Chinese influence here, with dragons and lion-like creatures.

The next day in Chiang Mai was spent in Elephant Nature Park, where we got to bathe, feed and bond with rescued elephants. The elephants were previously used in circuses, for elephant rides, etc. They seem totally okay in the circuses, but really are not. They go through a hard process before the show, where they are hurt and misused, and are made to feel like they want to kill themselves. Some are even blind, or deaf, or both. They showed us a video, which really brought tears to all of us, especially my mother. We had come here almost 10 years ago, when I was 4, and heere are some Then vs Now pics :

Then : Feeding
Now : Feeding
Then : Bathing
Now : Bathing

The next day, we went to Doi Inthanon mountains, for some bird-watching. It was wonderful, but we would not rank it VERY highly, although there are some beautiful birds, but not easy to spot, not easy to see, not easy to photograph.

A Scarlet Minivet
A Great Tit
A Minla

Our last morning, we went to the Art in Paradise Museum, because I love art. It was truly different, and very beautiful, indeed. You never understand the illusions, until you see them live, and after you leave you can’t understand again! Beautiful 3D art, as well as 2D art.

That ended our visit in Chiang Mai, after which we took a flight to Krabi in the afternoon. We reached at night, around 7, and to our hotel – Real Relax Resort around 8. Real Relax Resort was indeed very relaxing, and very homey.

Our first day in Krabi was spent in Railly Beach. My father had researched the best part of the beach and found it to be Phra Nang Cave Beach. Indeed very beautiful, with cliffs everywhere and a beautiful landscape. You can rent a kayak, which we did, and it was worth it!

The ride there in ‘long-tailed boats’

We found the tuk-tuks in Krabi particularly interesting, a motorbike with a different style kart attached on the side!

The next day was spent in Phi Phi Island, whoch was honestly, not that great. EXTREMELY SALTY WATER, overpriced drinking water. My father had come here a couple of years ago, and said it was worth seeing. He regretted saying it once we reached. Nevertheless, there was a good lunch.

From there, we went to a new hotel – Peace Laguna Resort which gave us a beautiful view of the cliffs, and easy access to the beach for some beautiful sunsets.

That ended our lovely three weeks in Thailand, along with Khao Yai National Park and Bangkok. Next up : Cambodia 🙂