The Rise and Fall of Phnom Pen Part 2

The arrival of Khymer Rouge arrive in Pnom Pen in April 1975. This photo appeared in the international news services all over the world – afterwards, nothing was reported. Cambodia was cut off from the rest of the world for 4 years during which a paranoid, maniacal regime turned an entire nation into one big killing field. 

 

One afternoon during one of my regular visits to Phnom Pen between the years 2004 – 2009, I sat in a cafe and watched film clips of the arrival of the Khmer Rouge into Phnom Pen. These were shot by French photographers who were still in Phnom Pen at the time and got out shortly afterwards. They had more luck than an Australian journalist who was captured and tortured to death.  

In the city built by Sihanouk and Van Molyvann, I watched long lines of dour boy soldiers clad in the traditional black pyjamas worn by the peasants, marching through the streets carrying rocket launchers and automatic rifles…..

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The Rise and Fall of Phnom Pen Part 1

 

When I first visited Phnom Pen, it didn´t make a great impression on me.

The main tourist attractions – the Silver Pagoda, the Royal Palace on the Tonle Sap River, and the gruesome relics from the notorious reign of the Khymer Rouge (the S21 torture prison and the Chou Ek ‘killing fields’) could easily be seen in a day or two.

For the rest it just seemed like another sprawling, polluted Asian city.

On future visits, I changed my mind.

There was something unique about Phnom Pen which I liked but I didn´t know what.

Then one day it dawned on me…

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Supermoon! Part 2

The supermoon was due to arrive on the night of April 7, 2019.

Early that evening, Anya and I were sitting in plastic chairs with the astronomical binoculars between us, waiting for the moon to rise.

Above the hills on the distant horizon were clouds and I wondered how much we would see.

On the lawn in front of us was the dome tent we had erected a few days before. The idea was to practice setting it up so that when the lock down was over, we could travel to far deserts and camp out – and at nights, do a bit of stargazing. But once the tent was up, Anya had insisted on leaving it there to remind us of past adventures and the promise of future ones.

A symbol.

Then the supermoon appeared…….

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Supermoon! Part 1

In March, 2020, two months after Anya and I arrived in Australia, I bought a pair of astronomical binoculars.

In other words: binoculars meant for stargazing.

Star gazing binoculars are heavy because their viewing lens – the lens at the end of the binoculars as it were – must have a wide diameter in order to let in enough light on nights when there is no moon and its only on moonless nights that serious star gazing  is possible.

Because of their weight, star gazing binoculars are not the sort of thing to just pop into your rucksack  – and until February that year, Anya and I had been living out of our rucksacks: crossing borders and experiencing different places and cultures.

Then came The Virus…….

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The Slum Girl

 

I was on my way back to my hotel, when she ran up behind me, yelling.

It was a high pitched sound, bird like.

Before I knew it, she was standing in front of me and pointing at my camera.

It was a young girl wrapped in a blanket and all too obviously from a poor, lower caste family. She was sleeping on the streets, along with so many others……..

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