October 24th 2012, sitting aboard the airbus Airbus 737 Lyon-Istanbul – then the A340 Istanbul- Bangkok… I am finally back on the roads after three months and half working hard in France to save money and building my organization Nepally Dream…
Just the time for few days to do my favourite things through the Crazy Thai Capital: drinking few coconut soups and Watermelon Shakes, losing myself in Chinatown, resting along the Mekong and having amazing feet massages, sweating…That’s it: next stop…: Cambodia!
The cheapest way to go to Cambodia is definitely to fly until Bangkok,Thailand, then jumping in a bus if you have the patience and the time… It was 400 euros ticket difference when I bought it in online leaving from France! You can book your ticket everywhere in the city, anytime,and the buses pick you up front of your Guest House, around 8am.
So…I’m ready for 16 hours of long but cool bus direction Phnom Penh to join the mystic and unique Kingdom of Cambodia. Always great meetings on the way! I arrived few days after the death of the King, Norodom Sihanouk, which complety put the all country in a huge sadness…Thousand of candles, praying everyday and putting frames or pictures of him everywhere, as a symbol of the Kingdom.
As a photographer, I join a French Medical Team for a Humanitarian Mission, armed with my Nikon D90… An unique and new experience is starting on October 28th…Definitely the hardest of all my life so far…and Buddha knows I saw already many crazy things in my short life! Maybe the reason I was so long to finally talk about it, not just publically on Internet, but also to my friends and family…
I want to dedicate my first article about Cambodia to my dear lovely friends Ian and Scott who just start a new trip. Today, both of you are finally back on the free life travelling and trying not to die! This is the game, our favourite game actually! Certainly the reason why we are still friends today!
For those who don’t know anything about Cambodia, I’m gonna try to give you as much as informations about the country and will post a special album with my favourite shots I have done…Of course, few of the aspects I’ll share with all of you will be through my eyes…but people always say I have the eye to see the good and the bads! And to catch the souls of countries…
Welcome to Cambodia, Bienvenue au Cambodge… Wonderful place on earth but be prepared to what you’re gonna see if you go outside the touristic places and visit some orphanages and villages you’ll find throught my pictures…
Open the eyes, breathe, relax, eat the Amok, the main dishe of Cambodia( Fish or Chicken one with coconut, fantastic!) the hottest curries or some grilled huge spiders (happy to be vegetarian!) drink Dragonfruits or Pineapples fresh juices, not too many Angkor Beers guapos (!!!), visit the floating villages in the North and discover the incredible valley of Angkor in Siem Reap…
Have some naps like all Cambodian do, true, I never saw a country whith so many Hammacs!!! Nappy, this is definitely a proper place for you! Believe me! But you’re gonna understand it yourself!
Just escape yourself in this gorgious country from the North to the South, the West to the East, where you’ll be always welcome by the happy villagers! When you’ll have no room, people will give you their beds! You know that when people have nothing they are ready to give you everything as long as you respect them!
You can go and visit some villages where I was working with the Medical team, just show some picture of me, and come from my part. I came under the direction of Thierry and Nat, this last one is the translator Franco Khmer, they will be happy to have some visits sometimes especially if you just want to spend some time playing with the children, paiting, or if you are a doctor. The children of the orphonages are absolutely lovely and really curious of learning! ”Villages d’Enfants” are located in different places of the country, we worked in the one of Kampong Bronak and Kampoong Thom for exemple. Please, don’t make pictures without asking… I spent almost three weeks with doctors who had no respect for that, putting all their cameras on them while they just had to health the patients.
”Enzo et Tina” is an orphanage directed by a smart French man. We were invited there and had a good time with all the children.
Located in Phnom Penh, this orphanage has been supported hardly by French Ambassy and different donators…It’s a luxury place in my sense, lucky children at least to live in good conditions!
Talk to them, play with them, and try to forget your ”Ego”! It’s nice to take cute pictures and bringing souvenirs, but there are rules for that…Tourists always think about their memories, sometimes, asking the authorisation to take a picture just with a smile is needed! I travelled with 17 ”Japonese” (yes french doctors plus different volunteers from diverse backgrounds) and it finally became a tourism Humanitarian trip…Can you imagine people taking a picture with their I-phone before healthing a 10 years old boy almost dying after having been beaten by a snake in the Tonle Sap Lake?
- I would answer a formal ”NO” before this trip….
But they did, and not just once…I saw the mistakes and the proudness of people while they are doctors or just simple volunteers…They come to help, which is absolutely admirative from them, but they take pictures of terrible things and ill or disabled persons without even ask them, first of all, the authorization…Which is in my sense just a sense of minimum respect for a Human Being. I don’t think that in our societies, people would love to be taken in pictures by a tourist while he is sitting down on his terrace with his children…or when he is fucking sick, and waiting for his turn to see a doctor…
True, it has been really hard to me to stay in this team as a usual ”solo traveler” but it was part of the risk and the trip, that’t it! However, I want to say thanks again to some of my amazing French friends I met on that mission without who I would sincerely give up: Merci Antoine, Laure, Faustine, Noellie, Nicolas, Catherine, Jean-Luc and Sandra! Good to see that some people have a heart and know how to behave in society!
Fortunately, faithful to myself, I did my job of photographer but always respecting the people like I always did travelling…I ”signed” a contract as a volunteer that time and had no other choice to take some atrocities I had to see and watch… You see, I couldn’t close the eyes…Still a good experience about life… What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! And looking behind me today, I’m glad I’ve experienced it because it was the first and maybe the last one I would have to act like a doctor taking blood pressure and all in the middle of nowhere! Where people are mutilated, live with nothing in really poor places, infected most part of the time by many reptiles and strange animals or insects…
Dear travelers, Buddha will protect you like he does protect the Cambodian people today…
” All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him” said the Buddha (one of my favourite quote wrotten in Maya Devi’s garden, where Siddharta Gautama was born, the Buddha, in Lumbini).
Greetings from Nepal, Enjoy the article and the trip
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORY: Cambodia under Pol Pot’s Regime…
38 years ago, on April 17th 1975, the Khmer Rouge were taking the power in Cambodia, and were going to install the TERROR, the word will never be not strong enough…
On the same day, the young and terrifying soldiers were entering Phnom Penh, the capital, without resistance and have evacuated the all city…That was the very first act of Pol Pot, and it was just the beginning of four long years…Four terrible years and I’m sure that most part of you, while reading this article, don’t know anything about it yet… In Europe, the Education prefers just talking about what happened during the first and second World War…
I can’t say that anything is worst, because everything is terrible when men are killed, from a single one to a Human mass…But Cambodian people have suffered a lot, not a long time ago, and we need to know, you need to know … no matter how hard it is: this is the reality of our crazy planet and how men can become monsters…
”The GLORIOUS REVOLUTION” of the Democratic Kampuchea was just born whereas the Ultramaoists were taking the power of the country.
Quickly, the Khmer Rouge empty all the cities and they started going after all the representants.
”Often, I have long period of despair…insomnias, black bad ideas, and then I finally finish by stopping that, because I understand that I can help others, to do the contrary that Khmer Rouge inflicted to us. This is it, my only medecine against depression” The professor Ka Sunbaunat, 54 years old, directs ” The National Program for the Mental Health” and the doctors of the center vainly try to push away these ghosts of nightmares who still haunt this poor country of 11,5 millions habitants.
38 years after the seizure of power by the Khmer Rouge and the four crazy years of Genocide which cost the life of 1.7 millions Cambodian between 1975 and 1979, the scar is still there…
” At least 80% of the citizens being more than 40 years old, that is to say, more than 45 % of the populations suffer of post traumatic stress, depression, fear, anxiety, identity loss, they do nightmares and don’t trust anyone” explains the doctor before wondering himself: ”How to be healthed after 4 years of tortures under Pol Pot’s regime?” I guess no one has a true answer. Hope is maybe the only one…
At that time, the Occident was briefly interested in this tragedy: the Sovietics just invaded Afghanistan. War news automatically chase away another one…Because, too many countries, included France, recognised too quickly the Khmer Rouge’s regime and just wanted to make it forgotten… Too many intellectuals, left-wing, supported the ”Number one brother” ‘s accession, Pol Pot, who was on the ”good side”, against Usa.
In Cambodia, on every April 17th, none ceremony marks the beginning of this terrible massacre. The genocide only covers few lines on History books for pupils. The Khmer Rouge managers, now, are confortably installed on the Boarder, in Thailand, in luxury villas, they give auto-justifications to journalists who accept to pay to interview them…
”Pas un seul d’entre eux n’a reconnu sa faute, n’a demandé pardon », (”no one of them has recognised his fault, no one forgave” ) constats Pierre Gilette, the chief editor of Cambodge Soir. Unfortunately, without judgements, this genocide has no enough memory.
How to understand better what happened almost 40 years ago?
First, I recommand you to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21) in Phnom Penh where 20.000 have been killed with atrocity. Hard but at least, you’ll understand what really happened in Cambodia… Interesting comments and photos. Attention: ames sensibles, s’abstenir! This museum affected many people who entered inside who was sensitive just like I am…
But I think it’s important to know where you are. Cambodia is not JUST having cool time, drinking, watching the wonders of the different great spots and staying with foreigners…
Cambodia has a hard History, and tourists need to open the eyes on it… 75% of the population is really young, not more than 25 years old and most part of the parents who have children themselves today, had to kill their own parents with guns forced by the Khmer Rouge almost 40 years ago… But they had to survive and had no other choices…Otherwise, they would never do such a terrible act. If they could do it, they could stay alive…That was the rule…
There is an important question I always wonder while I was working in Cambodia: ”How parents can educate children when they killed their own parents?” I guess they also wonder the same question, still today…and this is the reason why people still suffer from terrible traumatismes. We can’t change the past and the atrocity of these Monsters Rouge, unfortunately…But NGO and the population, with some small efforts can make the things better today…
Secondly, for those who can’t see the museum, being at home, you can find a book I have tried to read ( but couldn’t finish yet) named ” First, they killed my father” by Loung Ung. She is one of seven children of a high-ranking government official who used to live a privileged life in the Cambodian capital until the age of five.
Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed.
Harrowing yet hopeful, Loung’s powerful story is an unforgettable account of a family shaken and shattered, yet miraculously sustained by courage and love in the face of unspeakable brutality.
You can find this book everywhere in Cambodia, they sale it for different prices anywhere. Better to buy it outside the capital for a cheap price and help some local families.
You can find much more stories and true books about the Genocide in every library of the world.
Be ready for the reading… I wish these lines would have never to be written in this life…
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE KHMER: Cambodgian Language!
You know how much it’s important to communicate while you are abroad and how much locals love people who try to learn and talk their own language and dialect.
No matter your accent, if you are British, Australian, Spanish or French, no matter your abilities to learn languages, just try! I am passionated of hundred of things but talking different languages is on my top lists!
The Khmer is obviously not the easiest one ,it’s true… ahah! But this is for you, travellers some approaches to learn few words of this hard language. Pratic words and expressions when you’ll come in the country are useful, just to present and introduce yourself to these smily people that you’ll make happy, just trying with small efforts. Trust me!
Cambodian people suffered a lot but still keep the smile. Always! A good lesson about life by the way!
So don’t hesitate and goooooooo!
As a French Colony, you can also talk in French in Cambodia if you want (!!!) with many of the habitants so I decided to write also the sentences in French for my pupil Ian! ahah! Sorry Scotty, I’ll do a special Spanish list for you!
My french family and friends will be happy to read it too!
SAVOIR PARLER LE KHMER:
Bonjour : Tchôm rirb sour
Comment allez-vous ? : Néa’ sôk sabbay te?
Je vais bien: Khniom sôk sabbay
Aurevoir (amical) : Lir soen haoy
Aurevoir (traditionnel) : Tchôm rirb lir
Merci : Aûkoun
Manger (eat): Niam
Boire (drink): Niam teuk
Comment vous appelez-vous ? : Néa’ tchhmour èy ?
Je m’appelle Nelly: Kniom tchmou Nelly
Bonne nuit: Rhrre trey souss daye
Le riz: Baye
Quel âge avez-vous ?: Néa’ ayou pönmane ?
Mal à la tête (Headick) : Tchou kabal
Médicament (medecine): Th’nam
Quel est votre problème ? Néa’ tchhoü èy ?
Depuis combien de jours ? Pönmane thgnay haoy?
La maison: Ptéa
Je veux aller au marché: Kniom chang teuw psar
Tu es beau, you are handsome (pour un enfant, for a child): Eng saat’ na
Well, enjoy your trip as much as you can among this mythic population who will be happy to help you, anytime, anywhere!
Same for me, if you have any questions about Cambodia, feel free to ask and I’ll try to give my best to help!
I’ll post a new article soon about some good spots to visit in the South of the country between Kampot and the Rabbit Island!
Take care and live the dream! Life is so short!