Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore

Firstly, apologies for it being so long since my last entry! Work, traveling etc. has all meant I have been mad busy.
But now, the wait is over!
Firstly I best talk about my travels.  After a rollercoaster of a weekend before I left, with Viva Macau going bust, and consequently my flights along with them, I finally made it to Vietnam! It cost a little more but was well worth it.  We spent our first day in Ha Noi - crossing the road was particularly interesting. Take a look at a video here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M72PjvMw1qc&feature=related.  We also took a look at John McCain's, (yes, the republican candidate for presidency in 2008) residence in Vietnam for some time while he was a PoW during the Vietnam/American war.  This place was a hell hole, no lights, no toilets, no space, shit treatment just generally horriffic.  Imagine Abu Ghraib but twice as bad!  However the information, monuments, and exhibitions were all related to the "glorious struggle of the Vietnamese against the repressive French", their words not mine, honest!  I would say I was surprised but I have already seen similar in China, surprising? Maybe not.
We then went up to Sa Pa in the north of Vietnam where we spent a couple of days, trekking through rice paddies and local tribal villages.  Vietnam is such a diverse country and it was amazing to see how these local people lived.  However, as is the case with most places that are exposed to tourism, the local people didn't just want to get to know you, the wanted you to buy from them. 
After Sa Pa we made the trip to the the coast to see the world renowned Ha Long Bay.  They claim it is one of the natural wonders of the world, I won't disagree.  It was spectacular.
We then made the long journey south west to Cambodia, after a flight and a 6 hour bus ride we arrived in Phnom Penh.  Cambodia is a beautiful country that after gets marginalised in favour of its bigger, more infamous neighbour, Vietnam. 
The royal palace was once again spectacular, and then we travelled to Choeung Ek, just outside the city.  This is where the site where the maniac Pol Pot and his cronies in the Khmer Rouge murdered hundreds of thousands of their compatriots.  This was just one site and in the total reign of the Khmer Rouge, all 5 years of it, they killed 3 million people! The most shocking thing for me, is that the barbaric nature of this goes somewhat untold in the west.  Maybe because our neighbours over the pond had a hand in the downfall of the Kingdom of Cambodia, or maybe because South East Asia is too far away to worry about.  Here is a picture of the Stupa at Cheong Ek which contains the remains of over 17,000 men women and children (the children, or babies, were often killed by swinging them into trees!) 

This barbaric treatment by the Khmer Rouge was even more astonishing to me as unlike the Nazis, they did not dehumanise the people the committed genocide, they were merely deemed," enemies", at one point a criteria for being an enemy was just the fact you wore glasses!  It was more upsetting for me, how little we in the west learn about things like this!
We then moved on from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, where we saw both a huge floating village and the impressive structure of the Angkor temples!

The flight home presented us with a stop in Singapore, I was expecting a city much similar to Hong Kong.  I was shocked to see that while it had all the similar elements to HK the city was far nicer.  In the city centre you were saved from the claustrophobic feeling you can get when visiting somewhere like Mong Kok. 
Singapore is a fascinating country, a country that operates a "democracy" in the absolute loosest terms.  In fact it would be fair to say Singapore is a one party state.  Yet everybody seems perfectly content with life.  This is perhaps because of the fact that the government delivers.  Housing provision, clean water, all the usual developed world amenities, like a good hospital system, cleanliness.  The undemocratic PAP regime gets it's legitimacy from delivering world class services. 
With new studies suggesting emperically that our vote doesn't really count in some constitutions, and the often failing provisions of some of our public services perhaps the best kind of reform would be to effectively remove democracy?......

On second thoughts, maybe not...

No comments:

Post a Comment