Sunday, 14 June 2015

Contiki Big Indochina Adventure #8 | Phnom Penh

After catching an early flight we landed in the Capital of Cambodia Phnom Penh and it was straight onto the Killing Fields. We were warned that it was going to be a hard day and it's a day that is certainly going to take me a long time to forget. The Killing Fields are a number of sites in Cambodia where nearly 2 million people were executed under the The Communist Khmer Rouge between 1975-1979. It's an horrific place to visit, but a necessary one. It's truly one the most horrifying place I've ever been too.

Cheung Ek Killing Fields
It's a must see if you visit Cambodia. Cambodia has a deep and dark history that needs to be learnt. It's extremely interesting, but extremely distressing. You have to tread carefully on the ground as there is still bone fragments buried in the ground. You're walking past what use to be mass grave, after mass grave. At one point I had to walk away, as it got too much. It's scary that things like this happened in my parents age. We all know the horrors our Grandparents and Great-Grandparents faced, but this isn't talked about enough. Every single family in Cambodia was affected my this horrendous regime and it's just devastating.
In 1975, the Khmer Rouge, a communist group led by a man named Pol Pot took over Phnom Penh. The civil war was officially over. However within 3 hours Pol Pot began his reign of terror All Cambodians living in cities were forced into the countryside. The Khmer Rouge wanted to create an equal society of just one class - agricultural class. Every citizen that was deemed to be an intellectual instantly became the enemy. If they knew another language, held a job other than in the agricultural field or even wore glasses he/she would be tortured in prison, those who refused to cooperate with the Khmer Rouge were executed straight off. Those who did cooperate were to to these fields to work for up to 15 hours a day. If you entered the killing fields, you weren't getting out. If you weren't killed you died of exhaustion and starvation.
We our own guide for the duration of the day. We were given an extremely informative, yet sensitive talk by our local tour guide who's close family had been affected. It made it all that little bit more real. It was invaluable getting that experience and I learnt an incredible amount. What struck me the most was how forgiving he was. He lost close family members and he wasn't as angry as he should of been. If that was me I know I would be bitter for a very, very long time. Of course anger never solves anything, but his strength and dignity is extremely admirable. We walking around and were told to tread carefully as their were bones as well as teeth protruding from the ground. When it rains bone fragments and teeth wash up from the killing fields.
We had a little a while here and we were encouraged to look around and to ask as many questions as we wished. Our Tour Manager was on hand to check we were all okay and came prepared with tissues and had said from the outset if anyone wanted to leave to just tell him. It's hard to explain the emotions you feel when you're trying to avoid walking on mass graves and to show respect for the thousands of lives lost. It's one I hope I don't experience again. I'm soft at heart, I take things to heart and I pretty much wear my heart on my sleeve but even though I wanted to run, run away and hide back in my fairytale of bows and all things superficial, I needed to know that the world is shit and unfair and fucked up at times.
 I have a very blessed life and I count my lucky stars daily that I come from a world and a family where my "problems" aren't problems at all. We were all still a bit deflated from the horrors we learnt about Laos the day before so for me personally this was the worst day. Men, women and children were brutally and savagely killed in these fields (and other's throughout Cambodia)and to stand on the ground close to the mass graves that it happened in was nothing short of harrowing. We past a tree that was covered in colourful bracelets(a visitor tribute) and were told that this tree was used to kill babies, by bashing against them against the tree, and a lot of the time in front of their mothers. Some children were victims in more ways than one. some were horrendously brainwashed against their parents and turned into child soldiers. Many of their first kills were that of their families.  
At the end of the guided tour we had a chance to enter the memorial. Myself and Rena were the last ones to go in, as we weren't sure how much of it we wanted to see, but we decided we had to see it, no matter how horrendous it was going to be. In this memorial, skulls of the victims were placed on shelves. They had children's skulls as well as adults, male and female. It's something I won't forget for as long as I live. After a while we hopped back on the bus to discover more of Cambodia's dark and distressing history. 

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum 
The Tuol Sleng is a Genocide museum in Phnom Penh. This is definitely no ordinary museum and it definitely shows the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. It's a High School converted into a prison (torture camp pretty much) during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror. This prison was for people accused of committing political crimes although I want to add that most prisoners hadn't committed any crime and it was just Pol Pott being paranoid rationalising that it was better to kill an innocent man then let a guilty man go free.
 As I've mentioned this site was a former High School but it was turned into a torture, interrogation and execution centre(Security Prison 21) under the Khmer Rouge. It's quite harrowing walking through what use to be classrooms turned into torture chambers. Tuol Sleng was one of 150 execution sites in Cambodia. Over the 14,000 known prisoners that entered only 7 survived.  Prisoners were photographed upon entering the prison and you can see their portraits in some of the buildings. To show respect to all the lives lost there is not shouting or yelling and everyone respects that, so there's a sombre eeriness in the air.

One picture out of the hundreds on show really stood out to me. It was of a young woman probably about the same age as me and the look of determination said it all. A big "F YOU" to the camera. They may of taken her freedom but they sure as hell weren't going to take her dignity or her spirit. The pictures range drastically to determination to down right fear. You're sounded by these pictures and you imagine back not so long ago that these people were subjected to unimaginable torture here. There's an interesting online Gallery where you can see some of these photographs. Although I will warn you, some are distressing and extremely haunting. 
It's a really grim place again. It's really, really interesting and as a History nerd it's a place I'd love to revisit and spend longer there, but I can understand why Contiki don't spend longer there. The real number of prisoners isn't really known but as there are estimates that it was up to 20,000. Upon entering prisoners had their photo's taken, were made strip down to their underwear and had all their possessions confiscated. Most prisoners were held up to 3 months and though some important high ranking officers were held longer. They were shackled to the floor sometimes together in tiny cells. They were also searched every morning for anything that they could potentially kill themselves with, as a few prisoners had committed suicide. 
The prison had very strict regulations, and severe beatings were inflicted upon any prisoner who tried to disobey. Almost every action had to be approved by one of the guards. When prisoners were taken from one building to another for interrogation their heads were covered and guards and prisoners were not allowed to converse. The torture system was designed to make prisoners confess to whatever "crimes" they had committed. Prisoners were routinely beaten, cut, suffocated. had their fingernails pulled off, had their heads held underwater and some female prisoners were raped. Although many prisoners died during torture killing them was discouraged. Prisoners were asked to describe their personal background and asked if they were a party member. They were asked on when they joined and to relay their apparent treasonous acts.  
Out of the minimum 14,000 recorded prisoners only 7 survived with just 2 still alive today. We were lucky enough to meet one of the survivors. We met Chum Mey, who survived 2 years of torture in Tuol Sleng and is the most incredibly inspirational man. I purchased a signed copy of his book for my Dad, but I read it myself along my travels in Australia and it gave me an incredible insight into the Khmer Rouge regime. the fact that I met him made the book all the more inspirational. The prison was finally closed in 1979 after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. This was Asia's answer to the holocaust and a lot of the deaths go unrecognised. Cambodia is still reeling from this tragedy and many families are still missing loved ones, presuming they're dead.
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Friday, 12 June 2015

What I Wore | New Look Striped Dress

Last Saturday I went out to celebrate my good friend Hazel's Birthday. I hadn't been out in so long and I really wanted to dress up. As I'm between sizes at the moment I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find clothes that fit properly. As it was my first night out in ages I of course wanted to look my best and feel my best. My mum had very kindly bought me this dress the week before and I was anxious to wear it. At a bargain price of €20 it's definitely one of my favourite buys this year. 
It's a good fit and extremely comfortable! The length is really good too, not too long and not too short. You could totally wear this for work as well. I'm all about versatility in my clothes at the moment and I don't like buying clothes that can't be worn for a couple of occasions. The 16 fitted better than the 14, so I opted for that. The 14 was a little shorter and tighter a cross the stomach area, something I'm conscious of so something I didn't want to draw attention to! 
For accessories I added one of my favourite statement necklace my friends bought me for my birthday a few years ago from River Island. I've worn it loads and no gems have fallen off which is great, as normally the fall off within one wear! I also added a clutch I picked up in France last Summer. I also wore my new sandals from New Look, which are so comfortable and I was able to happily dance the night away! For my makeup I went for both a smoky eye and a bold lip. My lipstick is Mac's Candy Yum Yum. 

Dress:New Look
Sandals: New Look
Necklace: River Island 
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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Summer in The City - What to pack for a city break

As a city girl at heart I decided in collaboration with Lyst to come up with a post detailing all about Summer City Style. I hope to get away for a weekend (wishful thinking) at the end of the Summer and wanted to put together a post detailing on what to pack for a Summer break in a nice city. It will more than likely be hot, so you want to look stylish yet be wearing something practical. Lyst is a new website that helps you create lists (lysts) of all your favourite items and it even gives you a direct link to purchase, pretty handy if you're like me and like being organised.

In terms of packing for a city break, I'd only bring on a small carry on suitcase to avoid those horrendously expensive baggage charges. Every where now does "cabin sized" suitcases, just make sure they compile with your airline limitations as paying X amount at the boarding care for an error is hardly the best start to a nice city break away! Basing this on 4 days I'd pack the following in my carry on case bar the handbag, as I'd carry that with me.

  •  3 day time T-shirts
  • 1 evening top
  • 2 dresses (1 dressy, 1 more casual)
  •  2 pairs of shorts (1 denim, 1 dressy)
  •  1 pair of sandals
  • 1 pair of runners
  •  1 pair of heels.
  • 1 clutch
  • 1 large bag 
  • 1 necklace (to go with everything)
  • 1 pair of Sunglasses
  • 1 hat
Summer In The City 1

Day Time Outfit Inspiration
Shorts are a must have for holidays. They're comfortable, functional and can be worn with a lot! Denim you can't go wrong with. They're really comfy and they're extremely versatile for a city break. Where them with Vans and a T-shirt, tie up your hair and rock some Sunglasses for a casual stylish tourist look. You can wear denim shorts the whole weekend, just make sure you don't spill any gelato on them ;) I always bring a backup pair for obvious reasons, these gorgeous floral shorts from Topshop can really be worn casually or you can pair them with heels for a night out! They're lightweight too and will look as cool with vans, as they will sandals! I always pack jeans with me. My all time favourites are my Topshop Jamie Jeans. They have the perfect amount of stretch to and they go with a lot. Again they will go with any T-shirt or you dress them up with a Lace Top and heels if it's a bit colder at night- just don't forget to add a statement necklace! If you're wanting to be extra stylish rock a boho dress, sandals and a hat! The lightweight material of the dress will keep you cool and the hat will protect you from the midday sun - all while looking fabulously chic.
Untitled #123
Night Time Inspiration
I always find getting my day clothes no problem, but when it comes to packing for the night I find it a little more tricky. I also bring at least two dresses with me though. One dress that's dressy to be worn the Saturday night and then another dress that can be dressed up or down as needed. That way your bases are covered. I also bring a pair of dressy shorts and a top if I'm not in the mood to prance around in a dress after a long day of sightseeing. I'm optimistic and always pack a pair of heels, but if my feet are killing me from walking around all day I'd opt for a pair of sandals in a neutral colour. Never underestimate the power of a statement necklace. It can change your outfit from dab to fab and take you from a day time look to an evening look in seconds. They're also easy to pack, I normally slip them into socks so they don't break en route! Also, pack a few lippies to give your makeup that extra evening look. I'll do a makeup post soon to compliment this post if anyone's is interested!

What do you guys pack for a city break? I'd be curious to know!
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