Within the next few days I leave Cambodia and as I said before I am going to have to come back and explore this place some more. I am in Phomn Peng for the next few days and the city feels like a sprawling place to be in comparison to Siem Reap and Battambang but still has an odd slightly in-elegant charm to it.
Over the last few days I have been on a Bamboo train that used to carry rice between some major towns, walked up to see yet another temple, seen thousands of bats fly from their roost, been to the only winery in Cambodia, seen one of the killing caves, sat on potentially the most uncomfortable bus I have ever been on for 6 hours, been to the Genocide museum in Phomn Peng, oh and one other thing… brace yourself for this one.
It has been about twenty years since I had my hair long, I always liked it like that, it was all because I had no idea what to do with it at the time. The rebel in my wanted to run away from what people believed to be normal and since I began to enjoy having the hair I kept it for a very long time. Asia has not changed me, but I have had to change because of it. Every night since I have been in asia I have gone to sleep wanting to claw my head senseless because it itched, the heat, the weight, the humidity and the upkeep it was all really impractical but my pride and desire to keep my hair got in the way. Today that changed.
I got up at a normal time and headed out to try and find the Tuol Sleng Museum, also known as S21. This is a museum that tells the story of a school that was converted into a prison between 1975 and 1978 it held around 17,000 people who were detained, tortured and sent on to the killing fields. All this was during the time of the infamous Pol Pot, Cambodia’s answer to Hitler. I sort of told myself I did not want to see the killing caves or killing fields but it is part of Cambodia’s history and they have come on so far as a country since then so I guess it’s good to remember. For me however the mood was understandably solemn. Around the complex you can see warning signs asking you not to smile in the complex which I thought was pretty obvious but you never know when some self absorbed arse will do some kind of grinning selfie (where you take a photo of yourself) or a sexy pose in front of buildings. I get affected by anything like this, the mass of human life lost because some dictator decided that it was right reminds me of just how bloody horrible we are as humans. I decided not to go and see Auschwitz when I was in Krakow so why go and see these horrible places in Cambodia when I know they are going to affect me. Well I haves come a long way and I think not seeing them would be slightly disrespectful of me, it was one of those times when I chose to take no pictures out of respect. I stood looking at the photo’s watching as other travellers passed through, some of which took a photo of the photos which I always find a little odd but even more so here. I took one photo in the whole place and I think the title of it says it all.
Eventually I left there drained… Walking down the road I began to question things, it was like I needed to do something drastic, something I was afraid of and something different to make things better. I ate lunch in peace at a local place then walked into the nearest hair place and told them to shave it. The reaction from the Cambodian hairdressers was amusing, they checked, double checked and triple checked that I knew what I was doing, that I was not joking, no this was a conscious thought. I have no reason to fear the consequences let’s do this. I have no problem in telling you I was shaking physically, adrenaline of the unknown coursing through my veins they sectioned the hair off and began the process. I have the whole thing on video.
I think they might try to sell it the hair they took off and I wish them luck with that as it has not been conditioned since February. I saw two things in the mirror as I looked at the new person staring back at me, a horrible likeness to my brother and a vague face from my memory… Dad.
I see it now more than ever, people have always said that Darren (my brother) and I look alike and take a lot of features like my Dad, never thought the same until now.