Saturday, 16 July 2016

The Killing Fields and S-21 Prison/Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia

"The place people go but never come out"

The Killing Fields and S-21 prison are main attractions in Phnom Penh. This was one of the main reasons for us visiting Cambodia. As someone who really enjoys history, I was interested to see what it was going to be like; as learning from the Vietnam War Remnants museum; it's good to know the Asian view on their own history, instead of constantly being under the Western state of mind.

We visited the S-21 prison first as our hostel was only a 10 minute walk from it. The thing that baffled me was the location; outside seems so ordinary with restaurants, market stalls and just normal day to day life. It obviously wasn't like this during the actual time of the prison being run as Pol Pot forces came in and made everyone leave Phnom Penh. We paid our $6 entry fee and got our audio headset guides. This was actually such a good way to learn about the history behind the Pol Pot regime; as you could pause it and rewind to suit you. It also made it a lot more overwhelming as you could listen to testimonies whilst walking round; which really hit you. 

The prison was originally a school, and you can see this by the design and buildings. During the 1970's, 3 million people died under the Khmer Rouge. When the Pol Pot regime was at its height in 1977, the prison was killing around 100 people a day. When liberated in 1979 by the Vietnamese army, there were only 7 people alive and 14 dead bodies found. Some survivors have written books about their experiences- which I do want to read when I get home. There were a couple of survivors there just selling their goods- which I would find too distressing if I were in their shoes, as they are literally in the place where they experienced hell.  

I didn't expect the prison to be so harrowing, as you mainly hear about the Killing Fields. You walk round several buildings- the first with the individual torture rooms with a single metal bed that the prisoner was chained to. On the wall next to each one is a picture of how they found the dead bodies lying on them when it was discovered. Outside this building is the 'rules' of the prison- one being you cannot cry out during torture. Behind these is 14 white slabs to mark the graves of the remaining dead bodies that were found here by Vietnamese forces in 1979. 

The next building along is a gallery, but before you head inside you are made to look at a huge wooden frame with a hook at the top. Guards would hang prisoners from this with their hands roped together, questioning them until they turned unconscious; where they would lower their faces into human waste until they woke up again; where the process would continue. Inside the gallery is pictures that were found; some of victims, guards, torture equipment, labour and maps. Strangely enough for people carrying out a genocide, they photographed everything about the prisoners. The pictures I found the hardest were of the dead prisoners. Guards were not meant to kill people during torture and interrogation, but if someone did end up dying, they would have to photograph it to explain themselves. Some of the prisoners were foaming from the nose, covered in blood, naked and just generally beaten till they were black and blue. Death by torture normally meant the guard who killed them would often end up a prisoner themselves- good bit of karma I think.
One of the stories on the audio was from a brother of an Australian prisoner, who just so happened to be sailing in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was tortured and forced to give a confession; to which his humour did not disappoint. He used his CIA agent number as his home telephone number, his boss at the CIA was the colonel from the KFC logo and he also mentioned his mothers name. This goes to show how ridiculous the Pol Pot regime was as they took that as a legitimate confession. Unfortunately, when a victim gave a confession they were then killed. 

I couldn't believe the stories I heard and the things I could see around me- it did actually overwhelm me and I had to take a 10 minute break as I just couldn't stop crying. As someone who really loves history I couldn't believe I'd never even heard of what happened- considering it was only 30 years ago. I have discovered in Asia that their events of history is sometimes forgotten about and we are just taught of wars or things that have impacted our own country or our allies. I don't think this is always a healthy way to look at history, as when visiting a country it's nice (or sometimes not nice) to know what's made them the way they are today. 1 in 4 Cambodians died under the Pol Pot regime; meaning that the majority of the population are going to have someone they know that died due to it. 

The next building was individual cells where prisoners would sleep. There were makeshift small brick walls in between each one and they literally were not even big enough to lay down in. In the corner of their cell was a box that they would have to go to the toilet in and if they missed the box they were forced to lick it up. The prisoners were shackled to the floor by their feet, and if these even made a noise during the night, then they would be whipped. They were awful living conditions and the entirety of the building was covered in barbed wire to stop prisoners committing suicide. However, some still found a way round this and during a confession a man stabbed himself with a pen in the neck and bled to death. 

In the last building is a lot of art work portraying how prisoners were tortured and some testimonies from survivors. Also displayed is equipment used for torture. There's also a shrine at the end where you can leave messages or comments- I tried to but I honestly couldn't find words to describe what I had seen, and felt any words I did leave wouldn't be comforting enough to families of victims. 

Next we got a tuk-tuk to the Killing Fields. This was more remembering the victims and a lot of mass graves had been grown over and the buildings for different things were no longer there. We had another audio tour and explored the grounds. The most disturbing part for me was the tree where executioners picked up babies and young children by the feet and smashed them against an oak tree, until they were dead and then they were chucked into a mass grave. It's astounding how people can just switch themselves off to the concept of a human being and treat it with no respect and take another life- especially a child's. Sometimes when it rains bones and scraps of material still wash up and the workers will go round collecting them and store them in glass boxes found around the grounds. We did see a few bits still in the mass graves that were slightly underground still. 

The workers at the Killing Fields used mostly general objects to kill people; including axes and garden hoes, as bullets were expensive. People would stand at the edge of a mass grave, be hacked to death and fall in- such a disturbing and horrific way to die. Also, the guards would play Khmer Rouge propaganda music to drown out the cries of people being executed, so that would be the last thing they heard. So many people died here as the Khmer Rouge believed that when you killed one member of a family, you had to kill them all, to prevent people coming to take revenge. So no matter what their age they were murdered.

I felt completely overwhelmed at the whole site and I just couldn't believe something like this can still happen; especially after the Holocaust, and we just turn a blind eye. I wanted to write my own experience on it as it's something I definitely do not want to forget. I also don't think there's enough people who are aware what's gone on and even if one person stumbles across this on the internet, then I feel better knowing that they have been able to read my experience and learn. I'm unsure whether it would be something I would return to. Although in years to come I would quite like to visit the prison again and go through the tour again and see how I react. This is definitely one of the things that has made travelling so beneficial as you learn about new cultures in a way that the internet or text books can't teach you. I would definitely recommend visiting the S-21 prison and Killing Fields if you visit Cambodia. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016


Seminyak was mine and Brad's first stop in Bali! We arrived in at midday and you immediately felt the heat as soon as you got off the plane. We made our way through the airport and found a taxi. Brad was horrified at the fact we handed over 200,000 rupiah to go to our hotel as we just couldn't understand their currency so agreed to any price; later realising it was only about £10. We had our first experience of the roads in Bali which are horrendous. There's so many scooters and there's literally no road rules. Cars were in the middle of the lanes and there's no indicating, you just have to hope the cars around you are paying attention and psychic. We saw so many run down looking hotels and just prayed ours wasn't any of them. We drove past an amazing looking hotel and just as Brad said how nice it looked the taxi man told us it was ours, thank god! It's so hard finding places to stay in Bali because although nice hotels are only about £30 a night, you know that's expensive for Bali. We had no clue what ours was gonna be like but when we turned up we had people take our luggage out the taxi and had a welcome drink. It was amazing and I am so glad we booked it! We waited to check in and had some cocktails, whilst the barman put on a show for Brad; throwing drink bottles and glasses around. We were taken to our room and we were instantly amazed. The bed is big enough for about 4 people and we have a balcony that gives you a nice view of Seminyak. We spent the rest of the afternoon having a little stroll round the area and getting some dinner in the hotel restaurant! 
The next day we headed to Potato Head Beach club, which is so popular with tourists in Bali and it definitely was one of my favourite spots. It's beautiful and has a huge pool, lovely workers and expensive cocktails!  We underestimated them and ended up drunk at about 11am- oops. It was such a good day and we ate there too, which was pricey but lovely! I even had a little nap there which was perfect. We decided to head home after being there all day to shower and grab dinner. Our last day in Seminyak together was spent grabbing some lunch from Cafe Organic, which was my favourite place to eat in Bali! 

Two weeks later we were back in Seminyak with Dan and Kyle, as we'd booked a villa there for 4 nights. When we arrived (after spending so long in a taxi trying to actually find the villa) we were so happy because it was such a nice place! We had all actually forgotten what it looked like we'd booked it that long ago, but we weren't disappointed. It had 3 bedrooms with ensuites and a lovely open plan kitchen that was opposite the pool! We spent most of our days in the villa in the pool, to top up our tans :). We also went on a trip to Canggu; just north to Seminyak. You can easily ped it there if you're brave enough to get a ped in Bali that is! We just got a taxi there and sat in Old Mans bar for a while, which was really nice. Then we walked down the beach, for a lot longer than we expected to and 45 minutes later we stopped off to try and gather a sense of direction and find somewhere to go. I had heard of a nice restaurant along the beach so we hunted for that. We walked along the main road where there was no pavement and oncoming traffic was getting annoyed at us, because we were causing traffic jams where people were trying to pass us, oops! It definitely was dangerous and when we told the restaurant staff we walked they all looked so shocked and were laughing at us- typical tourists. We had lovely little starters there as it was more of the pricier restaurants in Bali, but we just chilled there for a while and had some drinks! When the sun had gone down we got a taxi back to Seminyak for proper dinner; we searched around for so long and ended up going to a place called Pit Stop which was so cheap and so good; they had the best burgers! Every night we just chilled in the villa, either in the pool or on the sofas with some Bintangs and every night without fail I would fall asleep on the sofa- typical me. Our full day in the villa we went to Potato Head beach club again, Dan and Kyle hadn't been and we knew we would all enjoy it. We had some cocktails straight away and chilled in the pool. We did that for a few hours till we decided to grab a late lunch from across the road. We went to a place called Fat Turtle which was actually really nice! I would definitely go there again in Seminyak. Then we went back over to Potato Head and we had a bed waiting for us- the waiting list is literally all day for one! We chilled on that and ordered some more cocktails, waiting for sunset. All of a sudden the 3 girls we had met in New Zealand (Liv, Ali and Taby) arrived! They had just landed and we had no idea we were gonna bump into them, so it was such a lovely surprise! We all chilled with our cocktails just catching up! After sunset we went back to the villa and waited for Naz and Sophie's flight from Singapore to arrive! We spent the rest of the night catching up with them with a lot of drinks which was nice.

I loved Seminyak and have a lot of good memories from there. I would definitely go back as its so close to the airport and it's where most people start their Bali trips! There's so many luxury villas and hotels and such good places to eat so I'd definitely go back for a holiday, when I have a lot more money to spend!


Sanur is a little relaxing place just on the east coast of Bali. It's away from all the party places and it's not too busy so Brad and I decided to go there for a few nights to chill out! We stayed in a hotel in the middle of a main road which was quite annoying because you couldn't really get anywhere without a taxi! There was a small pool but we didn't go in it. Luckily our hotel ran a shuttle to the main centre of Sanur to its sister hotel- which we wished we'd stayed in. It was right on the beach front and there were so many other hotels and restaurants next to it. We went there everyday in Sanur and our first day there we walked along the beach and somehow ended up in a 5* resorts swimming pool, which was lovely, until we went to order drinks and told we weren't meant to be there! We just sunbathed along the beach and it was lovely to chill out. I wish we had stayed in a beachside resort, but I do think they're quite pricey and there was quite a few older people as I think it's one of their main spots. It was really nice to chill out and get a tan but I would only come back if I had an amazing resort along the beach to chill in, as there's not much to do in the main centre.

Sunday, 29 May 2016


After chilling most of the day in Kuta for the boys first day with us, we all decided to start exploring more of the island. After a little look online we decided to book a room in a hotel and head down south. We hopped in a taxi which ended up taking just under an hour and left the hectic roads of Kuta to the very chilled out Uluwatu. 
We arrived just after dark and decided to head out for some food. We jumped in the hotels taxi to a bar called Single Fin which had been recommended to us. It's a cliff top bar with an amazing view of the sea and you can watch surfers. We realised when we got there that we would rather go during the day to appreciate the views and headed back down the road to find a restaurant. It didn't take us long and we all sat down and had a catch up and too many bintangs for the boys. When the restaurant was closing we headed back down to our hotel and chilled out the front of our room for the rest of the night/early morning!

The next day we woke up to the sound of extremely heavy rain. We decided to also extend our stay for another night because we felt we needed more time to explore Uluwatu! Whilst we were getting ready and having breakfast it luckily cleared and we decided to head to Padang Padang beach; about 15/20 minutes walk from our hotel. Several hills later we came across a bridge where you got an amazing view of the beach and we hurried down there. After paying entry (the most ridiculous thing I've ever paid for) and walking down the a long set of steps that happened to be in the tightest gap between two cliffs, we were in a little section of paradise. It was a very small beach but the scenery was amazing. There are a few markets on the beach- aka Balinese men and women who love to harass you, which does get slightly annoying, but the beach was so nice. The boys went in the sea whilst I relaxed on the sand and after a while they were exhausted, as the waves are quite strong. We all chilled for a while after and the boys had more bintangs. 
After a little while we ventured back to the hotel to quickly chuck down our stuff and we headed back to Single Fin bar. It was amazing during the day and we got two cocktail jugs and enjoyed the view and the sun. We then tried to sneak into the amazing hotel pool next door but got caught out when the pool man asked our room number (oops.) So instead we headed further down towards the beach and down more dodgy steps we ended up in a little cove with access to the sea. The boys went in again but were soon tired out by the waves. We were all standing round the cove but we didn't realise how quickly and strong the waves came in and all ended up being smashed and Dan being knocked over and fell into a very deep part of water (which was actually hilarious). After we headed back up to the bar, but along the way found a cheaper one with a better view so chilled there for sunset and the rest of the evening.
When it started getting a little darker we went and got dinner and then chilled out the front of the hotel room with more bintangs- a strong reoccurring theme for us so far in Bali! We then decided to head to a different beach as we'd seen signs for a party being advertised. Down a dodgy looking path and about 200 steps we ended up on the beach with a little live band playing and plenty of drinks. After a while a huge thunderstorm hit and everyone took shelter. We waited for the rain to pass and then decided to run home! We just stayed up out the front of our hotel room again for the rest of the night/early morning!

Overall Uluwatu was quite a nice place to explore and it was so much fun with the boys! If we had peds we could've ventured out a little further, but after hearing some of the horror stories about them we just aren't willing to risk it, as taxis are so cheap anyway! 

Saturday, 21 May 2016


We had 6 days in Wellington which was a lot considering all our other days we only had around 1-2! It's the capital of New Zealand and we didn't know what to expect other than the usual city! When we arrived it was late evening so we checked in and took advantage of the free dinner at the hostel. Later on we headed down to the bar and enjoyed some drinks before signing up to a $5 bar crawl which actually turned out quite good! We were with our big group from the bus so it made it even more enjoyable as there was quite a few free shots and cheap drinks. After ending up pretty drunk we took a trip to the chip shop and then headed to bed!

Our first proper day in Wellington was spent with a little hangover so we went out for brunch which was lovely despite the extremely slow service for the 10 of us. Then we explored the city- which is very small. We had been recommended Cuba Street by our bus driver so we started there and made our way down to the harbour; where we really felt windy welly living up to it's name! We then headed to the supermarket which is the nicest one we have ever seen. The manager 100% has OCD as everything was so neat and there wasn't an apple out of place! We grabbed dinner for the 5 of us and enjoyed our curry. We headed out again in the evening to the bar for a few more drinks.

The next day we visited the huge museum which is recommended by everyone who visits Wellington. We explored all 6 levels for a few hours and visited the big section on the Galipoli war which was quite interesting. Afterwards we took our usual trip to the supermarket to grab some bits for dinner.

The day after was spent walking up to the Mount Victoria lookouts, a little trek that confirmed for me that I definitely couldn't have done the Tongariro Crossing. It was amazing to see all of Wellington and we decided it would be a good BBQ spot for dinner later on.

River Valley

River Valley was our next stop, and it was literally in the middle of nowhere surrounded by sheep and horses. We all had to walk down the steepest hill to get to our accommodation, which was a little lodge and the room was a 32 bed dorm and was basically 4 big beds that you all slept on. Although it sounds a bit disturbing- and it probably is because it used to be known as the orgy room- we actually ended up having a really good nights sleep! There wasn't a whole lot to do there because it's in the countryside but we went for a wander and there was a big swing bridge that we had fun going on. The boys went for an explore up the other side of the hill, if they slipped they would've ended up falling straight down it and into the river it was that steep! The girls headed inside and we chilled for a bit waiting for our roast dinner. We had dinner (wasn't as good as home) and chilled on the sofas playing some games like heads up. We all bonded as a group and it was really nice; there was no wifi either so we had to all entertain ourselves. Later in the evening the workers showed us a challenge where you had to make your way under and over the big wooden table without touching the floor. It proved very difficult as nobody in the group managed to do it- you had to hold on to the top whilst under the table trying to grab the other side; I didn't have a go because I have the worst upper body strength and I knew I would fall flat on my back.

We all headed to bed around 12-1 and had a nice lay in the next morning. Whilst we waited for people to get back from horse riding we all played a big game of volleyball which was so much fun! At around 2pm we begun our journey to Wellington- our last top in New Zealand :(


Along our way down the North Island we spent two days in Taupo. We had originally planned three however the Tongariro Crossing had been cancelled unfortunately (it was a blessing in disguise because I definitely would have struggled doing an 8 hour trek up a mountain.) We kick started our first day in Taupo with a sky dive! We arrived at Skydive Taupo and had our safety briefings and got into the suits; unfortunately we had to wait a little while for the clouds to clear but when they did it was beautiful! I had spent the majority of the time waiting with the skydive company's pet cat so I was pretty content. About 6 of us were put in the plane; Brad and Taby were in my plane and it was reassuring knowing you are doing it with friends! We had a 15-20 minute flight up to 15,000ft. It was amazing to see the views and in the plane Brad was more scared than me! At 8,000ft up you are given oxygen masks for the rest of the way; which did make me a little nervous but you quickly forget about it. When we got to the right spot the door opened and we were all out in about 20 seconds; it was so fast! It was quite daunting watching people fall out the plane as there was a little suction noise as they fell and they disappeared quite quickly.

When it came to my turn to fall I shut my eyes as this was what put me off my bungee- being able to see how high you are! I expected to feel quite uncomfortable as soon as you fall as I thought there would be some spinning but it felt so smooth and the guy on my back promised he would get me out as soon as possible! The free fall was about a minute long but it literally felt 10 seconds! I chose the package where a photographer jumps and videos you whilst takes pictures so it was fun to have someone else jumping alongside you! It was the most surreal experience and the views are incredible! After a minute of free fall which is literally indescribable it's the best thing I've ever done; you have a 5 minute parachute ride down, although mine ended up being nearer to 10 minutes because the heavier the load the quicker you fall, so I ended up being last to land. I couldn't stop smiling and asking my tandem master what everything was, it's made me love New Zealand even more! I would 100% do it again, however I wouldn't fall from any higher because towards the end of the free fall my ears started to get a little painful because of all the pressure, but it wasn't bad enough to put me off doing it again; I think the adrenaline made it seem a lot less painful! When we landed everyone in the group just couldn't stop smiling! 

We headed back to the hostel after and met back up with everyone else, we all went to a bar quiz in the evening and had some drinks.

The next morning we had a lazy morning and we then went on a sailing boat at 2pm, we all had some drinks and pizza whilst having a sail in Lake Taupo which was really nice! After a few hours we were back on land and decided we didn't want to go back to the hostel so we chilled by the lake until it got dark. This has to be one of my favourite memories from New Zealand because we all had so much fun. There was about 13 of us just chilling, drinking, dancing and listening to music. When the sun went down we went back to the hostel and went into the bar- after the bar man refusing to serve us because we were a bit too happy for his liking we went round a few other bars before heading to the local Irish pub where it was very lively. We all had some more drinks and had a dance and it was a good night!

I think Taupo has to be my favourite place we went to in New Zealand; not necessarily for the town but because of the memories we made. We had so much fun with the best group of people, and we finally got to do a skydive!