Cambodia Daytrips: Wat Ang Sleng, TakeoSeptember 12, 2006
Returning to the town, we went back to the restaurant where we’d gone before and again pestered the proprietors for travel tips. There’d been discussion in our absence, and new ideas had emerged.
This time, we were led to a neighbour’s shop, where the master of the house, with a kromah wrapped around his loins, held court from atop a dusty wooden bedframe. While the leathery old man spoke, and my plump Khmer companion noted his advice, his doughty wife shouted interjections as she puttered about, and his sweet young daughter, sitting quietly on a chair in the corner, batted her doe eyes at me with shy curiosity.
We were sent back toward Phnom Penh and instructed to continue straight until we’d hit the road to Kampot. There we found ourselves in the midst of a little town, with more shops and restaurants than Takeo itself, and we headed south, charged with finding another killing field, this time called Ang K’Som. The turnoff ended up being under a narrow, grey temple archway.
The path leading into the countryside was dusty, and the roadside was impressively lush with trees and ferns.
Boys were fishing with slender poles made of reeds, with bits of string tied to the ends, at small pools and streams. They kept water bottles with the tops sliced off fastened to their rope belts and used them to hold tiny silver fish. We found Wat Ang Sleng tucked away down a tiny little lane in the midst of rice paddies.
We never would have found it without the directions of locals along the way. The shrine, donated by CPP bigwig Chea Sim, stood stark and solitary in a barren field ringed by trees. Its glass walls, just like those at the more famous Chhoueng Ek, displayed the smashed skulls of countless KR victims. An old monk joined us. He said there were three mass graves nearby.
Not all had been excavated yet. In total, he estimated that there were ten thousand skulls in the area, which seemed an overestimate, but it was a grisly sight, and a chilling thought, nevertheless.