I stood at the mouth of a killing cave and listened as a man younger than my father recounted his personal story of the Khmer Rouge regime (1975 -1979). My stomach ached and I was sweating, not from the heat or the story but from whatever bug I had picked up while traveling. I suppressed my instinct to complain, it wasn’t hard as this stranger told his incredible story of survival, my problem seemed trivial in comparison. The Khmer Rouge history was something I only knew about loosely when I arrived in Cambodia; every day I spent in the country I learned more of the history and years of desecration that had taken place during the first years of my life. After a long boat ride from the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat my journey crossed paths with a man who would forever change the way I know Cambodia. Mr. Phi Lay had been in his 20’s when the Khmer Rouge took power, he not only lost his family but managed to survive the unthinkable; Mr. Phi Lay endured years of suffering from starvation to illness, poverty and extreme living conditions. I spent two days in Battambang with two new friends (who I met on the boat journey from Siem Reap), we listened as Mr. Phi Lay shared his incredible history as well as showed us the people and the life of Battambang.
If you go to Battambang, Cambodia: Please find Mr. Phi Lay for a tour!