Harrowing history in Phnom Penh

We arrived in Phnom Penh around 8am after a long overnight layover at Kuala Lumpur. Once we landed we headed to passport control, filled out a form and paid $35 each for a another stamp in our passport.

We arrived at our accommodation (RS Guesthouse) after a 30 minute tuk tuk ride but of course it was too early to check in. We dumped our bags at reception and decided to head out and explore. Actually when I say reception it was actually a mini mart that had a guesthouse on top. You had to check in at the counter of the shop which was kind of strange but super handy if you fancied a snack as you didn’t even have to leave the building.

We walked around for a couple of hours stopping to check out the palace and a few other monuments along the way before grabbing some lunch and finally checking in.
Our room was quite nice for the price we paid and had both a private bathroom and air con! The only annoying thing was that there was building works all day from 8am until at least 5pm so it always sounded like someone was drilling through our roof.

The next day we headed out to meet our tuk tuk driver we had booked for the day. He planned to take us to the Killing Fields and the S-21 (Tuol Sleng) museum. We arrived at the museum and paid $6 for admission and an audio guide. The museum used to be a school that was turned into a prison by Pol Pot in 1975.
Pol Pot used to capture and torture people here before taking them to the Killing Fields and executing them. Over 14,000 people passed through this centre and would be tortured until they gave in and wrote a false confession. Sadly after confessing they were brutally murdered. The museum displays the head shots of all the victims which were taken as they arrived to the prison, it also provided extensive information on the horrific events that occurred between 1975 and 1979.img_1940On our way out we learnt that during this time there were only 7 survivors from the S-21 prison and only 2 of them are alive today. One of the survivors Bou Meng was at the museum to tell his story and we were fortunate enough to meet him. Charlie approached him first as I was quite upset, seeing him made everything we had just learnt about feel all the more real. Our hearts broke for him as we learnt about his time there. Although he survived his wife and kids did not. We were touched by his friendly nature and cheerfulness after meeting him, especially in a place many people wouldn’t revisit after experiencing what he has. We purchased his book and he offered to have a photo with us. He even held my hand and gave me a hug after the photo was taken.img_1935We left the museum and headed to the Killing Fields where the Khmer Rouge used to take the prisoners after they confessed to execute and bury them. We paid $6 again and got an audio guide which was again proved vital in order to hear about all that happened there. Most of the people there were executed by having their throats cut, they chose to kill people this way as it was quieter but also inexpensive. The fields are lined with mass graves, the largest one containing more than 450 bodies.img_1939One particularly shocking part of the fields is the killing tree which stands next to a mass grave of women and children. This tree was used as a weapon to kill infants/toddlers who would be held by their feet and bashed to death against the tree. We were shocked at how long this secret went on for and how it really isn’t all that long ago. The tour end at the memorial where a glass tower of 17 floors displays over 9000 sculls found in the fields.img_1941They haven’t even excavated all the graves and whilst walking around you can see bones and clothing that are still rising to the surface.

We had a pretty chilled out evening after quite a powerful and emotional day. We had dinner at a place called Kabbas which was really nice before heading home.


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