Phnom Penh (Hell)

 I can’t believe I’ve been back 2 months already. Really need to wrap up these travel posts from my trip to Asia. Only one more after this!

After ascending to the heavens at the temples in Siem Reap, it is incredibly sobering to visit Phnom Penh. Most of the tourism focuses around the pain of the past, which is incredibly haunting and way too real. You’ll be walking to get dinner, and tuk tuk drivers would call out to you “Hey, want to go to the Killing Fields?”

After yet another 6 hour bus ride (pretty cush!) we made it to PP. We unloaded our bags at the fabulous Tea House Hotel and made a beeline for the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC). It’s my favorite spot in the city, and they have a decent happy hour.


To the right of the photo where all the motos are gathered the street is blocked off for protests. A week earlier there were election protests where a man died and several people were injured. Tensions were high, but that night nothing happened.



Life is on the streets…



Cambodian pizza. Yep.



My new BFF. It was a rather long night after this. We kept trying to go to the dance clubs in the area, but we were way too early (9pm? sigh). So finally we called it a night and went back to the hotel.



The next day was going to be hard, but we had to do it. We first went to S21, then Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields). This was my second time visiting both spots, and it was still very moving. I have much better photos from the first time that I visited, but it was too hard and too sad to sift through them looking for the “right” ones. It’s probably why I never wrote about PP when I visited before. So, here are a few of the limited photos from my last trip. Disturbing images ahead.

S21 is a school that was converted into a prison during the time of the Khmer Rouge. Men, women and children were kept here before they were taken to the Killing Fields. Above is a gymnastics structure that was used to torture people during interrogations. Basically you’d string someone up and then dunk their heads in water below, over and over until they passed out.


One of many rows of prison cells. There were wooden cells and brick cells (differing security levels)


At the Killing Fields, a taxi ride away outside of the city…

The site was leased to the  Japanese, and as a result, the information provided is very comprehensive, with audio tours in multiple languages. The Killing Fields was only one of many scattered across the country. Ultimately Pol Pot’s genocide killed off  25% of Cambodia’s population. Unbelievable.


So incredibly sad. When the site was taken over, people did not understand what the tree was until they found bits of bone and brain mashed into the tree.


A dog sleeps peacefully with the Memorial Stupa in the background.


New bones still wash up with the monsoon rains.


The Memorial Stupa is full of skulls of the victims. Piled high, multiple stories. You see it, but it’s still hard to comprehend.


There is more that I could show, such as the Magic Tree  or the official government photos of the thousands of people killed, but the skulls say it all. It was a very dark and sad time in Cambodia’s history. The resilience of the Cambodian people blows me away. It’s a very special place, Cambodia.

For more information on the genocide, the Enemies of the People documentary is really amazing, and happens to be available on YouTube.