Phnom Penh, learning the Cambodia history

Our first city we stopped in Cambodia was Phnom Penh. The visit was short as we stayed only for two nights, but oh boy it was so educational, so heart breaking while we learned about recent Cambodia history. We started our day by hiring a tuk tuk driver to take us to see the Killing Fields also known as Choeung Ek Genocidal Center. When we arrived at first, the fields looked beautiful and peaceful, but as time went on, we walked in silent, learning the horrific history of Cambodia people. During the visit we weren’t taking many pictures, but just walked slowly through the field listening to our audio guide. The only picture we took is the memorial stupa, looking very beautiful from the distance. As we reached the tower we realized it was full of human skulls and bones behind the acrylic glass windows.

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The tower has 12 levels with over 5000 skulls, broken bones and blood soaked clothes of the people who were brutally slaughtered by Khmer Rouge regime. This site of mass genocide used to be a Chinese cemetery but between the year of 1975 and 1979 around 17 thousand men, women and children were killed here. There are many, many killing sites likes this throughout the country. We learned there was an estimated death toll of around 3,000,000, due to executions, starvation, diseases , or hard work. That was almost 25-30 percent of the total population of Cambodia.

Note: Later on our trip we watched an amazing movie “The Killing Fields” made by a director, Ronal Jaffe in 1984. This movie shows the terror of the Khmer Rouge. It based on the real experiences of two journalists: Cambodian Dith Pran and an American Sydney Schanberg. We highly recommend to watch the movie for anyone who would like to learn more about Khmer Roug regime.

`The next stop was Tuol Sleng Detention Center also known as S21. It is a former school converted to a torture center during Khmer Rouge.

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Each prisoner who passed through S-21 was photographed. The museum displays include rooms of harrowing black-and-white photographs of all men, women and children that were killed . Without a doubt a visit to Tuol Sleng is a profoundly depressing experience, but we were glad we’ve done it.

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Other things to do in Phonm Penh:

Independence Monument.   We stopped there with our tuk-tuk driver.

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This is an important landmark for Cambodian people, as it was build to celebrate the independence from French people.

The Royal Palace, this a major attraction in the city. There are many buildings to visit there, but the Royal family doesn’t live there. We decided to “skip” this attraction .

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On a lighter note, Phnom Penh isn’t  a shopping mecca like Bangkok, but there many great places to shop.  The most architecturally interesting market is the Central Market, also called the New Market.

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Russian Market, the market got its name in 1980s where the only tourists were Russian. Today you can buy all sort of things: clothes, watches, shoes. The prices were cheap , but the quality adequately cheap and low. We didn’t buy anything there.

During our stay in Phnom Penh we stayed in a beautiful Green Lime hotel . The hotel has a nice swimming pool with a cool sitting area around it.

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Our room at Green Lime hotel

 

The breakfast was really good and it was included in the price. It is located close to city attractions, but about 50 yards from the main road, giving the peaceful setting at the pool and quite sleep at night. We booked this hotel via Booking.com. It cost around $50.00/night. Practical Information: There isn’t a public transportation in the city, therefore we hired a tuk tuk. The driver took us to both sites at $15.00 and waited for us while we visited both places. The entrance fee for foreign tourists is $6.00 for Killing Fields and $2.00 for S21 Museum