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Cambodia: Phnom Penh

Beautiful welcoming city that lays bare a haunting ever present past.

sunny 36 °C
View liftyrskinnyfists on SkinnyFists's travel map.

Lately in the hospitals, the halfway homes and choking jails,
There's people on the mend again,
With hopes to carry on,
Come on people, keep your friends close,
Your enemies won't mater in the end

(Enemies/ Friends, Hope of the States)

Arriving

As the plane approached Phnom Penh from the wild west (Bangkok), you could only see water and submerged buildings.
As we drew closer it became apparent that the floods were not as bad as it seemed.
Most foreign nationals require a tourist visa to enter Cambodia.
I purchased an e-Visa before my arrival, however the visa itself did not arrive in time.
Armed only with a receipt I tried my luck at customs, rather than have to buy another one.
The easy going customs officer just sighed, took my thumb prints and stamped my passport.
Once you leave the airport, a swarm of tuk-tuk drivers swamp arrivers offering a lift.
I heard many warnings about driver scams where they take you to their mates' hotel coincidently with the same name as yours
I organised for my hostel (Nomads) to pick me up from Phnom Penh. i was greeted by the friendly lady and the hostel's own tuk-tuk driver.
The roads of Phnom Penh can be dusty, so travellers have your Khmer scarfs ready!

Exploration

Phnom Penh is a nice, vibrant and fairly welcoming city.
Though the activity is evenly spread.
Most nightlife and tourist hangouts are on the beautiful waterfront area of the Tonle Sap.
There is also a really nice night market on Friday and Saturdays.
There is also the Royal Palace and National Museum that were really interesting.

S21

P1000301.jpg

S-11, a school before Khmer Rouge evacuated the city in 1975, because a centre for torture and interrogation during Khmer Rouge's 4 year horrific reign. The site is now a museum and site of remembrance for the atrocities that were committed there. The displays are very graphic and some of the torture beds, complete with tools of interrogation remain as chilling evidence. There are many photographic displays showing prisoners as they are processed, as well as tortures taking place.
There is a very sombre and chilling feel to the experience and it was difficult to hold back tears for the victims and families that were affected by Khmer Rouge.

Killing Fields

Located roughly 12 kms out of town the Killing Fields is the site where Khmer Rouge lead their people to die.
Soldiers dug enormous pits here, and lead their victims to the edge of the pits, where bodies already lay dead, sliced their necks with sharp palm leaves and pushed them into the pits.
There is an audio guide which leads you around the museum, explaining how the Khmer Rouge tricked their victims into thinking they were being relocated to better homes, before being lead to their death.
The grounds themselves still show evidence of the pits - from the moulded ground, to the bone and clothing fragments that are still emerging from the shifting soil.
There is a shrine with 17 floors full of human skulls found here, where to can light incense and pay your respects.
It is the single most harrowing thing I have experienced, yet also inspiring to know how quickly the Cambodian people have risen from their past and are boldly moving forward.

You have to hand it to Vietnam.
In 1979, having just evicted the American and Australian forces, and rebuilding their own nation - Ho Chi Minh decided that enough was enough, whilst the more equipped western world just looked on, and liberated Cambodia, forcing Khmer Rouge to retreat into the jungle.

On the whole....

Phnom Penh is a really vibrant, friendly, busy and thriving place.
Really enjoyed it.

You can find the full set of my Phnom Penh photos here:
Phnom Penh and Battambang (public Facebook link)

Posted by SkinnyFists 02:15 Archived in Cambodia Tagged phnom_penh killing_fields s_21

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