Phonm Penh – March 2011
We arrived to Cambodia and our first stop of Phnom Penh in the morning and jumped in to a tuk tuk to get to our hotel Blue Lime. Being a SEA (South East Asia) novice we didn’t decide on the cost for the journey and got overcharged, but hey lesson learned for next time.?
The blue lime was a gorgeous hotel and happy reprieve from the chaos of the Phnom Penh streets. After dropping our bags we negotiated a daily rate for a tuk tuk we were dropped at the markets where we wandered around the boroughs for the day, then organised our trip to Tuol Sleng S-21 genocide museum and the killing fields the next day. These are historic sites from the khmer rouge genocide rouge where millions of Cambodians were tortured and killed millions attempting to erase “undesirables” and forever changing Cambodian society. The killing fields was a strange place to visit with it being the site that thousands of people were murdered in horrific ways, while being set in lush grounds in the countryside. But you did not have to walk far to be reminded of the atrocities that happened here as survivors of the regime gathered outside the gates selling handmade trinkets and asking for donations. Next we went to S-21 back in the city; I think the worst part of the museum was looking at the photo’s of smiling faces placed along the walls, oblivious of what will happen to them. Both of these sites took an emotional toll that you really underestimate prior to experiencing, it’s horrifying to think of man’s ability to perpetrate such horror on one’s own people.
Needless to say we needed a stiff drink after this and found solace in one of the many beautiful rooftop bars overlooking the Mekong.
Phnom penh was a beautiful city marred by tragedy that you could see everywhere you went. In many of the markets you will find folk that have so obviously been physically affected by the tragedy that you want to help in whatever small way you can. Although we read everywhere and were told by the staff at our hotel to not give money to children (as they are often exploited by adults for profit) it is hard to say no to kids who come up to you in a restaurant and ask for money or food. It was absolutely heartbreaking.