Phnom Penh

Trip Start May 04, 2008
Trip End May 15, 2008

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Flag of Cambodia  , Phnom Penh,
Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fast Facts:

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia
Population = 1.5 million
1 USD = 4000 Cambodian Riel
Language = Khmer
Rickshaw price = 1 USD per person around town, and around 5 USD if you're going further out of town depending on miles
ATMs give USD currency and are available in several areas near the center
Local food stands and small businesses will accept US dollars but will most likely give change back in Riels.

Day 1

Arrived and had a drink at the uber cool bar "Chow" - see pic below

Day 2
Fuimos al lugar donde ejecutaban a la gente y la enterraban en fosas comunes. Hay un templo con cientos de calaveras y me dieron ganas de llorar. Ahorita, solo de escribirlo, se me llenan los ojos de lagrimas. Habia una seccion que decia "mujeres de entre 15 y 20 aņos"y habia muchas calaveras. Esta tragedia fue creo peor que la de los nazis en Alemania, pero poco se sabe en el mundo desafortunadamente. En la tarde despues de comer fuimos a la prision,  S-21, imaginense que antes de convertirla en prision era una secundaria, tipo la secu 8 pero con alambres de puas alrededor de los edificios y adentro de cada salon construyeron mini celdas con ladrillos o madera . Es horrible. Ty y yo salimos muy deprimidos. Pero bueno, al viajar es importante hacer conciencia, y no nada mas buscar lo bonito.

Sights that we saw:
Killing Fields
Tuol Sleng Museum

The Cambodian Genocide
Watch the movie "The Killing Fields" by Roland Joffe - a very descriptive and mostly accurate account of the atrocities and genocide inflicted by the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia during the mid-to-late 1970s.

We went to the Killing Fields first via tuk tuk and as soon as we arrived, we knew it was going to be a sad and depressing experience.  There is one central monument on the grounds of the "killing fields" that towers high and serves as a reminder of the thousands of Cambodians that were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime.  Inside the monument are thousands of skulls of people who were executed by the Khmer Rouge.  It has many platforms one on top of each other where the skulls are placed and at the bottom of the monument are tattered blood stained clothes and belongings of people who died.  They have been preserved as they were found originally in the graves.  The graves were dug in the 1980s and skeletons were slowly removed from the graves but there are many grave sites that are still intact and have not been dug.  The bodies are still buried here along with clothes that sometimes surface to the ground.  We saw many pieces of clothing as we walked on the grounds of the fields.  It is a chilling experience walking through these fields where once thousands of people were executed brutally.  While we were growing up in a safe and normal environment in a different part of the world, there were thousands of people and kids being executed in Cambodia during the mid-to-late 1970s.  Some kids were spared but were recruited to work for the Pol Pot regime.  In the Killing Fields, there are many lake size graves (holes) dug to bury the victims of the executions.  Now they are full of water and look like big ponds.  Almost everyone that was captured including teachers, journalists, liberals, politicians, normal people who spoke even a word against the regime or wore spectacles (were branded as "parasites") were imprisoned on a daily basis at the S21 prison (formerly a high school) and then brought by truck-loads to be executed at these fields.  There are tons of mass graves that were sometimes divided into graves for women/children and graves for men. 
Pol Pot's real name was Saloth Sar and was born in 1925.  He went to Paris where he was educated in the radical Marxist philosophy.  After returning home to become a teacher, he stayed relatively unknown before rising through the ranks of the communist party that took over the country during the civil war.  As the US failed in their attempt to drive Vietnamese Communits out of Cambodia during mass carpet bombing (known as the Secret War), this only strengthened the Cambodian communist party who took power in 1975. 

After visiting the Killing Fields, we went to the Tuol Sleng Museum known formerly as the S21 (Security 21) prison.  There were many prisons around the country but this is the most prominent where most prisoners were brought to be interrogated and tortured before being sent to the Killing Fields for execution.  We recommend that you do both the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng in one day because they are very depressing sites and hard on the senses.  Tuol Sleng was originally a high school which was converted into a prison (see pics below).  The gruesome torture chambers and mass detention centers are mostly empty and blood stains are etched onto walls.  There is a display of pictures and text that recount the horrors of life in the prison and torture techniques used by the Khmer Rouge

After the Pol Pot regime, there must have been
a boom in population as people started to have kids again which may
explain why today approx. 40% of the population of Cambodia is under
the age of 14.

Day 3
We had lunch at Boddhi Tree (location close to the Palace) and the food was delicious, the hotel looks really neat too but it was a little more expensive than ours and it didn't make sense to change hotels at that point. Anyhow, the service was also very good and at the end of our meal one of the waiters offered to take us to S-21 because his shift at the restaurant was over. He drives a taxi on his "spare" hours and his English is great, give him a call at: or, his name is Sarat.
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