After a long 5 hour minibus journey which included an exploding tire, we finally made it to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. We were staying at the Channsoda hotel. The only rooms that were available were on the 5th floor. There was no lift, however, the view of the Royal Palace that is opposite us is amazing so it doesn’t really matter.
Like everywhere we’ve visited here, as soon as you get off the bus, there are tuk tuks waiting. Not only do they want to give you a ride to your hotel, they have the next day’s itinerary planned out for you. It’s great – who needs travel guides! Our driver, Ha, picked us up at 9am ready for a long day around the Genocide Museum and the famous, be it for all the wrong reasons, Killing Fields of Cambodia.
Now I’m used to inserting a bit of humour into my blog entries, however, today it just doesn’t seem appropriate, so I apologise in advance.
Our first stop was the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum. It cost $2 per person, however, they gladly accept donations.
The museum is based in the actual grounds of the prison. Back in 1975, the Khmer Rouge converted the Chao Ponhea Yat High School into a prison and torture camp.
In the 5 years that it was in operation, the prison held roughly 20,000 people. The only crime the majority had committed, was to know someone that had committed a crime (although they probably hadn’t).
The classrooms had been converted into cells and the gym equipment into torture devices. The buildings were left as they were back then and to walk around it was quite disturbing. The cells were no bigger than 2m by 1m, with the keys to their shackles being within eyesight but just out of reach. There was still blood on the floor and photos of the deceased were displayed on the walls. In a few of the cells were the original beds and chains for which the prisoner’s spent their final days.
Looking at the pictures and reading the hallowing stories from the captives, their time here would have been like hell. It makes me laugh that the people in Prisons in the UK moan if they haven’t got the latest game for their Xbox to play in their brightly coloured, comfortable cell.
The next stop was the Killing Fields. On the way, we saw two amazing sights. The first was a moped with FIVE people on it and the next was a pothole the size of a small country!
The civilians of Cambodia were brought under the promise of new houses, only to be lied to by the Khmer Rouge. They were told this so that they would co-operate during the journey – it was just a sick trap. Once at the fields, they would be slaughtered. Men, women and children. They would keep them in small huts until their time had come. They would play loud music to drown out the screams for help. The captives would dig their own graves and watch their own family being killed. Bullets were expensive, therefore, the killings were barbaric. Throats slit and babies thrown at trees. Not very nice at all.
It was quite a depressing, yet educational day. It really made us appreciate life. Back at the hotel, we decided to get drunk to cheer ourselves up!