The Urban Wanderer

Crossing Borders ~ Bridging Cultures ~ Traveling Responsibly

Phnom Penh


This post is originally from January 31, 2012

Well hello there!

Yesterday we ventured on a 7 hour bus ride to Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh. We had a great night full of many laughs and a good night’s rest among the seedy district of hotels, bars and prostitutes. For some reason I still feel completely safe though. I don’t think you can get away from it here in this city.

Too many skulls to count. Unfathomable!

Today was a very difficult day. I think it probably will be the hardest of the trip. We spent most of the day visiting the Khmer Rouge’s Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum. At the Killing Fields we walked around with an audio guide and it took us through some brutal times. Literally thousands of skulls are lined up in a building that reaches ten stories high. Clothes and bones continue to seep through the soil even to this day; especially after it rains. Hearing the personal stories from survivors was incredibly emotional. Seeing the tree where the Khmer Rouge would literally smack children against…there are no words. You can’t help but cry at what is right here before your very eyes. It was incredibly intense. As I was leaving, the man taking my audio thanked me for coming. He then went on to tell me that this is where his mother, father and uncle were killed. Just like that – he works here day in day out at the very location where his family was brutally murdered.Unbelievable!

A commemorative Stupa filled with the skulls of the victims at the Killing Field of Choeng Ek




We then headed to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Here is where Pol Pot’s regime would imprison and torture thousands. Before the genocide this building was a school. It was so incredibly difficult to be here because we could see the blood stained floor and walls. It is virtually untouched and not roped off. You would have to watch your step so you don’t step in dried blood. Room after room were photos of the victims. Mug shots, photos of the nearly dead, and remnants of that time. It is documented so well because the Khmer Rouge wanted proof of the deaths of each person. It is estimated that  one in four Cambodians were killed during this time…a time  that was really not that long ago.  At the museum I was able to meet a survivor of that prison. He survived because he had a special talent. He was an incredible artist. He would be able to draw the leader Pol Pot and when they held his drawing next to a photo they were unable to distinguish which was the drawing. For this talent he was kept alive because he was of use to the regime.  Here he sat, beside his mug shot from being imprisoned.  He was this tiny old man with no teeth (from them being smashed out of his head). Again, like most Cambodians he was smiling and gracious. Absolutely heart-wrenching. It is hard to believe that here in this bustling city, all these people deal with such a haunting past.


Tomorrow is another day that we head on the road south. This time to the beach town of Sihanoukvillle. Looking very forward to chilling on the beach and jumping in the ocean.
Loving this place greatly!design

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