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Phnom Penh - Great city... minus all the death and traffic

CAMBODIA | Tuesday, 20 January 2009 | Views [859]

Tuel Sleng (S-21)

Tuel Sleng (S-21)

After weeks of frustratingly slow internet connections, I’m way behind on my trip journal. I’ll keep the next couple of entries short and sweet as I try to catch up with the current action…

Phnom Penh is a great city despite a very tumultuous past. The city fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975, with most of the wealthy and educated residents being forced into the rural countryside to assist with Pol Pot’s new agrarian economy.  The city has flourished in recent years, but the affects of such a trying period are still noticeable just below the surface.

Some quick highlights from our time in Phnom Penh:

  • Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21) - where Khmer Rouge torture devices and photos of their victims are displayed. This former school turned prison camp was incredibly disturbing, but very educational. The exhibits made for a very personal experience.
  • Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields) - 15 km outside of the city, where the Khmer Rouge marched prisoners from Tuol Sleng to be murdered and buried in shallow pits. The memorial here contains some 8000 skulls from different mass graves.  On the way back into town we witnessed a deadly car accident. It was a very tough day to say the least.
  • Royal Palace and Golden Pagoda – not as impressive as Thailand’s equivalent, but still a great site to see.
  • Meeting Tom and Lynn Heller (old friends of my parents) – we joined them to watch a French musician accompanying a traditional Khmer band as the soundtrack for early 20th century silent movies. They’re both doing amazing work in Cambodia. Tom is working with local government agencies setting up HIV/AIDS awareness and treatment programs, while Lynn is teaching English in a maximum security prison and volunteering at an orphanage.
  • Obama’s inauguration – who else can say they watched the inauguration while sipping wine in a Cambodian guesthouse…
  • Major trip decisions – instead of heading for Vietnam, we decided to do Laos first. This also allowed us to buy our return tickets to the US. We’re flying back on March 19th! 

Tags: phnom phen, royal palace, russian market, s-21, traffic



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