After the long journey crossing the border from Laos to Cambodia we finally reached Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. On arrival we felt like celebrities as the bus was suddenly surrounded by Cambodians offering us tuk tuk’s and accommodation.
After saying ‘no’ to many drivers and getting slightly stressed about it we realised we probably did need one after all so hopped in one to the hostel (Nomads). We arrived in the evening so we headed out to the night market which was just down the road however it was getting late so things were shutting down and it started raining so we headed back for an early night. When we checked in to the hostel the owner told us about the area and one thing he did say was that at night we should not take bags out as many people go around snatching them off you and in some cases when they can’t get them off you that easily they will just drag you along until its off! So that put us on guard for night time, he also said that during the day they don’t do this as its harder to get away and they are more likely to be caught and its mainly the tuk tuk drivers that catch them and then beat them up and by the time the police arrive the thieves have to be taken to hospital first because they are in such a bad state, this made us feel more positive about the tuk tuk drivers!
The next morning we got a tuk tuk and headed out into the city to learn some of this history and culture of Cambodia as this is what Phnom Penh is all about. We paid $15 in total for the day and had a really nice driver.
Our first stop was to the S21 Prison. It used to be a school but during the Pol Pot Regime it was turned into a prison and was where people went before being killed. A lot of torture happened here and it was extremely sad to see the prison cells. They also had pictures of many Cambodians who had been sent there. On arrival they were given a number, photographed and recorded, looking into the eyes of the photos you could just see how scared and confused they were as they were innocent people being brought in and accused of crimes they didn’t commit just so Pol Pot had a reason to then kill them.
Next we went to a killing field which is one of the biggest in the country. We got to hire an audio player which played sections as we went round which was a great idea as you really paid attention to what was being said and what happened. Again it was such a sad place.
Trucks were brought here regularly and full of people who were then recorded again on arrival and murdered into the mass graves. The graves have all been dug up now and there is a temple at the site which has 17 layers of bones found in these graves.
I had read a book- ‘First they killed my father’ last year so I had a good idea of what happened in these years but it’s still so hard to understand that it really happened and only in the 70’s. It was so recent and lasted 4 years but the rest of the world at the time knew nothing about it and even now unless you visit Cambodia most people do not know of the horror these people went through!
The next day after another good nights sleep we had a walk around the city near our hostel. We walked down the river and after a session at a salon where two of the girls got their hair done and I had a pedicure we visited the Royal temple and Royal it was! The grounds were huge and full of so many amazing Buddhist temples, despite the rain I think this has been my favourite place to see temples yet!
There wasn’t much else to do in Phnom Penh for us so we were then on our way to the coast of Cambodia!