Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is a large, busy and intense city. Like many other backpackers, my plan was to get in, check out the Killing Fields and the S21 prison/museum (Tuol Sleng), and move on. I did spend one afternoon wandering around the capital, but I’m not really a city person at the best of times and I was glad I hadn’t planned to spend more time here! While the city itself isn’t the best that Cambodia has to offer, the Killing Fields and S21 are a must visit for anyone who wants to even begin to understand this country and gain a grasp of what it has been through. Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge political party, ruled the country from 1975 to 1979, overseeing one of the most brutal and horrific mass killings of the 20th century. He turned the entire country into a slave labour camp and mercilessly killed anyone that was a threat to his regime. That included anyone with as much as a second language, a degree or the the need to where glasses, apparently an indicator of intelligence. Hundreds¬†of thousands of people died from disease, hard labour or by being tortured and killed in truly evil ways. What was most terrifying is that this didn’t happen all that long ago, easily within my parents lifetime, and yet I had barely any knowledge of it before coming to Cambodia. Visiting these places made for a rather harrowing day, but it was probably one of the most eye opening experiences that I had during my travels of South East Asia.