Phnom Penh

Trip Start Feb 17, 2013
Trip End Mar 21, 2013

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Where I stayed
The Pavilion Phnom Penh
Read my review - 4/5 stars

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Saturday, March 2, 2013

We started off this morning with breakfast poolside at our little boutique hotel.  In all cases, breakfast is included in the room rate.  The menu has usually included juice of some kind -- maybe Tang, maybe fresh juice.  This morning it was fresh passion fruit juice; a fruit plate with watermelon, pineapple, bananas, and maybe papaya, mango, or some other exotic fruit; and a bread plate.  In Vietnam we always had a baguette or croissant and a couple of hot dishes of questionable origin and warmth.  There was an egg station with someone making omelets or other egg dishes.  And, very strong coffee or strong tea -- sorry no tea bags.  Not a bad way to start a day in my eyes.  Dayna, on the other hand, is still looking for Starbucks!

After breakfast, we were off with our new friend, Lan, and his tuk-tuk,  and our guide for the day, Ms. Davy.  You remember her from dinner last night.  What better way to start the day on a full stomach than with some Cambodian genocide.  We were heading to The Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh.  This site was the most famous but only one of a hundred or so killing sites around the country. This is not the place for a history lesson but suffice it to say that between 1975 and 1979, Pol Pot and his merry men, the Khmer Rouge, killed over two million of his countrymen while the world stood by and did nothing.  I have not toured Auschwitz or Treblinka, but it must be about the same.  After the people were tortured and forced to confess to whatever their captors wanted them to confess to at S-21 (more in a minute) the people were hauled out to the killing fields around the 'burbs and murdered.  Men, women, and children, it made no difference.  No bullets used, too expensive.  Any blunt object or knife was good enough for the Khmer Rouge.  Little children were just bashed against the trees and thrown into a pit, some buried alive.  As you walk through this site you suddenly realize that white tree roots you are walking over aren't tree roots at all, but bones surfacing because of the rains.  There are also bits of clothing surfacing, even some teeth if you look close enough.  Sad beyond belief.  After reading "Never Fall Down", and walking through the killing fields, we believe that Pol Pot made Hitler look like a nice guy.

And, now our lovely guide, Ms. Davy -- her father was in the government.  When their family was forced out of Phnom Penh, on foot, her father was quickly separated from the rest of the family, as was her oldest brother.  They were never seen again.  She and her mother were sent to a women's camp over 300K away, by foot.  They both survived because they were hard workers.  She was reunited with her two younger brothers in 1980.  They made it too.

Our next stop was "S-21".  This was the prison in Phnom Penh where everyone started out before being taken to the killing fields.  It was simply a torture factory. Over 20,000 citizens, mostly just like you and me, that may have been ratted out by other torture victims, maybe there was a rumor of something, maybe they were an intellectual like a teacher, doctor, etc.  Or, in many cases they just had soft hands indicating they did something that was of no use to the Khmer Rouge.  It really didn't matter, there were quotas to meet.  Two million people in five years breaks down to a pretty hefty quota per year!

Now, more interesting stuff about Ms. Davy.  As we toured S-21, she told us that her two older brothers went to school here because, before 1975, S-21 was a high school, a very expensive one.  Remember her father was in the previous government. Her oldest brother was studying film making, and Davy used to love to come to the school on the weekends to watch her big brother make movies.  She said the floors were so clean, spotless.  Then, she pointed out to us that the heavy stains now on the floors were caused by the blood and that the Khmer Rouge never bothered to clean S-21 through its entire history.  Why bother, there are only 14 known survivors of S-21.  One of which we saw there selling his book.

Here is the sad part.  Tonight at dinner we asked two of the servers if they had ever been out to the Killing Fields.  One said yes, on a school tour but she had forgotten a lot.  The other admitted that she really wasn't sure what they were. Sad!  People that don't know history are doomed to repeat it!  The present corrupt Cambodian government is just one step better than the Khmer Rouge.

After that joyous morning, we improved our day by heading to the Central Market for a look around.  We stopped at a street stall for some lunch.  Local food that looked hot and safe.  It was good and, so far, neither one of us has packed our shorts, although we are careful with what we eat and drink.  Don't want to think you are breaking wind and have a blowout, you know!

By 2:00 p.m. we were exhausted!  This heat is staggering!  Back to the hotel for a massage, our welcome freebie, and an afternoon drink around the pool.  Dinner was at a neighborhood ex-pat bar that served great hamburgers.  Tonight, that hit the spot.

Tomorrow is a rest day with only some light touring.  But the Night Market is in the future.

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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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