With Cambodia’s tragic history, the capital can bring out all sorts of emotions in visitors to its streets and alley ways. Phnom Penh can be heartbreaking, it can be moving, it can be inspiring. To run the gauntlet of all the emotions, here’s our tips of ‘must sees’…
The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
Cambodia is actually full of killing fields but Choeung Ek is the most developed both for tourism and as a memorial.
It is a harrowing but worthwhile experience.
The Japanese company who recently took over the management of the site have created a sensitive and informative memorial.
The audio guide includes true life stories from Khmer Rouge guards as well as survivors of the regime. The site is peaceful and respectful and a suitable stupa has been built at its centre, housing the skulls and clothes of victims, along with weapons used.
Tuol Sleng Museum
For many, S-21 Prison (now Tuol Sleng Museum) was the beginning of the journey to Choeung Ek. Once a local high school, Pol Pot’s security forces took over in 1975 and it became a site of Cambodian genocide. The buildings are generally hauntingly empty, with only a few artefacts in situ. Photographs are displayed on the walls in memorial to prisoners and atrocities that went on there. Faces, of both Cambodian and a few foreign prisoners, stare down at the visitor. There is also a film room, giving more information about the Khmer Rouge regime and the role of S-21 and Choeung Ek. It’s possible to hire a guide.
Many tuk tuk drivers will offer to take you on a trip for $15, taking you to Choeung Ek, Tuol Sleng Museum and dropping you at the Russian Market for retail therapy after you’ve absorbed so much harrowing history.
The National Museum
Cambodia’s greatest legacy is the temples of the Angkor. If you don’t have time to visit Siem Reap and Angkor Wat itself, immerse yourself in the history of Cambodia by spending an hour or two at the small National Museum. Many of the sculptures found in Angkor Wat and other nearby temples are now housed here. The collection also includes a number of pre and post-Angkorian sculptures and artefacts, giving you a more rounded sense of Cambodia’s history.
Blog and pictures by Simone