Phnom Penh was one of the cities that has deep scars throughout history that I would never imagine. Thought about just visiting a normal capital city like in the other countries, I was wrong once we visited the Killing Fields and the School…. Never would I felt so strong in these places like I would have in other parts of South East Asia. Cambodia has an interesting, brave yet heartbreaking stories that were worth to comprehend. I totally recommend to visit Phnom Penh and understand its history, so I compiled top three things to do in Phnom Penh, Cambodia!
I and Arma spent almost one week in Phnom Penh after our long trip and incident in Koh Rong. We found 2 hosts while we were there, whereas the second host is a Japanese guy who lives in a share house with many interesting friends. Oh, we had a blast! Thank God they let us stay a bit longer to clean up our backpacks and clothes in our first couple of days. The rest of the days we finally able to explore Phnom Penh properly by renting a motorbike (yes, just like the Thailand temples hopping again! yay!). It was a good decision because, thank God, Phnom Penh has a good quality of mobile internet so we were able to use Google Maps to find the places.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Our first stop was the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum that was used formerly as a high school. I was totally blank about this place, not knowing what it was about (cos Arma planned it all). Who would have thought that a place that was used to educate children turned into a prison during the Khmer Rouge times? They keep the places to commemorate the mass killing people who had died during those time – including the torture tools, the photos of the people, mass grave sites and the prisons wall bricks inside. They have killed 20,000 prisoners!! Geez. The place was not even crowded which makes it even more spooky. I gotta say, they have made the places well organised and full of information about Khmer Rouge and what happened in that place. I let the photos speak for itself.
The Khmer Rouge Killing Fields
This was on top of the list on Trip Advisor, so of course, we had to see what was it all about. Who would have thought that the place was so far from the city centre and we had to go through the highway? It took us almost one and half hour by motorbike and once we got there we were already covered by dust (ah well..). Then again, it was a worthy trip. Cos we had so many knowledge and understand even more about the history of Phnom Penh.
The Killing Fields was the place where more than a million people that were suspected to be the spies, murdered during the Khmer Rouge regime. Once we entered the place, they gave us one voice recorder for each, where it gives us the information on every spot. The first look of the area was that it was so huge. Like literally a big park where you can have a picnic and so all. Then we saw one big house in the middle that looks like a temple. I was shocked to see that it was full of skulls lined up to the top. The place is not as pretty as it looks, it has more story to tell.
What was more even heartbreaking was the fact that they also killed babies and children by smashing their head into a tree. Gosh! that is so damn cruel. And now to pay respect on the mass grave, every visitor can put their bracelets on the tree and on the gate.
The Royal Palace, Phnom Penh
We spent the last day to visit the Palace which we already been rejected to enter once (cos I used my tank top, I should have use respectful clothes). But we finally got inside the palace on that afternoon, it was a good timing as it was not that hot. Placed at the city centre with the huge park and by the Mekong River in front, I was stunned! The place itself is pretty huge and holds museum and exhibition of the King of Cambodia accessories. Nonetheless, I was already happy and amazed by the outdoor decoration and the pagodas around the area. It was not as big as the one in Bangkok, but it sure has some Cambodian ethnicity.
Check out the photos to see how wonderful it was!
Phnom Penh was the unexpected city that left its memory in my heart up until now. I always thought that Indonesia has hurtful histories that I have learned since I was in school. But travel indeed open up your eyes. The world is not only secluded into your own country. Others also have some scars that deeper than you would have thought. Nonetheless, I and Arma had a wonderful time by the time we closed up the Phnom Penh trip.
How about you? Have you ever been there? Or perhaps plan a trip to go there?
© 2017 Writing & Images copyright of Marina Utami.