Back in August 2011, on my first trip to Asia I visited Phnom Penh whilst on the usual backpacker tour throughout Cambodia. The weather was miserable with flooding evident throughout the town and after a sombre tour through the genocide museum Joanna and I decided against the 30 minute journey out of town to the Killing Fields. Today I finally got to make up for missing out two years ago and I am glad I did. After recollecting Lindsey from her tour of the genocide museum (due to funding I decided not to revisit) and indulging on a delicious buy one get one free Mango Smoothie ($2usd) we hunted down our tuktuk driver to head to Choeung Ek Commune Genocidal Centre. The journey itself was interesting. At one point our tuktuk driver even pulled over to a local vendor and purchased all three of us a face mask for the journey. This was a thankful gift as the roads ahead began to get increasingly dusty due to the intense building work that was happening. We watched as school children, some as young as 5 years old, biked along the dirt track in their smart uniform to school. It took about 30 minutes to arrive at our destination at which point the tuktuk drive assured us he would be waiting in a local restaurant for when we had finished. Through the gates we entered and paid $6usd for entrance and an audio tour. We carefully placed on our headphones and pressed number one to begin. The addition of the audiotape was fantastic, it provided a real insight to the horrendous activities that took place and is a credit to the Khmer people. The audio itself accompanied you around the fields stopping you at locations where innocents were taken to be executed simply because Pol Pot considered them a threat to his new ideology. This included individuals who were educated, spoke another language or wore glasses and the list goes on. It included men, women and children. When you reached the mass graves on the tour it was amazing too see the tributes of hand woven bracelets attached the the outside of the structure protecting the grave which have been left as a sign off respect to all those who had lost their life. This was even more touching at the mass grave which contained more than 100 women and children. In addition there were bracelets covering the tree next to this mass grave which is thought to have been used to brutally kill babies. Another harrowing part of this tour came at point 12 where by the audio tape offers you a walk along the river whilst you listen to accounts from survivers of the Kymer Rouge Atrocities. Throughout the fields bones, teeth and clothing are still embedded in the soil, which are frequently brought to the surface due to heavy rainfall. The audio tour ends at the beautifully constructed memorial Stupa where the remains including hundreds of human skulls are reverently preserved. The tour was heartbreaking, moving and an unmissable insight into Cambodia's recent history.
Upon return to our hostel after a long journey through never ending traffic it was time for some food. We wandered the streets near our hostel in hope of a bahn mi type lunch but found ourselves completely overwhelmed by traffic and unrecognisable foods. We decided on an easy lunch in a local cafe consisting simply of a delicious chicken sandwich with fries ($2.50). Watch out for restaurants that advertise prices without tax included. After lunch we went for a quick walk along the river and stumbled upon a market in the making. As most stalls were incomplete and nearby speakers were belting out rap songs we decided to return later in the evening to scan the stalls and find dinner. Back to the hostel for a short nap :)Read more