Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Phnom Penh 2014 (Day 1 - Part 2)

17 January 2014 (Friday)

After breakfast, we hired a tuk-tuk to drive us to Choeung Ek Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Prison (S21) and back for USD 17. Choeung Ek Killing Fields is located approximately 15km southeast of the city. It was a 30-45 minutes drive. Be warned, the road to the Killing Fields is SUPER DUSTY! I highly recommend you to bring a mask! 

Entrance to Choeung Ek Killing Fields + Audio Tour: USD 6 per person

Choeung Ek is the most well known of over 300 killing fields throughout Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge, also known as the Democratic Kampuchea regime, was headed by Pol Pot.  Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge marched into Phnom Penh on 17th April 1975.

The tall building in the middle of the Killing Fields is the Memorial Stupa where the remains of Choeung Ek’s victims are reverently preserved. 

The implementation of an audio tour was brilliant. It helped us understand what happened behind the mass killings and also gave detailed description depicting what happened at each numbered locations.  The audio tour also included survivor stories and songs.

The Memorial Stupa at a different angle.

One of the numerous graves which held the bodies of 450 victims.

Multiple bone and teeth fragments were found in this area.

"Better to kill an innocent by mistake, than to spare and enemy by mistake" - Khmer Rouge

This is the killing tree against which the executioners will slam children's head into. Sometimes they will grab the children by the ankle and swing them onto the tree, slamming their bodies and cracking their skull. Then they'll toss the bodies into the shallow grave right next to it and use chemicals to burn their bodies so there won't be any rotting smell.

Multiple plots of grave

The 'Magic' Tree

The skull collection in the Memorial Stupa.

We took our time walking around, making sure we covered each area. We were there about 3 hours before deciding it was time to move on to Tuol Sleng prison.

Before that, we grabbed a quick lunch at a restaurant right outside the Killing Fields. It was an expensive meal considering all we had was a rice dish called Beef Lok Lack (USD 4) with mineral water (USD 0.50).

It was another 30 minutes ride back to the city centre where the prison is located.

Entrance to Tuol Sleng prison, aka Security Prison 21 (S21), aka Genocide Museum: USD 2 per person

Excerpt from lonelyplanet.com
In 1975, Tuol Svay Prey High School was taken over by Pol Pot’s security forces and turned into a prison known as Security Prison 21 (S-21). This soon became the largest centre of detention and torture in the country. Between 1975 and 1978 more than 17,000 people held at S-21 were taken to the killing fields of Choeung Ek.
Like the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge leaders were meticulous in keeping records of their barbarism. Each prisoner who passed through S-21 was photographed, sometimes before and after torture. The museum displays include room after room of harrowing black-and-white photographs; virtually all of the men, women and children pictured were later killed. You can tell which year a picture was taken by the style of number-board that appears on the prisoner’s chest. Several foreigners from Australia, New Zealand and the USA were also held at S-21 before being murdered.

When the Vietnamese army liberated Phnom Penh in early 1979, there were only seven prisoners alive at S-21, all of whom had used their skills, such as painting or photography, to stay alive. Fourteen others had been tortured to death as Vietnamese forces were closing in on the city. Photographs of their gruesome deaths are on display in the rooms where their decomposing corpses were found. Their graves are nearby in the courtyard.

I'll let the photographs do the talking. 

Visiting this place is a profoundly depressing experience. The fact that something so sinister can happen in a place that look so seemingly... normal, saddens me. All I can hope is that the souls of the victims are able to find peace in the afterlife.


After a long day, both me and Mong wanted to have a quick dinner and head back to rest. We were drained from all the walking. 

Cheap Angkor beer (USD 1.50)

2 plates of fried noodles (USD 3.50)

We forgotten to bring our adapter so we bought one for USD 2 at a random convenient shop.

We also stumbled upon a night market nearby our guesthouse! Glorious street food aplenty!
We were theeeeeeeeseeeee close to trying Balut (yup they sold it here!) but chickened out at the last second >.<
Next time I'll definitely try it! (or maybe not). We'll see when the time comes :p

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