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A City With Two Faces

Phnom Penh - The Capital Of Cambodia

semi-overcast 28 °C

We arrived in Cambodia's capital city at midday which gave us a few stress free hours to find a guesthouse & feed our growing appetite. Zipping through the city's centre on a tuk tuk, we took in the sights and were quite impressed on how manicured & clean the streets were. The boulevard which runs alongside the river has a lively restaurant scene and later we discovered is lovely to walk along in the afternoon when the blazing sun has calmed down.

P1030130.jpg Phnom Penh riverside

P1030134.jpg Roadside barber..brilliant!

Phnom Penh has two sides to it. You have to take the good with the bad. Although there is alot of wealth in Phnom Penh, there is a hell of a lot of poverty, especially on the outskirts.

P1030097.jpg Famous map of Cambodia in S21

There is a constant reminder of the torment this Country has experienced from the Khmer Rouge and how recent those events took place. No matter where you are in the city, you don't have to look hard to see the after effects. You could be sitting in the nicest cafe in the nicest street and have a poor amputee crawl up to you & beg for money which is quite difficult to deal with.

Since entering Cambodia, I've been reading the book 'Voices from S21' by David Chandler which describes the horror of Tuol Sleng (a torture & detention centre also known as S21) from the tortured and tortures themselves. Learning more about Pol Pots revolution and genocide in Cambodia, I was even more nervous but eager to visit S21 & the killing fields in Phnom Penh.

Words cannot describe the feeling you get from walking the corridors of S21. Shortly after the fall of Pol Pot, S21 was discovered and quickly turned into a memorial/museum for surviving Cambodians and international tourists to visit. Most of the cells have been left untouched however in the rooms where prisoners were interrogated, mug shots and photography of the war now line the walls. After spending a moving 3hrs in the museum, we jumped in a tuk tuk and drove 15kms south to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek.

P1030110.jpg S21

P1030106.jpg Corridor in S21

On entering the Killing Fields, you can't help but feel a wave of grief for the thousands of innocent victims who were executed here. Half of the graves have now been excavated however the other half remains untouched. What is really disturbing is some of the victims clothes and shattered bones are still scattered around the grounds. Rising above the centre of the fields now stands a tall white stupa which serves as a memorial to the victims. Kept within the stupa's glass walls are over 8000 skulls found during the excavation here.

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A visit to Phnom Penh is an emotional one, however like I said you have to take the good with the bad. Luckily there is alot of good going on now. On one of our more pleasant days touring the grand palace and riverside, we stopped off at the Friends International restaurant. The restaurant is one of the many projects this organisation has to help kids get off the streets & build a better future for them. It was uplifting to be in there, not to mention it had fab food!

Posted by willbourn 02:01 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking

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