The GoGlobal Blog

Oh Cambodia

Oh Cambodia

Our time in Cambodia was a whirlwind of sights, tastes, and lessons. The five-day trip was split between two prominent cities: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and for having such a packed schedule, everything (save for one flight delay) went incredibly smoothly. In both cities, we had tours and private buses – or in some cases, private tuk tuk squads – to take us from one site to the next.

Our journey to Phnom Penh began with a pitstop in “No Man’s Land”, the stretch of land and time in between officially leaving Vietnam and entering Cambodia. Already we could feel the difference between Saigon’s more humid heat to the inner arid heat of Cambodia.

Our first half-day in the capital was spent at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Tuol Sleng was first a high school, but was used as a prison during the rule of the Khmer Rouge. We were told that around 20,000 people passed through the prison, referred to as S21 (Security Office 21) by the Khmer Rouge. Heinously inhumane acts taint the grounds and the walls, as prisoners from all backgrounds were kept, tortured, and killed there. And yet, the grass was green, the sun was shining, and the birds were chirping. How disorienting it was to learn of pure violence in the midst of such tranquil scenery.

This feeling continued on the next day as we visited the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, one of the over 300 killing fields pockmarking the landscape of Cambodia. According to the audio guide, the first grave on the tour held around 450 bodies. It was the largest, but there were plenty more empty graves to suggest a much higher number.

I listened to the survivors’ stories, and while they moved me to a deep sorrow, I know I could never truly understand what they went through. I hope and pray that no one else will have to ever again.

The following day we departed for Siem Reap. Our itinerary in the city was comprised primarily of a tour of the temples. Beginning at Angkor Wat at sunrise, we made our way to the Bayon, and finally, Ta Prohm. Although dated and crumbling, the temples were a stunning sight to behold. Intricate carvings adorned every wall, column, and tower. They were magnificent. No photos could do them justice (although I tried).

A whirlwind it was, but Cambodia isn’t going anywhere, and in my opinion it would be well worth a second visit (or a third, or a tenth).

Comments are closed.