Phnom Penh Travel Blog› entry 174 of 254 › view all entries
First stop today was the S-21 Tuol Sleng Museum, and we all took a deep breath. Tuol Sleng had originally been a school, but in 1975 it was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and turned into what they termed 'Security Prison 21.' It was here, over the course of the next 4 years, that approx. 17,000 people were imprisoned, tortured and then taken to nearby Choeung Ek (one of the many killing fields). At the height of its activities in 1977, it was claiming about 100 victims a day.
It is an eerily quiet place to visit, with its cold cement walls, barbed wire, and the ghosts of its atrocities still hanging in the air. The original classrooms had been turned into prison cells and torture chambers, and were now acting as a museum with photographs and information on the walls.
We felt very sad, struggling to comprehend how human beings can descend into such evil, savagery and brutality, a world where there is no trust, mercy, compassion or love.
After a sobering morning, we opted for something far more light-hearted, and undertook an afternoon visit to the Royal Palace. Despite the heat, it was relaxing to wander in the grounds. We visited the Silver Pagoda, containing the Emerald Buddha, sat high and surrounded by lots of gold, ornate buddhas and stupas. Along with Angkor Wat, this is one of the few places where Khmer culture and history is still in evidence after the destruction of the Khmer Rouge.