Day of dark tourism

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

 › entry 13 of 55 › view all entries

Dark tourism is a strange thing. Going to places associated with death and mass destruction seems to carry a morbid fascination with it, and it is made even worse when sites such as the killing fields, where we went today, have a souvenir shop at the entrance! I can just imagine the conversation. Where did you get that scarf from? Oh, in Phomn Penh, at the Killing Fields, where 9000 people were killed. I understand that Cambodia's a poor country and they need to make money any way they can, and they are not alone in doing things like this, but it's still pretty weird, and bordering on the sick. Mind you, if the tourists want to pay....

So we get up early, after a freezing night, with the a/c on full blast, and I had a weird dream that someone nicked my passport, and I couldn't get into Vietnam. Anyway, we get our "mini-bus" (See tuk-tuk) to the killing fields for a start, which is basically a site where they used to round up the Khmer Rouge prisoners and kill them. It's horrible, there are a few mass graves, which literally still smell of death, and a big monument full of skulls of the dead, along with some information about what was done to the prisoners here. I actually feel sick at points walking round, and this was only 30 years ago!

We break up the day of death, with a trip to a Russian market, where I get some more toothpaste and shower gel. After that, our increasingly erratic tuk-tuk driver takes us to Tuol Sleng, or S-21. This is now a museum, which was used by the Khmer Rouge as a torture centre, and is eerie, to say the least in a very mimalistic way. There are rooms with just a bed, and an image on the wall of someone being tortured. There are rooms of faces of the deceased, with a sign outside them, making sure no-one laughs. Well, I don't think they really needed to do that...

They also have a room dedicated (if that's the right word) to all the Khmer Rouge soldiers who weren't brought to trial, which have been graffitied in Khmer, presumably not to praise these vicious killers. There is another room of skulls, and the torture instruments used, and it's all a bit too much really. As an educational museum it's very well done, and it's too commercialised, but it's still overwhelming, and I can't wait to leave.

We get back to the hostel, book our hostel in Saigon, have some lunch then a nap. After we head out to the town, get some food on a riverside bar, and drink some Angkor, then go down a side-road, and hit a pub called Chiva's Shack, which serves Mekong Whisky buckets, our first try. The first one goes down well, in between playing pool, and we have another. After meeting some British people there, we are pretty drunk, and tired, so head back to the hostel, which is locked! Shit.....luckily for us, a security guard lets us in, and we pass out...

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Phnom Penh
photo by: terminalfunk