Vietnam visas and sad sites

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

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Tuong Sleng Prison (1 of 4 buildings)
Today we left Siem Reap and headed for the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.  We woke up around 6:30am and arranged a bus to take us to Phnom Penh at 7am for $4 per person.  We then went to buy some snacks for breakfast at a convenience store and bought some pastries and banana chips.  A van picked us up from the hotel and took us to another van which finally took us to the bus station to catch the bus to Phnom Penh.  Around 8am we left Siem Reap on the bus. 
The bus ride took about 6 hours.  We stopped a couple of times on the way.  The second time we stopped we bought some more banana chips to eat as a snack.  On the way we passed by more fields and huts, it seemed much of Cambodia still did not have much development or roads.  Around 1:30pm we arrived in Phnom Penh.  We didn't know where in town we were when the bus dropped us off.  But we just started walking and eventually figured out we were near the north end of the city. 
We walked around to look for a hotel.  We looked at a few which I thought were too dirty or too small, so we continued on to the riverfront area in Phnom Penh.  Finally we settled on a hotel which cost US$10 total for the night, even though it was very small, no windows and the ceiling was low, but at least it had air conditioning. 
We left right away to try and take care of getting our Vietnam visas.  We took a tuk-tuk (small carriage pulled by a motobike) to the Vietnam embassy.  We arrived there and asked them about our lost visas in the old passports, and showed them photocopies of the old visas.  However, the guy at the desk told us that new passports need new visas and there was nothing we could do but fill out the form for a new visas and pay for them.  Thankfully they only cost US$35 each to get them done today.  However, we realized when we arrived at the embassy that we had forgotten our passport pictures!!  So Steve went back to the hotel driven by a motobike, while I waited at the Vietnam embassy and filled out the Visa forms.  He returned in about 30 minutes and we turned in our forms and pictures and payed our money.  They told us to wait and about 20 minutes later they handed us back our passports with the visas.  It was pretty easy and cheaper than when we had gotten them in the U.S. 
It was around 3:30pm when we were all done getting the Vietnam Visas.  Since we were pretty close to the Tuong Sleng Museum we decided to walk there to see it.  The museum is actually the former site of the S-21 prison which was the top prison the Khmer Rouge used to detain and torture several thousands of people including women and children.  I was scared to go there because I knew it would be gruesome, but it is important in understanding all that the Cambodian people have been through. 
The prison use to be a high school before the Khmer Rouge took it over in the 1970s.  The site itself looks just like the other schools in the area, but barbed wires were put all around the school grounds and bars on the windows.  The classrooms were transformed to small cells where prisoners were kept and some were tortured.  They had pictures all around that showed the faces of each prisoner that the khmer rouge took when they detained them.  Walking through the prison, I intitally felt strange to be in a place that only so recently had been used for such evil.  But when looking into the faces of the men, women, and children who were there, I really lost it.  It was too much for me to see and imagine all of the terrible things that happened there and especialy to think it was all in the same lifetime as all of the adults around us in Cambodia.  I was crying a lot, and feeling really sick, so I wanted to leave.  Not because I didn't want to know and be confronted with these sad acts in our history, but because I felt overwhelmed by it all.  So we quickly finished looking around and left and took a moto back to our hotel.  I had to lay there for awhile, I felt ill and had a lot I wanted to think about and process after such a impactful scene.  So we layed there awhile and talked some and later went to dinner.
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Tuong Sleng Prison (1 of 4 buildin…
Tuong Sleng Prison (1 of 4 buildi…
Phnom Penh
photo by: terminalfunk