Phnom Penh - Genocide, Russian Markets, and Relaxing

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

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Poop can / ammo box and leg shackles
After a long, bumpy bus ride (they all are) from Battambang, we arrived in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh. Holy crap, this place is nuts. While it's still relatively poor compared to the rest of SE Asia, Phnom Penh is busy, fast, and hectic. The traffic makes even the most seasoned westerner cringe. Everything is subjective. Traffic lights, lanes, traffic directions, rights of way... everything is more of a loose suggestion than a law. Even in big tour busses, the drivers will often weave in and out of the lanes, often travelling into oncoming traffic, blasting through lights. I don't know why more people don't die here. Complete practised chaos. Scary as shit when you're in a tuk-tuk.
Torture rack


We decided to sleep in the backpacker area next to Boeng Kak Lake, half a kilo from the utter chaos of downtown. We ended up at a place called the Green Lake Guesthouse, renting a nice little bungalow for $7/night. The entire guesthouse is literally over the water. This place lives up to its name, in more than one way. The guesthouse had a great little deck area over the water, pretty good food, and an enviable movie collection. Every night, pretty much all of the guests meandered out to the deck to drink a cold beer, watch a movie, and roll a spliff. Very chill atmosphere, if you're ever in the area.

The first day we decided to go to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, also known as S-21. When Pol Pot invaded Phnom Penh, first the people celebrated in the streets.
tiny cells in converted classroom
Three weeks later, the town of 3 million was a ghost town, save the the S-21 "re-education center." Tuol Sleng was a local school before it was converted to a brutal detention center. It primarily served as a hub - prisoners were taken to S-21 before being sent off to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Guess what happened there. The museum is probably the most powerful place I've ever been - it makes the Holocaust Museum look like Disneyland. Most of Pol Pot's soldiers were 13-15 years old, recruited from all over Cambodia. They were brainwashed to the point that they would even kill their families without a second thought. The victims ranged from babies all the way to elderly. Nobody was safe, including the soldiers, who were constantly being killed for trivial reasons.
Waterboarding table. "Enhanced interrogation" my ass - this is torture.
Everyone was scared. Everyone. It's both amazing and terrifying that Pol Pot's genocide occurred in the mid 70's, and that so few people outside of Asia know what transpired.

The second day Mike took off for Bangkok to fly home, and I took a solo tuk-tuk out to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. The killing fields lose their power and context unless you've been to the museum first. Walking around in the rain, the countless mass grave pits serve as a window to the utter terror that can be inflicted by humanity. In the center lies a large monument filled 25 feet high with skulls from the site.

After the Killing Fields I headed to the Russian Market in downtown. This place puts all Mexican markets I've visited to shame. It's a tight maze of vendors and food stalls, ranging from silk to trinkets to tools to gongs. And everything is so cheap if you know how to bargain. Silk scarves and T-shirts were less than $2 each. Some of you, you'll see. I grabbed lunch at one of the food stalls, where I had [what might have been] pork and [what might have been] liver. I have no idea what the skewers were, but they were damn tasty. After two or three hours in the market, I headed back to the guesthouse and got ready to head to Vietnam.
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Poop can / ammo box and leg shackl…
Poop can / ammo box and leg shack…
Torture rack
Torture rack
tiny cells in converted classroom
tiny cells in converted classroom
Waterboarding table. Enhanced int…
Waterboarding table. "Enhanced in…
The barbed wire on the upper floor…
The barbed wire on the upper floo…
Monument filled with skulls at the…
Monument filled with skulls at th…
One of many mass grave pits
One of many mass grave pits
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Rainy, scary, tuk-tuk ride
Rainy, scary, tuk-tuk ride
The Rules...
The Rules...
Phnom Penh
photo by: terminalfunk