For a capital city Phnom Penh is pretty quite and there are hardly any tall buildings at all; it just seems like any otherÂ ordinary town. The people are friendly and there is plenty to see and do. We found a hostel to stay in without too much trouble and then relaxed for a couple of days before doing some serious sight seeing.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Due to cambodia’s recent-ish history, a lot of the main places to visit are of a very serious and tragic nature. Tuol Sleng, or as it is also known, Security Prison 21 (S-21) is well and truly within that description.
I’m not going to go into any great detail of the ins and outs of what happened during this time, I’m no expert and there are plenty of resources out there if you’re interested and would like to know more about this topic.
In a nutshell, Phnom Penh was invaded by a communist organisation known as the Khmer Rouge in 1975, they took over the whole of cambodia for 4 years. This establishment was originally a school but the Khmer Rouge converted it into a prison and a place to torture men, women and children for all kinds of information.
Much of the prison has been kept in it’s original state and you can walk into the tiny cells and see the chains on the walls where people were kept.
The Khmer rouge were meticulous record keepers and there are many documents and photographs that give us information about what happened at this prison.
Choeung Ek (the killing fields)
A few miles away from Tuol sleng genocide museum is one of cambodia’s many killing fields: Choeung Ek. Prisoners were brought here from the prison as well as other parts of the country and swiftly executed. Mass graves were dug and filled with the bodies of men, women and children that would have had their throats slit or have been bashed heavily on the head seconds before. They rarely use bullets as these were valuable and in limited supply. Often a simple palm leaf from a nearby tree was used to cut their throats. Sometimes they didn’t die right away and were buried alive.
Kampot has a really relaxed and easygoing atmosphere. It’s becoming a favourite spot for expats in cambodia and I can understand why; this is one of the few places I’ve been that I would really not mind living in for a long time. Down near the river there are plenty of friendly and very reasonably priced guesthouses. There are plenty of bars and restaurants and the food is just amazing. There isn’t much I didn’t like about this place really, except for maybe to amount of insects that appear around dusk. But this just seems like a tiny annoyance in comparison to the overwhelming positive aspects of this town.
There are some great places to explore in and around Kampot and a drive up Bokor hill makes for a great day out. At the top of the hill the are some interesting abandoned building.
Koh rong is a small island just a short distance from the mainland of cambodia. You can get a boat from the town of Sihanouk. This place is a real tropical paradise with white sands and crystal clear waters.
The island is a little bit “off the grid”. There are no roads or proper power supplies and i’m pretty sure that everyone there is classed as squatting, but in spite of this the place is doing pretty well. There are a few bar, restaurants and guesthouses scattered along the beaches; there aren’t many though and places to stay can be very limited. On some of the beaches where most of the bars are it can get a bit messy at times and people have criticised it for this, but in my opinion, it’s not that bad and the local bar owners do their best to keep their area clean and also a group of volunteers patrol the beach regularly to help keep Koh Rong beautiful.