Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Day three in Cambodia now, the capital Phnom Penh to be exact. Unfortunately, it's just as hot and sticky here as it was in Vietnam. I suppose I'm getting more used to it, but I'm not doing a whole lot in the afternoons when it's hottest and I'm sucking down TONS of water and iced tea.

After a six hour or so bus ride on Sunday, I arrived in Phnom Penh but didn't do a whole lot for the rest of the day. I found accomodation at the Grand View Guesthouse for $4/night and I started reading The Girl in the Picture over a leisurely late lunch/early dinner. It's about Vietnam and Vietnamese history and some may think that maybe I should've read it while I was still there, but I don't do it that way. I like to read about the history as I'm leaving a country or after I've already left because I can appreciate it more. After reading for awhile, I headed back to my guesthouse to watch the 6:30pm movie, 1984's The Killing Fields, about the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, particularly in Phnom Penh. I planned to go to the actual Killing Fields the next day, so I figured it would give me a good starting point.

I woke up early, had breakfast, and arranged for a motorcycle taxi for the day. For $8, my driver took me 14km south to the Killing Fields, to S-21 (more on that in a bit), and then back to my guesthouse. The price was a bit high, but still less than the $10 quoted to me by the guesthouse.

The Killing Fields is an actual field where the Khmer Rouge systematically killed men, women, and children and "buried" them in mass graves. The largest grave had 450 corpses in it, but there were a total of 129 mass graves and nearly 17,000 dead. The largest graves were marked with signage, but there were dozens of sunken holes everywhere. I don't know how long I walked around before I realized that all of those holes were also graves. In the middle of the field is a stupa, a religious monument, which houses the bones of 9,000 victims and serves as a memorial.
(Inside the stupa, human remains behind glass)

S-21 started out being a school and was turned into a security prison by the Khmer Rouge. Prisoners there were interrogated and tortured before being sent to the Killing Fields for execution. Of the nearly 20,000 prisoners kept at S-21, only 7 made it out alive. Seven. The prison consisted of four buildings, buildings that looked like it would have made for a very nice school before the KR came through. Some classrooms were kept whole and hosted a single prisoner; others were divided up into teeny, tiny individual cells. Several classrooms were filled with hundreds of mugshots of the prisoners - men, women, and even babies. There were also photographic exhibits about the lives of people before, during, and after the reign of the KR.

(Hallway view of the individual cells at S-21)

A morning of this kind of intensity meant that I was emotionally shot for the afternoon. I went back to my guesthouse and read and napped for awhile. Met up with Rhian and Marina for dinner and then said goodbye to them as they left Phnom Penh today.

Today I intended to go to the Royal Palace and to a couple of wats and pagodas, then hit the central market before the day got too hot. Yeah, that didn't happen. Over breakfast this German kid, Rouven, and I started talking and, next thing you know, it was almost noon. Together we decided to get a moto to the central market - it was just too damn hot to attempt a walk that one person said was 4km away and another person said would take 20 minutes; we didn't want to risk it! For just $1 a piece, we decided the moto was well worth it. We wandered around a bit and then stopped for lunch. Rouven had fried rice and vegetables, I had marinated beef with bread, and we both had 2 glasses of super yummy lemon iced tea. It tasted nothing like lemon iced tea, but it was very cold and very refreshing. Actually, and you Marylanders will know what I'm talking about, it kind of tasted like a not-too-sweet orange snowball. The grand total for lunch for two was $4.25.

That's pretty much the extent of today. I've uploaded the rest of my Saigon pics and some of the Phnom Penh shots. Although the internet connection is pretty decent, the upload speed is not so much. I'll get there, though! Tomorrow I have a 9:30am bus to Kampot (on the southern coast) and described by Lonely Planet as having a "lovely riverside setting" with "aging French buildings."


  1. Wow, that sounds like quite an intense day. I'm not sure if I've ever seen The Killing Fields, but I have certainly heard of it. The guest house looks nice. I'd be high-tailing it north if subjected to that heat and humidity. Or just splurging for A/C and staying inside.

  2. So i was watching some really quality tv last night and did you know that jessica simpson was just in bangkok and went up to see the ladies with the brass rings around the neck? she's such a copy cat! ;)

  3. Laura - Jessica Simpson is still around? Huh. You know, I haven't heard one peep about her in the last 6 months and, I gotta say, I'm not too sad about it!

    ToadMama - Rooms with fans really aren't all that bad. Besides, I want to save my splurge for bungee jumping and/or sky diving and/or a new tattoo in New Zealand. All of those cost a lot of money so I don't want to "waste" my splurge on A/C. :-)

  4. I vote you spend the money on A/C.
    It's the only splurge that has zero potential for modifying your body in any way shape or form...