Monday, 17 October 2011

Phnom Penh

In which we hear how an entire city was emptied in three days
Starring Abby Stables!

After my little jaunt to the coast I got the bus back up to Phnom Penh to catch up with Abby Stables.  We spent a night sampling the Cambodian beer in a bar overlooking the very full river (great lumps of weed drifting rapidly past) and a day doing all the required stops in the city. 

We hired a tuk tuk driver for the whole day and set off south to the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek, just outside the city.  Incredibly sobering place.  It’s hard now with the internet and things like Twitter, to comprehend how a lot of what was going on was only discovered after the Khmer Rouge had been overthrown. There is not a great deal to see at the fields other than the overgrown mounds that used to be mass graves but the fact that fragments of bone and clothing surface every rainy season is enough to remind you both of how many people were killed and how recently.  Some of the graves have been excavated and the bone fragments sorted into a large memorial stupa.   

The people who were murdered at Choeung Ek had almost all been through Toul Sleng prison, an old primary school in the centre of town.  Most distressing here were the rooms of passport style photographs of the prisoners, some incredibly young, all with their hands tied behind their backs. Of the 20000 people recorded as having passed through here only seven survived.  The rest were either tortured (plenty of graphic evidence of this) or starved to death on the premises or sent to the Killing Fields. 

We also went to the see the incredible Royal Palace and its Silver Pagoda whose whole floor is covered in 5329 solid silver tiles.

We ended the day with a view over the city from Wat Phnom (slightly obstructed by trees) musing about how incredible it was that the Khmer Rouge had emptied all of Phomn Penh in under three days.  

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