Visiting the city of Phnom Penh and its sad history


When I decided to go to Angkor on my trip to Myanmar, I started reading Cambodian chronicles, novels and history books and I got stuck. I felt very uneducated by my lack of knowledge about the dramatic and recent history of this country and with a feeling of being indebted to them. How is it possible that they lived the terror they experienced and absolutely nothing was done? How is it possible that in 3 years more than 2,000,000 people died and that until 2003 the UN did not take it seriously to establish a genocide tribunal?

I was very overwhelmed by all the information I read, all the little real stories that I was accessing and with a heavy heart I launched myself to know this place more with the feeling that I would have to return for a longer time. Here is a link to the books I read.

In Phnom Penh, along with other cities, its inhabitants were forced to vacate their homes and go to do forced labor in the jungle (if they ever got there) and the city was abandoned for four years.

[ Este diario de viaje a Camboya viene del diario de viaje a Myanmar, donde estuve quince días recorriendo ese fascinante país en cinco etapas]

Day 1. From Yangon to Phnom Penh via Bangkok

After spending a few wonderful days in Myanmar, I continue to another great wonder, Cambodia! I have only a few days to be there, but I hope to take advantage of them a lot and see, at least, the essentials of the capital, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor.

It has been a long day, especially since I had to spend 5 hours in Bangkok (which I decided to spend at the airport). The arrival in Phnom Penh was around 17:00 in the afternoon, but there was a lot of traffic and it was not until 18:30 that I arrived at my guesthouse. I took the cheapest room (windowless and very tiny) and went for a walk along the river where you can see a part of the local nightlife.

On the way back I saw that there were, right next to the guesthouse, two places that gave massages and were priced in US dollars, so I made a stop there and asked for a full massage, how wonderful! It can be said that I feel recovered for going out to know this city tomorrow!

Day 2. Phnom Penh

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

The first thing that surprised me was to find out that the two currencies coexisted, the US dollar and the riel. The first for large transactions and the second for payments of much less amount, such as food or taxis. So I did not change, they told me that they will give me the change in rails, and they did.

The first visit was for the Royal Palace, which was next to where I was staying, but I was only able to enter the enclosure since they were mourning the death of former King Norodom Sihanouk. Admission was the same price, $ 6.

Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh
Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh

Inside I was able to walk through the garden and see the Silver Pagoda, whose floor is made of… silver, although they keep it covered with rugs and only part of it is visible.

After an hour of walking around the enclosure I went to National Museum, with which they say, to be the best collection in the world of Khmer sculpture. The entrance costs $ 3 and it is quite interesting, dispensable if you have little time, but since this city is small, surely you can make a hole.

Wat phnom
Wat phnom

I continued in the direction of the largest pagoda, the Wat phnom, which turned out to be a very peaceful and relaxing place. On my way back I met a boy who was looking for the post office and we went to eat together at the market

Psar Thmei Market

I found it too orderly … I come from Burma, where the markets are on the street and you can find everything, here it was by type of product and there were many jewels. We found a place to eat, the truth is that it is what I like the most, eating in the markets watching the coming and going of so many people …

Tuol Sleng Museum, Phonm Penh
Tuol Sleng Museum, Phonm Penh

After lunch I went to visit the Tuol Sleng Museum, a school that became a prison and place of torture of the Khmer Rouge regime, also known as S-21. You have to go prepared for the images that you are going to see, but I think it is an essential visit, a way to know its drama in a few photos. At the exit there are several tuk-tuk drivers who offer to go to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields, but I decided not to go, since it is in private hands and they only have a lucrative purpose.

Russian Market, Phonm Penh
Russian Market, Phonm Penh

At the exit of S-21 I walked to the Russian market, wandering around and getting lost in this strange city. Back at the Guesthouse and after a shower, I went to get another massage …

Here ends my quick visit to the city: Royal Palace, National Museum, Wat Phnom Pagoda, Psar Thmei Market and Russian Market. Tomorrow I will catch the boat for Siem Reap.

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