Travel

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia, and is just as busy and bustling as any other capital city in South-East Asia. There are some beautiful examples of architecture from the Royal Palace to the Silver Pagoda and the National Museum of Cambodia. There are also lots of great restaurants and bars, particularly rooftop bars.

A highlight for me was joining a local family at their home for dinner. We sat on the floor to eat with all the food laid out before us, and they cooked an absolute feast. At the end of the meal they brought out a bottle of homemade alcohol, which it turned out was filled with tarantulas! My friends did shots but I was too freaked out by it – I’m so scared of spiders!

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Picture: Stock image
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“Tarantula Wine” – the black layer at the bottom is several tarantulas. We were told they are placed in there while still alive.
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Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Picture: Stock image
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Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Picture: Stock image

I don’t have many pictures from my visit to Phnom Penh. I think this is partly because I was only here for a couple of nights, but also because a lot of the sights I visited were places where I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures. Two of the main sights associated with the Cambodian Genocide are the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, which is located in the former S-21 Prison in Phnom Penh, and the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek which is just south of Phnom Penh.

At Choeung Ek, there is a Buddhist Stupa filled with abour 5,000 skulls of Genocide victims. You can also see mass graves and the “Killing Tree” where children were killed. I didn’t want to take pictures of any of these things – you are allowed to, but it didn’t feel right to me. I also didn’t take pictures inside S-21, where thousands of people were tortured and executed, for the same reason.

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The memorial outside the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

I’ve said in a previous post that Cambodia is about so much more than its sad past, however I also think it’s really important to learn the history of a place, particularly when it is as extreme as the Cambodian Genocide. It’s hard to find words to describe how you feel after visiting places like the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields. I found it extremely shocking and everything I saw and heard affected me deeply.

One ray of light amongst all the darkness of these places is a man called Chum Mey. He was held prisoner in S-21 and is one of only seven people to have survived the prison. He now goes back to the prison every day to sell books about the Cambodian Genocide. I met him when I was there and bought his book. He didn’t speak any English so we couldn’t communicate much, but I felt very lucky to be able to meet him.

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The wonderful Chum Mey

This is a little different than my usual galleries, but I hope you enjoyed it.

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