History Lessons in Cambodia

Our stay in Cambodia was limited to six days - three in Siem Reap and three in the capital Phnom Penh. Our main goal was to visit two important historic sites in Cambodia, before moving on to Vietnam. We flew in from Bangkok, and after a long and tiring visa procedure at the airport we found ourselves in Siem Reap. This town has little to offer except the ancient temples of Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat

After paying a steep 20$ entrance fee, you enter a huge complex of temples. All are centuries old, but most still in decent condition. A tuktuk brought us to three temples: Angkor Wat itself, Bayon, and Ta Prohm. Especially Ta Prohm was impressive, where roots of huge tries found their way into the stone walls.

From Siem Reap, a 6-hour busride on terrible gravel roads brought us to the capital of Cambodia. Phnom Penh itself is not the cleanest or nicest, but the city played an important role in recent history. Therefore, worth a visit.

The Killing Fields

In the 80s, the Khmer Rouge regime killed millions of Cambodians in extermination camps, called “Killing Fields”. Twenty minutes outside of Phnom Phen lays Choeung Ek. Choeung Ek is the biggest Killing Field in Cambodia, but there are dozen others where prisoners were killed. We won’t dive into too much detail, but after our three hour visit we felt sick in our stomach. The fact that the Khmer Rouge leaders weren’t prosecuted at all, or only in recent years (30 years after their regime came to an end) didn’t make it any better.

After visiting Choeung Ek, we stopped by the Tuol Sleng prison. For many, this was the final stop before going to the Killing Fields. Torture, murder, and terrible conditions throughout. An impressive day, but not in a good way. We decided to take it easy the rest of the day, as silence and thought is the best way to process this experience.

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We, Mark & Herta, are currently backpacking through Europe, and eventually planning to settle in London. Beyond that? The possibilities are endless.

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