|As soon as we crossed the border and got on to bus to Phnom Penh it becomes apparent how much poorer Cambodia is than the other Asian countries I have seen. We all piled into a knackered old minibus and bounced along the unsealed, pot-holed filled dusty road to the capital city - felt like I was back in Bolivia for poverty status!
Phnom Penh is a pretty dirty city and can't say I loved it very much! Beggars everywhere, people living on the streets, huge rats running around and dirty, naked children roaming the streets begging & scouring rubbish dumps - it's heartbreaking and I was actually pretty shocked by it (which I didn't think could happen to me anymore!)
There are some nice sights to PP though, the main one being the Royal Palace which was pretty impressive - lots of temples set in beautiful grounds by the riverside where we (me & lovely Danish couple Elin & Finn from boat trip) spent a few hours exploring.
The other main tourist "attractions" in PP are the Tol Sleung Genocide museum (or S-21 prison) and the Choeung Ek Killing Fields. I learned a lot of history about the country here and again I had no idea of the atrocities that happened here and so recently under the cruel regime of Pol Pot, The Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge were a communist party who captured, tortured and killed all the rich & educated people of Cambodia - leaving no teachers, doctors, or any professional people, even their children were killed as they thought intelligence was hereditary (also anyone who wore glasses as this was also thought of as a sign of intelligence!) All the peasants and country people were then forced to work in the rice fields under terrible conditions and also many died; as this is what Pol Pot (who was actually a teacher himself!!) thought would make Cambodia independent - to be great rice producers! The Khmer Rouge killed around 2 million OF THEIR OWN PEOPLE - it was so senseless and horrific and absolutely crazy to think that this happened only 30 years ago, the late 70's - even during the year I was born!
The S-21 prison (now a museum) is where out of the 20,000 people that were captured there were only 7 survivors. It was pretty shocking seeing the pictures of torture and even the equipment used is still there for all to see. The prisoners were then taken out to the countryside tied up, beaten to the ground and then some buried alive (bullets were too expensive and precious) and bodies piled up in mass graves which you can now see at Choeung Ek. For me this was the worst place, it was sickening - thousands of bodies have been buried here but not all have been recovered, so you can still see clothes and bones sticking up through the ground. There's a memorial there now in peaceful grounds, however the 13 storeys of skulls piled up is also a pretty gruesome site. I have no idea how people can do this to other human beings, it is horrendous. And even worse the Khmer Rouge leaders were never tried for any war crimes so there has never been any justice given to the Cambodian people - Pol Pot died an old man in his home only 10 years ago....there are still talks of the surviving leaders yet to be tried but it hasn't happened so far unfortunately.