Today was very sobering. We visited the Killing Fields of Chong Ek, one of 389 in Cambodia, and the memorial stupa, followed by a visit to the Tuoi Sleng Genocide Museum (known as S-21). Our guide Sukon detailed for us the chronology of the Pol Pot regime. Pol Pot killed all the intellectuals, destroyed the infrastructure, and sent citizens to the countryside to farm and make a living, under a communist ideology.
The brutality that unfolded in the 1970’s in a former orchard was unbelievably horrible and tragic. The memorial stupa displays more than 8000 skulls and their ragged clothes. The mass graves of the Killing Fields that were unearthed are sectioned off and marked, so that anyone who sees them can only feel sorrow for what happened to the people.
Next we visited Tuoi Stengel, known as S-21. It was Khmer Rouge’s largest detention and torture headquarters, where more than 17,000 men, women, and children moved through S-21 to the Killing Fields. The prison has been converted into a museum. Out of the thousands held there, only seven survived. Only two of the seven are still alive, and we met one survivor who is close to 90 years of age. He detailed his stay - he only survived because he was a mechanic, and his skills were needed. After listening to his story we visited his tiny cell where he survived. He published a book called “Survivor”.
We returned to our boat, and said farewell to Sukon. He is a remarkable and industrious person who was an outstanding guide. He provided us with so much knowledge and personal stories, that our time with him flew by, and he made our visit to Cambodia amazing. He frequently said with a twinkle in his eye, “OMB, Oh My Buddha.” Cambodia is a beautiful country and populated by friendly and genuinely happy people.
We lazed around on the upper deck and learned to make spring rolls. We picked up some tips that will help when we go home.
We finished off the evening playing musical trivia and listening to karaoke sung by some very talented cruisers. Looking forward to entering Vietnam tomorrow? The contrast between the 2 countries will likely be dramatic.