A 6 hour bus journey from siem reap and we finally made it into cambodias capital, phnom penn. 6 hours of overly loud cambodians on phones and near constant beeping (the guide book says cambodias roads are some of the worst in the world). Our hostel is in the city centre so everything is within a cheap tuk tuk ride away. We arrived around 4ish and spent the few hours before dinner just unpacking and showering. We got a tuk tuk to the riverside, walked past 2 outdoor aerobics classes (the old woman with the walking stick was getting very into it) and we found a nice place to eat.
Today was the day we visited the 'killing fields' and 'tuol sleng prison'. During the 70's during the pol pot regime millions of people were killed by the khmer rouge. 9000 of them were taken to the choeung ek killing fields were they were killed and buried. There were over 100 mass graves and at the very centre was the monument, which was stacked full of the victims clothes and bones. Next door to the field was a school. It was break time so the noise of the kids broke nthe silence of the place. Was an incredibly surreal and powerful place. We left the field and our tuk tuk then took us back into the city to the prison. It used to be the tuol svey pray high school, but under the regime, the khmer rouge turned it into one fo the most notorious prisons in cambodia, where those who 'threatened' the communist regime (woman, children, intellectuals, people wearing glasses, monks anyone with an education) from the phnom penn area were taken. Many were held here and a lot were tortured in the converted classrooms. From here they were nromally taken to the killing fields. Many of the calssrooms were empty, expect for a single bed and a grainy black and white iomage on the wall. The building was incredibley haunting. In one of the blocks all the classrooms had been divided up into cells no more than a couple of metres squared. Some cells were wood and some were brick. The doors were all open so one could freely walk in and around the site. It was a horrifically sobering visit - the 2 extreme constrasting past uses of this building - The original simple fences had been covered in barbed wire and high iron fences, and all the open corridors had been barred and, again, covered in barbed wire. The minute we left the gates of the museum, the extreme bustle and exctiment of the city hit us once again. A haunting reminder of the past, enclosed in the thriving city. A humbling day me thinks.
Tommorow we are venturing on something more upbeat - we are going to the silver pagoda, which has a floor made of solid silver. Also we are seeing the lifesize solid gold buddha and the main palaces. Should be a good day :D