The Beginning

Travelling from Coron, Philippines to the last city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.

Security and visa

The visa to get into Phnom Penh is quite easy. All you need to do is fill in a few forms and hand over $30. A quick, painless system. From there, get a ‘Grab’ to your accommodation. It takes roughly 30 minutes to get into the centre. That is, if traffic is on your side, which is almost.. never.

Accommodation

Due to being a city, there’s millions of places to stay. From budget backpackers to flashy premiums. We opted for a mid-range hotel – Relax Hotel. Which we managed to get a good deal due to booking far in advance. Make sure when booking, you book near to the centre as there’s not much going on in the outskirts.

Attractions

Phnom Penh is emotional to say the least. With the two main things to do here, relating to the Khmer Rouge. It is bound to pull on your heart strings. Cambodia has a brutal, unfair past, but its only respectful to go. This helps you to have a further understanding into what happened, why, and how to prevent it from ever happening again. People are shaped from the past and this, certainly, will make anyone think twice about what to believe in and most importantly, what you take for granted. If you have a sufficient amount of time here, you might want to spilt these activities up over days. This is because it can have a effect on you and drown you out. What’s more disturbing is the fact that this happened a mere 40 years ago.

S21 (Prison)

Just located 5 minutes from what is now the city centre. Down an old begrimed street in a suburban setting, is Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Formally known as S21 Prison – the place of torture.

At first glance, you will notice that stood before you is a 3-storey abandoned school. Barricaded with iron bared windows and barbed wires to prevent anyone from escaping or taking their own lives. But, nothing will prepare you for the horror faced ahead. For 4 years, this innocent building was home to thousands of people. People who were punished for no apparent reason. Thousands of unpeachable women, men and even children, were caged into these 4 depressing buildings. Striped of all their clothes and belongings, to start a new life as a prisoner, in conditions, that can’t even be imagined. Having pain inflicted on them on a regular basis to commit to ‘crimes’ they never even did.

It is recommended, although heart breaking, to hire an audio guide for here. As you get an insight on first-hand experiences and understand what really went on here. Upon entering, each prisoner was photographed. You will see these displayed in one of the eerie buildings, alongside gruesome evidence of deaths and abuse. You walk through these rooms in which people were ‘living’. With now only a rusty iron bed and a pool of stained blood to show.

Walking through you begin to read stories and listen to what happened and why this happened. Despite, not having a concrete number, it’s estimated that 17,000-20,000 people were taken here. Of which, only 7 survived. The moment becomes more sobering when at the end of the tour, you are actually greeted by one of these survivors.

Killing fields

Choeung Ek, more famously known as the killing fields. Located 15k South-East of the city centre. An analysis of 20km, of former mass graves during the Khmer Rouge regime. Upon entering the killing fields, you will notice a beautiful stupa stood centre, in the heart of this site. Majestically overlooking the land, layered tall with acrylic glass and filled with many disturbing human skulls and body parts. It is encouraged to visit, as it is more of a reminder of what happened, to prevent anything as horrific like this to happen again. Moreover, the audio guide is highly recommended for further information.

More than 1-2,000,000 people were killed at these sites. What’s worse, is that it was for no reason at all. Just the fact, that the Khmer Rouge wanted to take over. This now peaceful, tranquil memorial, will take you on a path unfolding the horrors there once were. Thousands of people were sent here each week. Unbeknown to them in less than 24 hours will be their death. People were tortured and killed many horrendous ways. Women were raped, babies’ skulls were smashed against trees and people were killed limb by limb. The tearful stories that you hear just puts everything into perspective.

Central market

Moving aside from these awful disasters, there’s a central market. With it almost on every day, you are bound to spend your day trailing through the many souvenirs, foods and clothes on offer. Enhance your haggling skills here as they usually double the price that it’s actually worth.

Food

Cambodian food is delicious. Therefore, making it almost impossible to know where to go during your time in Phnom Penh. A few places are recommended;

BattBong – A speakeasy bar. Shaped like a Coca-Cola vending machine. What more convincing do you need? With an amazing selection on cocktails and spirits at a decent price.

* Not a picture taken by us (we were too hyped to remember to take a photo)

Féliz – A Cambodian restaurant situated down a side alley on a main avenue. Offering succulent Cambodian dishes for half the price you would expect to pay. With big portions too and the option of Western dishes, it’s a no-brainer.

Mok Mony – #9 on Trip Advisor for a reason! A beautiful restaurant equipped with wonderful staff members ensuring you have a pleasant meal. Offering to replace anything you don’t like for something you do, free of charge. A wonderful taste that leaves you satisfied and wanting to return.

Vibe Cafe – A beautiful, hipster café. Serving vegan options as well as #1 on Trip Advisor. Relaxed atmosphere, definitely worth a trip here if you’re around. 100% recommend the pancakes!

Where’s next?

That’s the end to our Cambodian adventure. Next, we head to the country of Vietnam to discover their histories, activities and what they have to offer.

Tips

  • This is one of the places where you can buy cheaper Apple products due to not having the added tax. It’s up to you what you wish to do with this information..
  • Hire the audio guides for these places to truly understand. It is hard but you can pause, skip or finish it if it gets too much
  • You can expect to pay around $15 for a tuk-tuk to take you to the Killing Fields and S21 and back to your hostel.

About The Author

Wanderlust Lab is a collaboration between Abbie and Luke for the sharing of travelling knowledge to help backpackers and travellers all across the globe. Live Wanderlust.

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