Phnom Penh, Cambodia


It's my first time to wake up at a more respectable 7:00 am since our Indochina trip began. It's been a pre-dawn rush to the bathroom these past days and I'm glad I'm not beating the roosting of cocks again. Our local guide for today meets us at 8 a.m. after breakfast.

The National Museum was our first stop - a good place to kill the time if you've missed some of the exquisite statues and delicate carvings of Angkor Wat and the other temples. Original relics and artifacts are well laid out in a floor plan that opens to an airy courtyard.

We went to the Royal Palace and the adjacent Silver Pagoda. The reigning monarch still reside in a private residence within the complex that's off-limits for lesser mortals like us. The royal compound reminded me of Bangkok's Grand Palace with its graceful architecture. The Silver Pagoda is unique as it lives up to its name - even the entire floor of this huge temple is made of silver tiles. Sorry, no photos allowed inside though.

The visit to the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is undoubtedly the most emotionally draining of the sights I've seen. The Killing Fields is just at the outskirts of Phnom Penh in an area that used to be rice paddies. There's a high stupa with glass enclosures containing hundreds of human skulls - a testament to the horror of Pol Pot's ruthless reign. What is more sickening is looking at bits of bone and cloth sticking out from the soil. I got worried about stepping on them for fear of disrespect but there's no way I could avoid as they're everywhere. The whole area where we were standing was a mass graveyard! Many among us could only gasp in silence while others try to fight back tears at this clear evidence of atrocity against innocent Cambodians.


The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - a former high school building converted into prison by the Khmer Rouge - is just as disturbing a reminder as the Killing Fields. More than 14,000 people were imprisoned, tortured and killed here. When the Vietnamese forces invaded the city in 1979, they only found a few survivors. To this day, the museum's numerous cells and torture rooms (formerly classrooms!) give the first time visitor a creepy sense of mortality. Just looking at those hundreds of black and white portraits of the prisoners (taken by Pol Pot's photographers) tells you a story of their agony, in their feelings of uncertainty whether they will live or die.


After dinner at the Lemongrass restaurant (who would thought I still have appetite to eat after that visit?), we trooped to The Lounge, a riverside bar whose manager happens to be a Filipino expat from Negros. We killed the time over drinks while chatting with some locals that J.P. introduced us to. I also met a few Pinoys who were hanging around the bar, all of them working in this city as teachers. They said the pay is good - can't blame them if they left the Philippines. They earn more here than their counterparts back home.


  1. this is something that I wanna see if ever I go back to Cambodia. I never heard about this until I've browsed some helpful pages online regarding Cambodia's history after my trip.
    I realized it does help to research a bit before heading to my destination coz I'm missing a lot. :(

  2. Pinaysolobackpacker,
    I usually borrow guide books and read online to supplement what I want to see about future destinations.

    IMHO,this is part of Cambodia's dark history that any visitor should not miss.


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