Along to Phnom Penh

Now this might just be me, but I honestly feel that Cambodia doesn’t get enough credit. Phnom Penh is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to, but I don’t really know how to explain why. I just thought the buildings were beautiful and there was a nice chill vibe. There are tuk tuks everywhere so you can always get to where you need to go, there’s great food (we got a curry on our first night!) and everyone was friendly. We also randomly stumbled across people signing up to do a race around the city, so my boyfriend got a chance to do some running again after the marathon back in April (obviously not me lol), so that was super cool.

The 5am race start

Unfortunately, we weren’t off to a great start when we arrived after a bus journey from Ho Chi Minh. Once arriving at the hotel at around 11pm and beginning to unpack and relax, we found bed bugs. It was disgusting. So we had to try get a refund from that hotel and find another place to stay. One that wouldn’t mind checking us in at almost midnight, not an easy job in a brand new city. We found a nearby hotel, however it was pretty swanky and out of our budget, but at that point we just wanted somewhere to sleep. It was pretty nice to stay in a lovely hotel for once too.

Countryside view from our long bus journey

The main things to do around Phnom Penh is to go to the Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields. Yeah it’s not very cheery, but very interesting and important to learn about. I encourage everyone to look up the Cambodian genocide, as I didn’t know anything about it before being there. It was carried out by a regime named the Khmer Rouge, which was led by a man named Pol Pot. Between the years 1975 and 1979, it is estimated up to 3 million people were killed, which was a statistic of about 1 in 4 of the Cambodian population. You were deemed an “enemy” for these reasons:

  • Any link to the former or foreign governments
  • Professionals and intellectuals (this basically meant anyone with an education, even people just for wearing glasses)
  • Any ethnic minorities
  • Any urban dwellers, who were used to city life and had a lack of agriculture ability
    Over 23,000 mass graves have been discovered in Cambodia since 2009. Again, I know this isn’t fun stuff to learn, but the more people are educated about this, the less likely it is to happen again.
    The Genocide Museum (Tuol Sleng) is a former high school turned into a maximum security prison during the genocide and now runs as a museum. It has kept many torture instruments and photos from it’s days as a prison, so it can become quite difficult to walk around immersed in it all, especially since you have an audio guide describing the events to you. However, there are lots of outdoor benches in the old school grounds if you do need to take a break and a beautiful stone memorial.

    The Killing Fields are about a 30 minute tuk tuk ride away from the museum. I will say this is not for the faith hearted, clothes and bones still get washed up after a lot of rainfall and can often be seen in the ground, even though the people working there try to collect them as soon as they do. We decided to do this all in one day, so the rest of our time in Phnom Penh could be more positive. It too uses audio guides and has a lake and trees to walk around while you listen, it did get a bit intense for me so that helped. There are lots many butterflies flying around the fields, which does lift your sprits slightly and unlike the museum with the dark and eerie rooms, the whole thing is outside. I won’t get into the fields too much as like I said, it was hard, but I was happy to see other young travellers had taken the time to visit and learn about what happened.

    Now, on to nicer things. The Royal Palace is huge and made up of lots of different gorgeous buildings to spend a few hours walking around. I really enjoyed our visit here and it definitely cheered us up a bit. We think we might have stumbled across some sort of celebration the day we visited, as everyone was gathered around the square outside the palace, and seemed to be throwing around corn kernels. They were all over the floor and we still haven’t figured out why or what it was. The lighting was brilliant that day, so we managed to get some awesome photos.

    Well that’s Phnom Penh. I know I’ve made it sound quite depressing, but it really was one of my favourite cities. Even if you don’t want to go to the Genocide Museum and Killing Fields, I would say it is still definitely worth visiting.

    My next post will be all about our little getaway to the Cambodian island of Koh Rong, which was pure HEAVEN! I can’t wait to write about it 🙂

    Lon x

    I wanted to show off my elephants in the background

    5 thoughts on “Along to Phnom Penh”

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