Choeung Ek Killing Fields, December 2015. After a couple of hours wandering around the unwaveringly grim Tuol Sleng Genocide Centre, the last thing I felt like doing was going out to The Killing Fields, the place where so many Cambodian prisoners were finally put out of their misery in the mid 1970s. But in many ways seeing Choeung Ek felt like a rite of passage, as if my travel mate and I had no right heading off for the beach oases of Sihanoukville and Ko Rong until we’d finished the historical journey we’d started.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, December 2015. It wasn’t all fun and games during my stay in Phnom Penh. Somewhere along the way my travel mate and I knew we had to stop by this former torture centre to learn more about Cambodia’s dark history. The atrocities carried out here by The Khmer Rouge in the 1970s were unspeakable, and while it was surely nobody’s idea of a fun morning, I felt we owed it to the victims to see the place, hear their stories and leave a silent prayer. Located right in the heart of the city, Tuol Sleng was one of at least 150 Khmer Rouge torture centers dotted around the country between 1975-1979.
Phnom Sampeau, December 2015. The curious little Cambodian city of Battambang offers visitors a handful of unique sights that stand right up there with the country’s must-see attractions. One of these is Phnom Sampeau, a massive limestone outcrop 12 kilometres outside the town centre. It’s a steep forty-minute walk up to its highest paths, or you can pay an entrepreneurial moto-man four dollars to whisk you up. About halfway up the hill a side road leads you under a gate into the site of Battambang’s grisly Killing Caves. It was here that the Khmer Rouge bludgeoned hundreds of people to death and tossed their bodies through the skylights of the caves. A series of gruesome sculptures depict the atrocities, while down in the main cave there’s a glass case memorial of skulls and bones. Not for the fainthearted.