Monday, March 21, 2011

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After spending two days in Siem Reap we hopped on a bus and moved on to Phnom Penh, where we visited the Killing Fields and the genocide museum. I'll admit it was a rather depressing time considering the subject matter, but everything was so interesting and eye opening that it was well worth it.

The bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh took us through very rural Cambodia, which was awesome. It was so picturesque and exactly how I've always pictured typical Southeast Asia.

Houses like this lined the streets on the way to Phnom Penh.

The Killing Fields are where the Khmer Rouge brought their prisoners to be killed. Mass graves dot the fields and you can still see bones, teeth, and clothes coming out from underground. There's a memorial built to honor the victims of the massacre. It's filled with skulls, clothes, and other bones. I still can't comprehend the fact that I could reach out and touch the skulls of real people who were brutally murdered.

It was nauseating to see so many skulls and to be able to tell exactly how each person was killed. This one was beaten with a pointed weapon...

Some of the prisoners did not die right away...

Barbed wire still lines the fences surrounding the fields.

Picture perfect Cambodia...

As if the killing fields weren't depressing enough, our next stop was the genocide museum. It's been converted from one of the main prisons used by the Khmer Rouge. 17,000 innocent Cambodians went through the prison, and only 7 survived.

We were able to explore the cells and get an idea of the harsh conditions the prisoners were forced to live in. Those who were held in the large mass cells (like this one) were collectively shackled to long pieces of iron bar. The shackles were fixed to alternating bars; the prisoners slept with their heads in opposite directions.

Prisoners were tortured in ways I would never have been able to imagine.

6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.

Each person who went through the prison was photographed upon entering. An artist has re-interpreted these photos and his work is on display in a few of the empty cells.

I promise the next post will be a happier one! Up next is my first day in Vietnam.

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