Cambodia is most famous for its ancient City of Wat Angkor, one of the world’s largest religious complex temples that exist. As a popular destination from far and wide, it’s most often overrun and has lost a lot of its original spirit and colours over the past decade as massive amounts of tourist visit the gigantic complex each and every day.
Southeast Asian countries, in particular countries like Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, are largely popular by western tourists for their lower costs of living, exotic culture and traditions. Thus, most overcrowded regions are a popular magnet for locals to create new businesses and to take advantage of the market by raising prices for accommodation, tickets, and daily cost of items. It’s a great way to support local communities as they heavily rely on the tourism market.
If you are keen to experience another, more authentic and truly reflective part of Cambodian history, then you ought to consider visiting Phnom Penh, the country’s Capital city before you head to other places like Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, or Singapore.
The Killing Fields at Choeung Ek Genocideal Center
From 1975 up until 1979, the Cambodian regime, The Khmer Rouge, carried out a genocide, targeting political opponents, journalists, professionals, members of religious communities, students, and ethnic minorities. Approx. 25% of Cambodians population in the 1970s were subject to imprisonment, forced labour, and death. Not much has been said about this genocide, and most travellers are not fully aware about the scale of those events, but yet has edged the nation’s character and soul.
One of the places that still remind visitors about the large scale, impact and operation about the Khmer genocide are the Killing Fields, approx. 12km away from the city centre. Visitors have a chance to witness the remaining pieces that remind about the methods the regime used to kill and burry the victims in mass graves. Skulls remind visitors about the significant importance about the Killing Fields and how many lives were destroyed by the political ideology of the Khmer Rogue to establish a socialist agrarian republic.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Musem (Security Prison S-21)
Another place worth to visit is the Genocide Musem Tuol Sleng, located in the heart of Phnom Penh. Visitors have the chance to take a closer look to the mass imprisonment operations with pictures of those who were victims of the state terror and humanitarian crimes. Tuol Sleng is famously known for Security Prison 2-21 and is a representation of the many of approx. 150 execution centres established by the regime across the country. It’s estimated that more than 20,000 people were taken to this centre, imprisoned, turreted, and executed. From those 20,000 people, some were even non-Cambodians, including Westeners and Arabs. Only five people have ever survived Security Prison S-21, two of them still alive today.
The museum gives a unique inside into the regime’s brutality and tells the stories about those who had to experience these horrible, demoniac crimes that are not ought to be forgotten by those who visit the country.
The Royal Palace
Visitors have a chance to explore the Cambodian’s royal palace, located in the city centre to experience the royal monarchy that has been established in the 1990s after the political turmoil caused by the Khmer Rogue. Established in the 1880s, the Royal Palace is a complex that covers the Throne Hall, which is still in use today. The moonlight pavilion is the most notable part of the palace complex and complement to the city’s skyline. Travellers are able to visit the Throne Hall, the Gardens, and the Chan Chhaya Pavilion as the living area for the royal family takes almost half of the entire complex which is closed for the general public.
Experience Cambodian hospitality every day
Wherever you go in Cambodia, but in particular the capital city, you will experience the warm and friendly hospitality of the Cambodian people in every café, restaurant, hotel, and tourist attraction sight. For travellers like me who visited the deeply emotional sights of the Killing Fields and Prison S-21, it’s in stark contrast between two sides of a coin which represents Cambodian culture and society, both deeply edged in the nation’s character.
Header image: Mark Lubkoll / Kimify.co