I did something I dreaded today - I visited the Killing Fields and S-21, the high school turned torture centre under the Pol Pot regime between 1975 and 1978.
Of course I had tears running down my face as I walked through the site and listened to the Audio Guide telling survivor stories (very few) and describing the horrors that occurred there. The Memorials honoured the 2 - 3 million Cambodians murdered by the Khmer Rouge - approximately 1 in 4 people. Hard to think about that. It was sickening, shocking, and graphic, as expected, but the Memorials were also very educational and as respectful as possible to the victims, and of course for any surviving family members, as they could be.
I actually wasn't going to go. I thought about just zooming around Phnom Penh in my tuk-tuk to see the pretty sights, but one of the hotel staff said "you won't really understand Cambodia if you don't go". He was probably right. I still don't understand it, but I certainly feel for the country that is trying to move forward from it - when it's all not that long ago. Today, one of the drivers pointed out yet another "killing cave" where 3 of his sisters were killed. Impossible to imagine. I won't go into any of the gory details, but in hundreds of locations around the country, and beyond Phnom Penh's vibrant, bustling, riverside fun zone lie pieces of Cambodia's brutal past.
Honestly? I really preferred the Silver Pagoda, waterfront cafes, and the many public spaces where people love to gather for badminton, Asian aerobics and picnics. Who wouldn't?
I didn't take many pics at the Killing Fields, but here's a picture from my hotel's rooftop deck in Phnom Penh overlooking one of the pretty places.... 1 of 3 massive, side-by-side public spaces, in the lull before it got really hopping! As an old Parks and Recreation type, it warms my heart to see so much space dedicated to play....