Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia is our last stop in South East Asia. Phnom Penh was considered one of the loveliest French-built cities in Indochina in the 1920s but of course during Pol Pot's regime this all changed. We stayed in a Hotel for only $14 a night with free breakfast. It was superb but a bit out of the way.
The next day we hired a tuk tuk driver for $25 to take us to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Basically, Cambodia fell to the powers of the Khmer Rouge in 1975 (Pol Pot and his guys!). The aim of Pot's regime was to try and unify Cambodia to achieve a communist/agrarian society and to do this he murdered thousands of innocent Cambodians. During his regime it was estimated that 1.7m people perished at the hands of Pol Pot.
On arrival to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek there was nothing to suggest that heinous crimes were committed here 33 years ago...The original buildings had been knocked down when the regime was overthrown in '79. It was awful seeing the mass graves knowing that the people were beaten to death as the regime wanted to save their precious bullets. The orchard nowadays is a peaceful and pretty setting. We couldn't imagine what it looked like 37 years ago. What really hit home for us both was the 'killing tree', where babies were dragged from their mothers, held by their legs and bashed against the tree. We were glad to leave when we found out that only one of the 5 leaders of the Khmer Rouge still alive has stood trial and been found guilty of despicable war crimes against humanity. The other 4 are still in a detention centre probably enjoying their luxuries.
As part of our agreement with the tuk tuk driver he then took us to the Tuol Sleng Museum, or otherwise known as S-21. S-21 was previously a school until it was turned into a security prison. We got to see torture chambers, graves, cells and graphic haunting photographs of the victims who suffered at the hands of the regime. Here it was evident that the Khmer Rouge were meticulous in keeping records of their barbarism and of their victims.
When the Khmer Rouge were overthrown (Thanks to the Vietnamese, high five!) there were only seven survivors of S-21.
The rest of our time in cambodia was spent relaxing, eating and drinking. We loved Cambodia. Maybe our second favourite country in South East Asia. We couldn't believe what had gone on here only 33 years ago. The people were fantastic. We were able to ask them anything and the children you just wanted to pick up and cuddle. We definately had our fair share of "Miss Miss would you like a book?" But in the end they would just sit down beside you and chat. They have high hopes and dreams and for 5- 15 year olds, their english is amazing.
These last few days in Cambodia marked the end of our South East Asia experience and I think it's fair to say, we ended it in style. Over the past 10 weeks we have grown accustomed to this way of life and enjoyed the various elements in the cultures of every country we've visited. From the mad streets of Ho Chi Minh to the silent paradise of Thailands beautiful islands. From partying on a long white beach to partying on the highest floor of a sky scraper. Temples to beaches and trekking to cooking, everything we've done has been incredible and so memorable! But now, it's time for us to move on to our next country, Japan!