I had one final night with my friends in Phnom Penh before they all left me the next day—Jay for Malaysia and the girls to Laos. Luckily, at dinner that night I ran into two British friends from Laos, Russell and Tom, so I spent the next day with them. Also, Peter, Hywell, and Johnny joined me the following day so I wasn't alone for long.
Phnom Pehn was the cultural capital of Cambodia for a long time and, for this reason, was the most persecuted during the Khmer Rouge era. It was also the site of most of the killings so the main draw to visit nowadays is to see the "killing fields." I met Russ and Tom in the morning and after a quick breakfast and price negotiation with our tuk tuk driver, we set off for our tour. (On a side note, backpackers have become much wiser with negotiating prices. It seems the first question we ask each other now is: "how much did you pay for that? This applies for rooms, taxis, food, tours, etc. so that we know what to base our negotiation price off of and won't feel bad when we receive the inevitable shockingly offended face from our seller).
Our driver for the day, Sara, was a young, lively guy who smiled the whole day. He was really intent on taking us to the shooting range (understandably so since they get a cut and free shooting when their passengers go). We were anxious to get to the fields since we knew it would be miserably hot and tried to negotiate going last but he was insistent on going first. Turns out they know what they are doing because after visiting the killing fields, no one is in the mood for any sort of fun--especially shooting guns. I shot an AK47 and managed to hit a coconut (on purpose). I wasn't as much of a sharp-shooter as Russ who hit his on the first shot, but I did it nonetheless!
After the range, we toured the "Killing Fields" site. I had been warned about the gruesomeness of the place and was afraid of what I'd find. While the experience was quite intense (complete with bones, teeth, and clothes that continue to arise around the fields today), I personally thought they did a nice job of creating an educational setting intent on preventing future tragedies similar to that of Pol Pot's regime rather than a glorification of the trauma.
I ended up staying a few days more than planned in Phnom Pehn and spent that time both recovering from being sick and catching up on life. Downloaded A LOT of music and movies, Skyped with family, got lost in a day club while searching for a supermarket and exercised with the locals with my new friend Austin (turns out we have 4 travel friends in common—small world).
Johnny's last night in Cambodia, we went out to a local club and had a nice time dancing with both locals and travelers; it was a good mix. The tuk tuk driver decided to go the wrong way down a one way street instead of making a U-turn, as is common here. The next day, we all parted ways—Johnny headed back to Portugal and Hywell stayed in Phnom Pehn to await a package. Although Peter and I would have loved to stay in Cambodia longer, both our visas had already begun in Vietnam (we had to guess on our entry date and guessed wrong) and we were anxious to get there. So, come mid-day, we set off for Vietnam….those adventures are soon to come!