The day before yesterday we spent our first full day in Phnom Penh. After visiting the police staton for Nikki, we went to S-21 (Tuol Sleng), the old Khmer Rouge prison, that is now he genocide museum. We payed about one dollar to go in, and we walked around the prison which was left the way it was found in 1979.
Its quite a gruesome place - when the Vietnamese stormed the city, there were 21 people in the prison at the time, and 14 of them were killed by the remaining Khmer Rouge, seven left alive. The only seven people to survive out of about the 20,000 that went through the prison doors. The Vietnamese entered the prison to find the 14 corpses left how they were tortured and killed, and they buried them instantly outside, however not before taking photos to document. You can walk through each of those 14 prisoners cells and see the pictures of how they were left. So not for the faint hearted. When reading this you might think it seems a bit of a tourist trap or a gory circus, it's not like that at all, it's very solemn - the cambodian people want to show the world exactly what happened to their people during that time, especially since the trial that should bring the Khmer Rouge to justice is still ongoing, which is a sore spot for the Cambodians, as the perpatrators are getting older and dying of natural deaths, which the Cambodians feel they don't deserve.
The museum/prison also contains a photo of every single person who was sent there, as the Khemr rouge took every one's pictures before they went in. Most people were intellects, (no place for them in an extremely communist society), politicians from other parties (and ones also from the Khemer rouge who wern't ''pure'' enough). We couldn't believe this went on only 35 years ago, it was extremely eye-opening.
After S-21 we visited the killing fields, Choeung Ek (actually one of 350 killing fields) This is where the prisoners from S-21 were sent to be killed, along with alot of other people, estimates are between 17,000 at this particular site. We paid a local guide to take us around, and he explained what happened there. So brutal, to conserve bullets they killed people any way they could, they even swung babies by the feet aginst trees and just threw them into the communal graves.
The next day was far mor lighthearted, we went to the central market where I picked up some paintings and a hammock (!) my bag is getting too full, and too hard to carry! We left the market and got swarmed by tuc tuc drivers as per usual, all shouting trying to get us to pick them. We took one to the shooting range just outside the city, and it was surreal! We walked into this 'range' (more like a few huts outside under shelter) and the man who worked there greeted us and took us to see his wares. 'what would you like we have everything'!' and gestured to a wall that held AK47's, M16's, sniper rifles, hand guns, machine guns, and even an RPG. Here in Cambodia if you have the money you can pretty much pay for anything. Me and Nikki decided to try shooting an AK47 down the range, (we always use the gun in games, might as well have a go in real life).
You can imagine if this was to happen in Britain, you'd have to sign consent forms, pay for insurance and probably have a two hour lesson. Here it was a case of pulling the gun off the shelf, directing us to the range, loading it up, simple gestures on how to hold and shoot and then just taking a step back and letting you get on with it. Madness. It was good fun though, even if my shoulder is a bit bruised from the recoil. Here's a video anyways (mum: copy and paste the link in the bar at the top)
That eveing we ate in 'Happy Herb Pizza'called so, not because of the friendly service, but because the pizza does quite literally contain the 'happy herb'. That's right, Marijuana pizza's!
All in all Phnom Penh was a strange experiance, so sad and moving learning about their quite recent history, yet this city seems to have come so far since. I really hope to come back here one day.