Many places in the world consider themselves 'must see' or 'can't miss', but I think perhaps Cambodia, who doesn't make any such claims, is actually one place that really deserves it. Many might agree, pointing to the immense majesty of the Angor Wat archeological complex, to which I agree, and will be what the next post will be about. However, the other place everyone must visit is Pnomh Penh. As a city, it is quite chaotic, has very poor street lighting, few sidwalks, not all that many 'tourist sites' and not a particularly outstanding restaurant scene. Well why must I visit then, you might say, and the answer to that is to get a glimpse of how vicious, violent, cruel, and horrible humans can possibly be. Cambodia was ruled by the Khmer Rouge for less than 4 years, but in that time left a bigger stain upon the country than Stalin upon the people of the soviet union, Mao upon the people of China, and in my opinion, even Hitler upon the people of Europe. Perhaps one can find greater evil in attoricities committed against a certain group or type of people, like the Jews under the Nazis, but when absolutely everybody, and anybody, is a target, at any point in time, with no chance or glimmer of salvation, the cold brutality is much more striking. Certainly many under Mao and Stalin were considered subversives and terrorists that had done nothing wrong, but in Cambodia they did not even have time to dissent. As the rebel army of the Communist Khmer Rouge took over Pnomh Penh, they were cheered in the streets, seen to be of a similar sort to communist rebels seen in the area, and around the world in the 1960's, but within hours, not months or weeks or days, but hours, started arresting, torturing, questioning, and executing people. The ideal of the Khmer Rouge was to create a complete Maoist society, of a rural, agrarian proleteriat, and so anyone considered to be urban was considered undesireable, and if he wasn't considered suspicious was forced to move into the countryside. In 48-72 hours, the capital had become completely deserted, either through forced evacuations or through imprisonment and execution. In Pnomh Penh there are two places that must be visited, one in the middle of the city, known as Luol Sleng. Up until the takeover of the city, Tuol Sleng was a normal, public high school, but in the days that followed, it was turned into the largest, top-level prison in the country. The prison would hold a vast array of 'normal' prisoners from the area around the city, but also high-level ones, which were members of the Khmer Rouge deemed to have become traitors or agents of the CIA or KGB. Even governors of whole areas of the country would be arrested and tortured at this school, and for them, one of the buildings, with smaller rooms, was used for their imprisonment, so the relatively large rooms became private prison cells, where these officials were allowed a metal bed, without a matress, and a metal plate and cup for food and drink. The other, larger rooms were either divided up into miniscule wooden or brick cells, where there was always a long metal rod from one end of the room to the other, to which every prisoner was chained to at the ankles. The upper floors instead held several rows of these metal rods, where for lack of space and time, lines of prisoners were chained together by the hundreds. The prisoners were only there to be tortured, and were only questioned for specific questions, which were always the same, who their collaborators were with, and if they had betrayed their country to work for the CIA or KGB. All sorts of torture techniques were used, where the prison had something in common with the US prison in Guantanamo, as waterboarding was everpresent. Once satisfied with the results of the interrogation, the prisoners were loaded into trucks, where they were told they were being moved to another prison or work camps, while in fact they were going to the second must-visit spot in Pnomh Penh; the killing fields. This serene grassy area which was formerly a chinese prison, was the spot that happened to be picked to despose of the no longer useful interrogated prisoners. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the government discovered the site and began to dig up, finding mass graves everywhere, leaving most of the area actually untouched, until 1988 further excavations were carried out, and in the end over 20 thousand corpses were found. Despite these two attempts of excavation, many graves still remain, as well as countless pieces of clothes, teeth, and bone fragments of victims. After 1988, a pagoda was constructed, where within they placed the bones that had been excavated, as well as the clothes that still were intact, making an enourmous and somber monument to those who had their lives brutally finished at this place, as brutally they all died. As the Khmer Rouge did not have foreign suppliers or any sort of reserves or money(they blew up the central bank, and in all practicality ended all types of money and commerce) they had to spare all the bullets they could, so people were killed with shovels, axes, knives, spades, pickaxes, etc. If they had decided to torture and kill all those who they thought were traitors or insurgents, that might have been bad enough, but they had a policy of 'when you pull out a plant, make sure to cut the roots', with the thinking that this way there was no fear of future generations seeking revenge, and as such when an individual was arrested and killed, so was all of his family, including any small children. As such, the Killing Fields, and all other similar places in Cambodia(as we saw them in the other two cities we visited in the country) had places where they specifically used other methods to kill babies and children, the most common of which was just smashing their skulls against the trunks of trees. In the field outside of the capital, one grave had over 100 bodies of infants, another had 150 headless corpses, which were beheaded as they were soldiers that had betrayed their country, while the largest grave was filled with over 200 bodies. Adding to the impact was the guides, who had been among those who worked in the area and helped out dig the graves in the early 70's, and our guide also had lost his parents, his sister and his uncle during the Khmer Rouge regime. After these two heavy experiences, the others also had quie a bit to make you reflect as well. We went to three great restaurants, one of which had traditional rural cambodian fare, including fried tarantulas(see the video), but which were staffed by former street children, left without families either from the Khmer Rouge or through general poverty. Another day we decided to go for a massage, and again we went to the blind center, where these people really had to struggle in the poverty of Cambodia, and manage not to get killed for not being able to contribute to the agrarian revolution of the Khmer Rouge.Unlike their counterparts in Saigon, the masseurs were actually great, and gave Anna the best massage of her life. Two other sights are worthy of note, the first of which is the former royal palace. Apparently quite similar to the one in Bangkok in its layout and architecture, this was a set of buddhist temples and structures of a particularly gilden and ornate nature, and the most venerated buddha, a Baccarat crystal, emerald colored Buddha, along with a bunch of other buddhas, all in a building with all the floor tiles made of gilded silver, some of which crinkled under the rugs under your feet. Finally, the natinoal museum gave a tantalizing look to Angkorian and pre-Angkorian civilzations of Cambodia, and the best examples of sculptures and statues found in the various temples, palaces, and parks found throughout the country, ranging from lifelike statues of buddhas, a phenomenal staute of an Angorian King, giant monkey warriors, and a slew of giant Hindhu deities. The most enjoyable part of the city was actually going between each place, riding on the tuk-tuks, only seen before in Laos, and of a more enjoyable nature in Cambodia. And from then off we went by bus to Siem Reap, where we would spent most of our time not in temples or by the pool in the back of these glorious Tuk-tuks.