The journey to Phnom Penh was dangerously crazy. At several times I feared for my life, in fact for most of the journey I was really wishing I had stayed at the Buddhist retreat for longer so I would have the big man on my side. The driver was mental, the roads are bad at the best of times without this crazy driver. The bus was driving straight into oncoming traffic and he was laughing, on at least two occasions we had to make an emergency stops to avoid cows who weren't even on the road. At one point I actually screamed, you know how I like a little bit of drama, and all the driver did was turn round and laugh at me while still driving! Oh and don't let me forget the horn, I can still hear it he pressed it that often. When we arrived safely in Phnom Penh you could feel the relief all around the bus, I think I used one of my nine lives on that journey.
Our guesthouse was in one of the quieter areas of the city. It was 2* at most but Elton John had stayed there - I think I had his room or at least that's what I'll be telling people. Phnom Penh is the capital city but the infracture still leaves a lot to be desired. Along the riverfront there is so many nice restaurants and bars, you could almost be in Europe but if you go a couple of streets behind there is people sleeping rough and rubbish all over the place. There is no mistaken that you are in a developing world country. Just 30 years ago Cambodia had been developing at the same rate as Thailand but because of the Khmer Rouge, this is the legacy.
The next day we had arranged to visit the Killing Fields and S-21 a prison where people were interrogated, tortured, and then executed by the Khmer Rouge. You prepare yourself as much as you can for visiting these places but as much as you try nothing can prepare you for it.
S-21 used to be a former secondary school that the Khmer Rouge took over when they emptied the city. They covered the classrooms into cells and the playground into a execution yard. Prisoners could be kept for up to 2 years and during this time they were tortured everyday. Throughout the building you can see bloodstains and evidence of where the killing used to take place. The Khmer Rouge also documented all of the prisoner's torture with photographs which are displayed throughout the building. This is the most powerful part as you can see the faces of all the people who they killed.
After S-21 we went to the Killing Fields, this is where the Khmer Rouge used to take people to execute them and them bury them in mass graves. In each grave there is at least 500 people and as you are walking around you can see bones sticking out the ground. One grave was just woman and children, all the woman were naked as they used to rape them before killing them by beating them off a tree. As you are walking around the site you can hear the children from the nearby school playing. It's hard to imagine how a country can ever recover from this horror, it's even harder to imagine that this all took place just 30 years ago. Our tour guide summed it up perfectly, she said that although the country can never forget what happened the only option they have is to move on.
I love the spirit of Cambodian people and I love the country. I feel like I've wanted to go to Cambodia forever and it hasn't disappointed. I really don't know how anywhere else will ever compare.