A Czech and A Filipino on a Phnom Penh Day Tour

The plan was to head to Phnom Penh after spending 3 days in Siem Reap. My last night in Siem Reap was spent over dinner with a new friend. Coincidentally, she’s going to Phnom Penh the next day too so I invited her to join us. I booked her with us and first thing the next morning, we’re off to Phnom Penh.

It took us around 6-7 hours to reach the capital of Cambodia. Google said it’s five. I don’t really remember exactly how long it was. In fact, I want to forget how horrible it was. We took a van instead of a bus because it’s faster and cheaper. After picking us up in our hotel, we were transferred to an old Ford E150. I told the guy from the hotel that we wanted to take the front seat or somewhere in front. He guaranteed but it wasn’t the case when they began loading passengers. We were advised to sit at the back.

The air con wasn’t working well or rather wasn’t working at all. Good thing I had an envelope with documents that I used to fan ourselves. We didn’t talk. Probably, everyone was thinking how horrible the trip was. The road was okay, at first, until we hit a part where I wasn’t sure if it’s rough road or concrete covered with thick dust. We couldn’t even see the road. Worse, dust was coming into the car. Then, I knew why the movie I was watching on my phone was getting unclear.

During one of our stops, my new friend expressed her disgust towards the trip but she tried her best to make everything appear okay. I felt so sorry for the three of us, especially her. I dragged her into that.

Finally, darkness fell and we were able to get to Phnom Penh alive but dirty. We hired a tuktuk at the terminal going to our hotel. The next day, we’re ready to explore the capital. There’s no choice but to hire tuktuks. US dollar still speaks here, so don’t bother exchanging your money.

There were only six places on my list to see. Perhaps, a day of exploring is enough. First we went to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former high school turned into Security Prison 21 where 20,000 prisoners were tortured and killed. We hired a guide and gave a tip after the tour. Entrance fee was $3 and operating time is from 8 am-5 pm. The condition of the prisoners there was horrible. I couldn’t imagine how it was like to live during those times in Cambodia. Now, it’s teeming with tourists interested to see and know the history of the place.

The gallows
One of the few buildings of Prison 21




Next up was the Killing Fields. It was at Choeung Ek. We passed by concrete and dusty roads. Entrance fee was $6 and operating time is from 7:30 am-5:30 pm. Rental of an audio guide was already included. We used it to figure our way around the fields. There were places where bodies were dumped and covered and when it rains, fragments of bones, teeth and pieces of cloth surface. There was this tree where babies’ heads were bashed into. It was such an emotional travel experience. Millions of people suffered from torture, forced labor or were brutally killed. Twenty thousand people were buried here, some coming from the Genocide Museum. Near the entrance and the last stop was the Skull Museum, where actual skulls of victims were displayed.

When you look closer, you will see fragments of cloth partially buried, some teeth too.
This is the tree where babies were killed.Visitors leave colored wristbands to hang here.



The exterior of the museum
Inside, you will find four glass walls, all displaying victims’ skulls segregated by age and marked with colors to identify male and female. Some skulls have holes or cracks-proof of their brutal end.


We had lunch just outside the Killing Fields then took the same tuktuk to go back. I skipped the next four due to poor reviews and chose to stay in my room after lunch. However, I was invited for coffee so we wandered around the streets of Phnom Penh, went to a marketplace then looked for a place to hang out. We didn’t find any decent coffee shop so we settled in a tea shop and ordered milk tea with tapioca.

We left Phnom Penh the next day heading to Ho Chi Minh. My friend traveled back to Bangkok. It was nice meeting her.


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