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Cambodia Killing Fields
Cambodia Killing Fields
There are two places in Cambodia that any visitor must experience; the temples of Angkor Wat and The Killing Fields. These two now popular tourist 'attractions' illustrate the varied and turbulent past of Cambodia. From stunning beauty to heart renching horror, these two sites demand attention.
Following the popular route of most tourists will take you to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat, to then move south to the capital Phnom Penh. The city is a mismatch of modern, derelict and religious buildings. It has the typical frantic pace of any Southeast Asian city but sadly there are many reminders of the countries tragic past; scores of land mine victims line the streets and poverty is evident. However, it is a diverse city that does have hidden gems. The people are incredibly friendly, the food is strongly influenced by its Vietnamese and Thai neighbours, so usually yummy. One of the wonderful sites in Phnom Penh are the serene Buddhist monks in orange robes mingling in the market crowd. It is from Phnom Penh that you can visit the historical site of the Killing Fields.
Cambodia Killing Fields ; A Memorial
A visit to the Killing Fields can feel uncomfortable. Seeing first hand the evidence of mass murder isn't many people's idea of a fun holiday experience; but you don't visit the Killing Fields for fun; you visit to pay your respects, learn from past events and gain a deeper understanding of the Cambodian people and the countries history.
The Killing Fields, 9 miles outside of Phnom Penh is one of the deep scars left on Cambodia by Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge soldiers during the 1970's. About the size of a football field, surrounded by farmland, the ground is a mass grave containing about 20,000 Cambodian people, many beaten to death to save on precious ammunition. There are many local guides at the site that recall painful memories of the genocide whilst pointing out the horrific reminders of what happened here; scraps of clothing and bones protruding from the ground. Also at the centre of the the fields, a memorial containing hundreds of skulls, many pulled from the shallow grave.
Roaming the grass of the Killings Fields is intensely moving, the horror of the site is unimaginable, yet unmissable. Commendably the people of Cambodia have progressed from such tragedy, using the influx of tourists to these sites as a method of moving on from their past. They are completing an important mission; teaching other about the hard lessons they have learnt. Any tourist to Cambodia and the Killing Fields must realise that paying their respects here is a real privilege.
Sadly there are other reminders of Pol Pot around the country. Also near to Phnom Penh is another of the horrific sites that needs to be witnessed to be believed; Tuol Sleng Museum.
Tuol Sleng Museum; Phnom Penh
Once a normal school building the Tuol Sleng museum possesses the same power as the Killing Fields. A visit to the Museum leaves you stunned to silence as you yet again witness horrific evidence of the horror and brutality of Cambodia's recent past.
During the reign of Pol Pot, Tuol Sleng school became a building for imprisonment and torture. A tour of the dark cells, blood stained rooms and iron bed stands alongside instruments of torture is something you will never forget. Even more intense, similar to the remnants of bone in the Killing Fields, the staring eyes of the victims, captured in photographs taken on their arrest, is truly haunting.
Any visit to Cambodia is not like a normal holiday experience. Even-though Cambodia has beautiful beach resorts, luxurious hotels and fine food, Cambodia has many more hidden depths. The depths though, are no longer that well hidden, as their history becomes more widely known. With a little knowledge of their recent past you can share in their grief and horror at what the country has experienced. From the walls of Angkor Wat to the grass of the Killing Fields, each place offers a unique and unmissable opportunity that you will remember forever.
If you enjoyed my article and would like to read more about Cambodia, see my article on the temples of Angkor Wat.