Tag Archives: Phnom Penh

Travel Diaries: The Killing Fields, Cambodia

The Killing Fields is located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh at the Choeung Ek, Dangkor District.

Tips:

  • The trip to the Killing Fields IS BEST done when coupled with the trip to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. It’s just incomplete if you forego either.
  • Hire a tuktuk to take you to the Killing Fields first; let him wait for you; then let him take you to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum next.

The 17-tier Memorial Stupa at Choeung Ek

Looking at the skulls and clothes of those thousands of innocents tortured mindlessly during the Khmer Rouge regime left me teary-eyed. Their barbaric and evil regime from 1975-1979 left approximately 2 million deaths; not only of Cambodians, but other nationalities from Australia, USA, New Zealand and Canada as well who they think poses a threat (because of their education or status) to their twisted, unspeakably evil reign.

These are depictions of how children are brutally treated during the Khmer Rouge regime.

It’s almost unthinkable how these men can be so heartless and downright cold-blooded that they can smash babies onto a tree then throw them like a piece of waste in huge mass graves. And all these brutalities were executed in the name of social engineering; the Khmer Rouge detests the urban and rural elites and so they thought of “cleansing” the system for equality.

Photos of victims are taken at the Tuol Sleng Prison (S-21) and then some of them are brought to the Killing Fields for execution.

 

This mass grave was exhumed and 166 headless victims were found.

Reading on Cambodian history especially their torturous years in the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime left me loving the life that I have now. I could’ve been born in Cambodia that time but I wasn’t and that alone makes me entirely grateful to this life, which may not be great all the time but at least makes me hopeful that there is a shred of goodness in every one.

If you like to read more about Cambodian history, go to this link.

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Travel Diaries: Touristy Things to Do in Phnom Penh

(I have drafted this for ages already and thought to make some edits just to keep my sanity from all the nasty work stuff that’s hounding me for the past weeks).

Off to the real thing. You can actually go to these places in one day because they are pretty much close to each other. And again, have the convenience of hiring a tuktuk for the day (rate is $15 last April). Not only will you experience their culture, it will also save you money since cab day rate is double. 😉

Central Market

Phsar Thom Thmei, more popularly known as Central Market, was built in 1937 under the French rule. The market is open from 7AM to 5PM and houses a variety of dry and wet stalls selling food, flowers, shirts, luggage, knickknacks, gold, silver, antiques and exotic food.

Photo courtesy of B.Carlos

But the best thing about Central Market is that they the friendliest merchants EVER (well at least the stalls we went to). You would want to buy everything from their stalls just because they are so pleasant. They will even offer you a seat while they get new stocks for you and bag your purchases.

Wat Phnom

This wat is set on a hill and boasts of having the largest clock in Cambodia; and loitering monkeys is a common sight too. Check the next photo below this one ok? Don’t get confused. 😉

 

National Museum

It houses antique pieces dating from the 4th century. Entrance Fee is just $3 and an extra dollar if you like to take photos. It’s open from 8:00AM-11:30, 2:00-5:30PM.

At the entrance of the National Museum

Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda

This complex reminded me of Bangkok’s Grand Palace; it’s much smaller, though. It’s open from 8:00AM-11:00, 2:00-5:00PM. Entrance fee is $3 for both the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda; as these are just adjacent to each other.

Wear long pants/skirt and shirts with sleeves just to be hassle-free. You will be refused to enter the premises even if you have a shawl with you but you’re wearing tank top underneath. 

One of the temples inside the Royal Palace complex. Photo courtesy of I.Chua

The Silver Pagoda

Where to Eat

Khmer Saravan

They serve a fusion of dishes so you can’t go wrong here. They decorated their walls with dedications from their clients hailing from different parts of the world and dined in their humble resto.

Tonle Bassac Buffet Restaurant

Their buffet costs $12 and there are a lot of dishes to choose from but I’m a bit disappointed because they have very limited selection for their dessert. Poor sweet-tooth me.

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Travel Diaries: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We left the comforts of our hotel in Saigon and endured the six-hour bus ride to Phnom Penh. Little did I know that this side trip will turn out to be one of the best trips I’ve had. It exposed me to a whole new level of awareness and appreciation for history and utmost gratefulness for the life I have lived so far. Mushy but it really did. You will understand this once you’ve visited the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

Tips:

  • It’s fairly common for tourists to do side trips from Saigon to Cambodia. Ask the hotel lobby where you’re staying if they have arrangements with bus companies before heading out on your own to look for travel agencies. The rate is usually $12.
  • Prepare yourself that you may have a co-passenger from hell (like we did). Loud, rude and uncivilized like this one.
  • DO NOT forget to bring your passport. You will need this when you reach Bavet, the border between Svay Rieng, Cambodia and Moc Bai, Vietnam. ONLY citizens of ASEAN countries do not require a visa (except for Singaporean and Indonesian nationals); the rest, check this link for details.

So, here is what to expect during the six-hour travel.

  • Present your bus ticket and check-in your bags.
  • The bus attendant will distribute bottled water and wet towels.
  • He will collect all the passports and accomplish the immigration card for you. It will take around 2.5 hours to reach Bavet.
  • At the border, unload all personal possessions for scanning at the immigration. When you reach the immigration, be prepared to wait (and sweat) for around 30 minutes and listen WELL for your name to be called (their accent will make it hard for you to recognize your name), then proceed to the immigration counter.
  • Reload all your bags again at the bus and next stopover will be at another hole-in-the-wall resto for food and comfort stop.
  • After less than 1.5 hours, you will reach the Mekong River Crossing point. The bus will wait for its turn to board the ferry; takes around 20-30 minutes to board but crossing will take less than 10 minutes. This gave me time to people-watch while waiting. 

  • You’re on land again and two more hours later, and you’ll reach Phnom Penh… finally!
  • At the Phnom Penh terminal, hire a tuktuk to reach your hotel. The going rate is usually $3-4.

Two days in this place is simply inadequate… bitin talga. The people and the places are just amazing. Based on my experience, Cambodians are our stiffest rival in the hospitality department. Not a single bad experience for us here.

To maximize our short stay, the hotel receptionist advised us to hire a tuktuk for the entire day (will cost you around $15) to save us from the hassle of waiting and haggling. We were so lucky to have Mr. Suy as our tuktuk driver because he’s very pleasant, never late, never complained and even took care of our itinerary for the next two days.

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