Replies: 25 - Last Post: Oct 11, 2012 8:16 AM Last Post By: hankor
Oct 6, 2012 3:39 PM
Oct 6, 2012 4:48 PM
Oct 6, 2012 9:38 PM
2Phnom Penh is a perfectly pleasant town, though I don't know if I'd go far out of my way to visit it. If you are there, it seems it would be almost disrespectful -- of the dead, of history, of something -- to skip S21 and Choeng Ek.
S21, a converted junior high school known locally as Tuol Sleng, "poison hill", was the political prison used by the Khmer Rouge to discipline their own. It's now a museum but all they've really done is post the thousands of photographs the KR took of the victims.
Choeng Ek is a killing field -- not the killing field, just one of 20,000 such sites that dot Cambodia. It's a beautiful place, there's a lake, sun-dappled meadows, birds twittering. If you didn't have the wireless headsets, you probably wouldn't notice that the tiny lizards scampering on the ground, perching on splinters of human bones or know that the birds are singing from trees whose barks is still scarred up from the KR method of executing any "enemy of Angka" younger than about six years old: swinging him by the legs and dashing his brains out against the nearest tree-trunk.
Obviously, this ain't a Full Moon Party, but I think a serious traveler does have an obligation to see it. If you cannot visit Choeng Ek, maybe you shouldn't visit Cambodia at all.
Oct 6, 2012 11:37 PM
3At Choeung Ek you can experience the closest to an Auschwitz standard of horror outside Europe. To walk ON the bones and clothing of the dead, the still air devoid of birdsong, to imagine what occurred in this place of natural beauty, is to query the humanity of Man.
I agree that following this visit with a speechless walk through the horrors of S-21, its photographs watching your every movement, makes for a day you will never forget.
Oct 7, 2012 4:29 AM
4I agree with everything that has been written - but please add on some time to wander around Phnom Penh (or visit another town) and look at how Cambodia has recovered from the horrors of the Khmer Rouge.
There is a risk that Cambodia will become a ghoulish tourist destination - and, while it's essential we are respectful of the history, we must also share in celebrating what a wonderful, vibrant, resilient people they are as they put their country back together again. So see the killing fields, and then sit by the river and raise a glass to all those who are rebuilding the place.
Oct 7, 2012 7:46 AM
5The sheer ugliness and appalling pointless brutality of the Khmer Rouge is impossible to comprehend. I found the experience of visiting those horrendous locations deeply moving - and the World did nothing (except eventually the Vietnamese).
It is also sad to note that some of those involved are still in positions of authority and the exploitation of the country continues .
Corruption is so high that the railway to Sihanoukville is almost abandoned even though financed from abroad and still the average Cambodians get on with living their lives - a lovely people.
On a practical level -
How about visas and re-entering Vietnam?
How are you arranging your flights ?- maybe best to transit BKK both ways.
It seems a bit daft though taking a coupladays to see these monuments to the one of the saddest events of the 20thC without spending a further coupladays to witness the Khmer's glorious past in Angkor Wat.
Oct 7, 2012 8:07 AM
Oct 7, 2012 9:33 AM
Oct 7, 2012 7:32 PM
8#3 interesting observation. I've gone to several former concentration camps in Germany and observed no bird activity in the area.
Oct 7, 2012 8:24 PM
9Like most responders, I think you would do yourself a disservice if you didn't go. If you are interested, we did this trip not too long ago and wrote about it here .
Oct 7, 2012 9:49 PM
the birds are singing from trees whose barks is still scarred up
To walk ON the bones and clothing of the dead, the still air devoid of birdsong
There certainly are birds singing around Choeng Ek killing field, especially at this time of year. There's a 10,000 hectare wetland right next to it.
Oct 8, 2012 4:23 PM
11I wouldn't make a side trip just to see the killing fields. PP is a cool town and worth a visit. But I wouldn't go out of my way for the Killing fields unless already in the area. I would make a side trip for Angkor though..
Oct 8, 2012 6:11 PM
If you're making a "side trip" for Angkor, where's your main trip?
Oct 9, 2012 3:00 AM
Oct 9, 2012 12:17 PM
"Those depressing places" being... Cambodia? There are more mass graves in Cambodia than there are high schools -- and a lot more people in them. The only thing worse than moping about the past, in this case, would be not moping about the past.
Look, I hate to characterize an entire country as genocide, child prostitution, and Angkor Wat, but that's much too close to the truth for comfort and I don't see the Khmer getting away from it any time soon.
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