Not going to lie, I wasn't too excited about going to Phnom Penh after freaking myself out and reading horror stories from other people about their experiences in the city. But after three days, I ended up really liking the city. I think I mostly liked the city because of the great Airbnb that I stayed at. I decided to stay with a local family and it was amazing! I fell a little bit under the weather and the host made sure I he everything I needed to be comfortable.
Before coming, the Airbnb host from HCMC told me that the country is still slowly coming back from the Cambodian Genocide and that Phnom Penh is quite depressing. While I agree with that statement, I think the Cambodian people are very friendly even though this terrible event happened nearly 35 years ago.
Arriving in Phnom Penh and finding the Airbnb was easier than I thought it would be. My host, Long, was such a sweet guy and an amazing host. The Airbnb is further away from the backpacker area so got more of a local feel for this city. The first day I just walked around the Russian Market and explored the neighborhood.
On the second day, we took a tuk tuk around Phnom Penh and all the touristy locations. We visited the Central Market, the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, Independence Monument, and National Museum. The Central Market was huge and had an array of goods from shirts to jewelry to electronics. This is where I picked up three gorgeous bracelets. When we got to the Royal Palace we had to cover up and look decent. The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda are absolutely gorgeous with bright colors and the landscaping of it all was just pristine. It's great that this extravagant building was left untouched during the Khmer Rogue period.
While my first two days were fun and happy, my last day was a bit on the somber side. You can't avoid the S-21 Prison and the Killing Fields when you visit Phnom Penh. The genocide of the Cambodian people has greatly affected the country and still progressing today. I first went to the S-21 Prison where I spent two hours going through the prison and listening to my audio guide. The audio guide explains each of the four buildings in the prison while having actual survivors, loved ones of victims, and Khmer Rogues give anecdotes. By the end of the audio book, I felt drained but was overjoyed when I got to meet one of the known seven survivors, Chum Mey. He is such a sweetheart and I admire how he comes to the exact place where he was tortured every day. Finally, I took a tuk tuk out of the city to visit the Killing Field, Choeung Ek. It is unfortunately one of many killing fields in Cambodia. Once again, there is an audio guide that tells you what happened in each part of the field. It is extremely sad at the end as well when you see the huge building with the skulls found.
As sad as the S-21 Prison and Killing Fields are, it's important to learn about history. What amazes me is that this genocide happened only 35 years ago so every person you meet in Cambodia has at least one connection to the genocide. Yet, the Cambodian people are still so friendly and kind. The country is still progressing but the people are truly amazing.
Just traveling the world and sharing my adventures and experiences.
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