Cambodia was possibly one of the most confronting, fascinating and sad countries I’ve ever visited. It’s very much a country that’s still rebuilding after the atrocities that occurred under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s and in Cambodia you get a real sense of the struggle to rebuild a country after war.
Our first stop in Cambodia was to Phnom Penh, home of the infamous killing fields and S21 prison. Nothing can really prepare you for actually visiting the site where these acts took place. In fact, this happened so recently that in some parts of the fields bones are still coming up through the ground. You can still see pieces of clothing that were buried underground emerging slowly in the rainy season. No-one knows the exact number but it is estimated that between one and three million Cambodians were killed in the Killing Fields at Phnom Penh.
After walking through the Killing Fields and hearing the story of our local guide, who had family members that were forced to join the Khmer Rouge, we headed to S21 prison where thousands of people were imprisoned and tortured for refusing to join the Khmer Rouge. One of the displays here that will always stay in my mind is the photos taken of people straight before they were executed. On some of the faces you can see the fear of the unknown, they had no idea what was about to happen to them.
The next day we headed off to Siem Reap, our second stop in Cambodia. After the heavy day in Phnom Penh we were looking forward to a more relaxed afternoon in Siem Reap, followed by a circus performance in the evening! The acrobatics and stories in the performance were absolutely incredible, and we had the best time watching the acrobats throw themselves around the room.
Everyone went to bed early that evening because we had to get up at 4.30am for our next day of sightseeing at Angkor Wat. After the ridiculously early start, we made it to the temples in time to watch what would have been a spectacular sunrise if it wasn’t cloudy….
I have to say though, despite the clouds it was still 100% worth it to get up early and see the temples in the morning. It’s incredible how perfectly preserved the buildings are and you can see the jungle attempting to reclaim the buildings at every corner.
After watching the sunrise we had a quick tour of the main temple and then headed back to the hotel for some chill time. In the afternoon we went back to the temples to see Angkor Thom with the famous faces in the rock, and then finally to see Ta Prohm Temple where parts of Tomb Raider were filmed.
That night we had to say goodbye to the half of our group that were only doing the first part of the trip, and we did so in style with an I ❤ Cambodia party on the infamous Pub Street. It was a great night although sad to say goodbye to the 13 amazing people that were heading home.
tl;dr: went and saw the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat near Siem Reap. If you don’t know what the Killing Fields are, go and do a google search.