A Travellerspoint blog

Phnom Penh

Cambodia

all seasons in one day
View Francis & Edward, Taste of the World on edcastano's travel map.

A warm welcome

We had a very pleasant arrival to Phnom Penh. Jimmy, our tuk-tuk driver from Siem Reap, referred us another tuk-tuk driver in Phnom Penh, Sinal. Sinal greeted us at the airport with a sign that read "Welcome Edward and Francis". It was a great start, in a city with a bad reputation.

Legacy of death and poverty

For us, no city has evoked the combined feelings of hope and despair like Phnom Penh did. The majority of the residents live in poverty, evident from the number of people sleeping in the street and large amounts of trash seen everywhere. This is the legacy of the Khmer Rouge, a regime that killed 1-2 million Cambodians from 1975-79 in the spirit of "social equality". Their primary goal was to kill all rich or educated citizens, to emulate China's Cultural Revolution in an accelerated fashion. However, they were not very discerning in their brutal assault of their own people and killed anyone they saw fit. Sinal's own dad was murdered during the bloody regime. He was a school teacher and was targeted for death because he owned a fancy Vespa scooter.

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Our first stop in Phnom Penh was Toul Sleng, a high school that was converted into a prison. All prisoners were photographed and interrogated in the torture chambers before being sent to the killing fields. The pictures of the victims (men, women and children) were a sad reminder of the reality of countless lives lost. It also reminded us of the many times that world has stood on the sidelines as genocide raged (The Holocaust, Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, Rwanda) and today, Darfur.

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The Choeung Ek memorial at the killing fields is a Buddhist stupa containing the skulls of 5,000 victims.
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After visiting the killing fields we went to the market to buy a 50 kg sack of rice to donate to the Lighthouse Orphanage. Edward played a game of soccer with the boys while Francis socialized with the girls. Edward's knees were throbbing for the next few days, but it was worth it. You'd think a 50 kg sack of rice would feed the orphanage for a year, but in reality, with 70 kids and a staff of 10, each eating rice 3 times daily, 50 kg of rice only lasts one day.

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We went to Sinal's home for dinner, which was near the orphanage. His neighbors were very welcoming and the food was the best we've had in a long time. We learned about his family history and shared our perspectives as a monsoon storm thundered above the thatched roof of his home. While our time in Cambodia was short, we enjoyed it very much. If you are interested in hiring Sinal during your visit to Phom Penh, send me a message via Travellerspoint, and I will gladly send you his contact information. IMG_3490.jpgIMG_3483.jpg

Posted by edcastano 03:03 Archived in Cambodia

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