Friday, 18 February 2011
Past and present
Our visit to Phnom Penh fell in the middle of the holiday. We knew that this would coincide with us finding out a whole lot more about the country, its people, and its violent past. This is where the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is based, and from where you can visit one of the country's most famous killing fields. To say it was chilling is an understatement. I feel that words can only inadequately describe the feelings you experience when you visit one of these places. I have never been to any of the concentration camps in Central Europe, but I can only imagine it must feel similar. With the exception that here, the atrocities happened only a few decades ago. It felt even more strange for me because the museum is based in a former school which was used by the Khmer Rouge as a prison and torture centre. The school was built by the French and yes, my primary school looked rather similar... I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it.
Of course, there was more to Phnom Penh than that. But these thoughts stayed with us for the rest of the holiday and we definitely had a different outlook on Cambodia's people after that. We were struck by their friendliness, their smiles, their general joie-de-vivre. And seeing monks walk around the streets freely felt right, just right, especially after realising that none of them would have been allowed to practice under Democratic Kampuchea...
I have rather mixed feelings about the city. It was a nice stop, but I much preferred other parts of the country. It was an instructive stop, but a very noisy and busy one. I'm not sure I'm a capital city kind of girl!! The Royal Palace, where the king and his family live, and the Silver Pagoda were quite a disappointment. Access to gardens was restricted, and the entrance fee was rather high for what you saw. I wouldn't recommend anyone bothers to go there. Nonetheless, I managed to get a few nice photos in the few areas where I was indeed allowed to take photos.
My favourite place might have been Kampot, on the south western coast, but that's a whole other post in itself! Hope you have a lovely Friday, the weekend starts tonight after all!!!!!!!!!!! Hooray!!!!!!!