Welcome to Phnom Penh. Don’t Die.
Leaving LAX at 2am was maybe the smartest thing Meg and I could’ve done for ourselves. When we landed in Taiwan, it was 6 am. It felt like we had a normal nights sleep. Our flight to Phnom Penh was scheduled to depart at 7:30, so that allowed more sleeping time, making me feel even more awake and ready when we landed.
I didn’t have any trouble with getting my visas or my bags and the people from our program were ready and waiting for us.
Our transportation to our hotel (and the rest of our Cambodia experience I believe) is on Tuk Tuks! I wanted to take a billion photos but apparently they have a problem with people snatching cell phones.
The ride was unbelievable. Unbelievable because I could see EVERYTHING. I could touch and talk to everyone around me. Loved it. It was also unbelievable because Cambodia doesn’t seem to have rules or regulations about the way they drive, the direction they drive, how close they can be from one another and how many people in vehicle/bike/Vespa/scooter. It was insane.
Smith our driver offered to take us to a shooting range and the killing fields after we had time to unpack and shower (a shower was so necessary, I was ew). Thankfully, my room was next door to Megan and another girl on my program so it wasn’t too lonely.
When Smith took us to the shooting range, it wasn’t what I expected or anticipated at all. Pretty much, we went to some sketch, empty living area of town to a warehouse place with men in military style clothing with military style weapons hanging on the wall. I would’ve taken a photo but they had NO PHOTO plastered in every corner of the building. It wasn’t a shooting range. It was pretty much a place that had access to these weapons, hand grenades, m17s, rocket launcher (seriously) and other weapons you find in Iraq rn. Seems kind of cool? To throw a grenade it was $100. To launch the rocket launcher, $150, to shoot a round of 100 bullets of the m17, $200. I’m not sure what smith thought or assumed we were into, but I never had plans to drop that kind of money to shoot a weapon I can’t control. Plus that little girl in Nevada killed her instructor on accident, wtf. On top of that we were going to THE KILLING FIELDS. A bit insensitive, no?
No one in our group wanted to participate so we hopped back in our respective Tuk Tuks and headed to the killing fields.
For those who don’t know what the killing fields are (I didn’t know either) it’s a site where large numbers of Cambodians were murdered and buried during the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975-1979 (recent!!!!). For a longer and more descriptive description, click here.
Unfortunately, most of the building and actual items from the genocide was torn down or taken after it ended, so most of what they had are markings of where different buildings stood and marked off areas of some of the mass graves.
A few stops to note were the ‘chemical substances storage room,’ the ‘killing tools storage room,’ and ‘the killing tree,’ and finally the ‘memorial stupa.’
The chemical substance room is where they stored the chemicals that they used to mask the smell of the dead bodies or to kill victims that had not initially died in the attack.
The killing storage room is where they kept the everyday tools that they used to kill the victims. They used these tools instead of guns because they did not want the people surrounding the camp to know what was going on inside.
The memorial stupa was by far my most favorite of the fields. It was a concrete building with 17 levels of recovered skulls from the genocide.
Here are a few photos from the Fields:
After the fields, some of the people in our group wanted to grab a bite to eat, so they ate at a local cafe while others drank beer, water and just chilled.
Not long after the little children from around the area came into the cafe and starting dancing….quite seductively if I may say so. My mom would have yanked my hair out of my head if I was caught dancing like that at their age. But it was still funny nonetheless:
The program set up an opening night karaoke, get together so you can meet the staff and everyone in the program….. $1 tequila shots. I felt like it was a test. I had a few shots and a few beers, but nothing too crazy. I was in bed by 11. I mean, I did have an exceptionally eventful long first day in Cambodia. (AND I’M LISTENING TO MY BODY/BECOMING MORE MATURE ZOMG!!!)
I’ve had quite the adventurous week — stay tuned!