I landed in Phnom Penh on a very hot day! Luckily I’d heavily researched online how to get around the city but more importantly I’d looked into how to get from the airport to the centre. Thanks to Takumi and his article The Cheapest way to get from Phnom Penh airport to the city, I knew how to get to my hostel by bus.
Tuk-tuk! You want tuk-tuk?! Tuk–tuk!!!
En route from the airport to the road, I had to walk across the car park and headed straight to where the Maps.me app said there was a bus stop. This was behind a small train station — not recommended to use — that had large glass doors on the airport side and solid glass panels on the roadside. It was here that I could see the awaiting tuk–tuk drivers and as soon as they saw me they were all against the glass trying to get my attention, one particular driver following my direction until he could try to voice his wares. It was all so desperate but unlike India, a simple ‘no thanks’ was accepted but with a loss of verve that I could only assume to be that business was very slow!
Eventually I made it to my hostel without hassle — apart from a short stop where a cafe altered their food prices once I’d ordered so I put a quick end to that BS! — and I took a look round to get my bearings.
Phnom Penh is a busy place but not as I’d expect a normal capital city to be, it felt slightly quiet compared to most! During my time there I got to see the enormous Mekong river for the first time, pick up a pair of fake Apple AirPods which work surprisingly so far, and get a general feel for the different areas of the city.
I also had to get used to handling two different currencies; US Dollar and Cambodian Riel, the former used for larger amounts.
It took quite a while to become accustomed to using both as Riel was used for most things below a dollar or most of the market stalls would price in Riel. Luckily R4000 equalled $1, so quarters of a dollar we’re easy … until an item was $1.60 or another figure outside of my brains capacity to calculate and then it was time for much debate.
Oh god what now?!
I had my second experience where I met a fellow traveller who turned out to be a bit of a drag. At first, Dave as I’ll call him, seemed like a cool guy, he was a young fella from the US teaching English in China and was taking 3 weeks holiday travelling through parts of Asia. We both hung out for a couple of days but it wasn’t long before I realised he had severe trust issues with his girlfriend. To cut to the chase, I don’t mind giving advice but it’s at the fifth repetition and the hundredth time of enduring a moaning session about the same subject that I decided to see the city by myself.
S–21 No.1 Prison for the Khmer Rouge.
Before I realised Dave’s severe victim mindset, we both stumbled across a real place of victims:
Above is the only picture I took as it’s outside. I didn’t take others inside out of respect — to me it didn’t feel right.
S–21 was only 200m down the road from the hostel and as much as I’d tried to avoid the Killing Fields tour and such, I agreed to go on a whim.
Such a bad choice of customer photo! 🥴
Ohhhhhh my dear lord! What I saw is beyond description. More than twice was I brought almost to tears. I only saw three of the ‘interrogation’ rooms as I’d seen enough! Each held the original metal grille bed frame and one single photograph. The photo was of how the returning forces found the room still with its prisoner bound to the bed. The images were horrific and I cannot imagine the pain they suffered at the hands of what I can only describe as pure evil and hate.
Moving into the other areas of the converted school buildings were more torture areas and cells for holding the constant flow of ‘adversaries’ to an extremely paranoid force. The KR obviously enjoyed making people suffer, even putting barbwire across balconies to stop prisoners with any ideas of suicide!
I saw many somber visitors, one French guy consoling his partner on a bench, open mouths of disbelief on many others, myself included.
A moment for thought.
This may sound odd, but I’m glad I went! Witnessing only a little of what happened in those terrible buildings made me question not only the world around me but also myself introspectively. My thoughts veered to be even more mindful of my thoughts, and that anger and hatred could so easily consume us if allowed to fester.
“I have fake AirPods! You want JBL speaker? How about new GoPro? It has waterproof case see!”
The market in the city is huge! It’s also good for light shopping unless you’re a tech nerd like me! I’d read a lot about fake Apple AirPods online and they didn’t sound a bad deal. So as I was looking for a few cheap colourful shirts — thanks Anna! — I ventured into the electronics section of the market. Wow! There was almost everything at really discounted prices which upon haggling were even more of a discount! But of course this was the world of fake and among the junk were some real nuggets that I simply had to ignore once I’d made my purchase…
Bose Bluetooth speaker anyone? How about a pocket stun gun to accompany your music? Or maybe a combat flashlight capable of blinding its user, but what the hell, at least my ears won’t be tangled in wire and that Leftfield track will sound good on the bus. 😉