Tonight, I want to immerse myself in my travel memories and come and tell the last stage of my trip to Cambodia six years ago: spending a few days in the capital, Phnom Penh.
The very first visit I made in Phnom Penh was the Genocide Museum, the former S-21 prison. You will understand that I did not take any photos of this school transformed into a prison, a place of torture, a place of death. I remember the feeling of horror that never left me, and that after finishing the visit, I sat on a bench for a long time, with my notebook.
So, right after, I wanted to go to the Russian Market. But the crowd, the noise, the smells, the colours, I think it was too much all of a sudden after the queasiness of the morning.
The evening was calmer, on a rooftop.
The next day, I went to the National Museum of Cambodia. There are mainly statues, but also a lot of explanations about the history of the Khmer Empire and a nice garden.
I run into one of my hostel roommates from Siem Reap by chance: we decide to go to the Killing Fields together the next day. And finally, Phnom Penh is a bit of a village in its own way: in the morning, I had looked for travel companions on Couchsurfing. I was chatting with a British girl, but we couldn’t finish agreeing on a meeting before I had to leave (in 2021 as in 2015, I’m traveling without an international phone plan).
And finally, I found her completely by chance in the café in front of the museum! (I loved that there was wifi everywhere in Phnom Penh). We spent the afternoon together, walking and going from market to market. I have good memories of it.
My visit to the Killing Fields the next day would not fall into the category of good memories. The site is a little outside the city (so you have to take a tuktuk). It was here that between 1975 and 1979, more than a million Cambodians were killed and buried.
The turn is very solemn. Audioguide glued to the ears, we try to walk the steps and feel the journey of all those who died – it’s chilling. A stupa collects some skulls, but finally, we walk on a huge mass grave. The tree especially left me a painful memory.
I know that visiting this kind of places is absolutely depressing, but in my eyes it is a necessity, it’s the duty of memory. Even if the facts are far away, geographically or temporally speaking, it is important to see and reflect on them. That’s why I went to Auschwitz during my stay in Krakow, that’s why you have to visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.
My very last visit to Phnom Penh was to the Royal Palace. I was a little annoyed to give six dollars to the royal family but I wanted to see with my own eyes what it was all about. The water is flowing, the garden is lush, it was ethically questionable.
6 years later, I can close the Cambodian chapter on the blog. Phnom Penh was my last stop before flying to Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur and Malacca). Thanks to the me of six years ago for taking such detailed notes in her travel diary…
When are we leaving to open a new notebook?