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Day 2 Phnom Penh - Genocide Museum to the Art Gallery

Buffet breakfast in the hotel before an 8.15 pick up for the day's adventures. The view from the restaurant was really good.

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The first stop was the Genocide Museum. This is in a former school which was turned into a prison by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. Political prisoners, people who disagreed with the regime, people with any education or skills were sent to the prison and tortured until they made a confession which satisfied their captors before being taken to the killing fields for execution. Our guide told us that around 17,000 people are believed to have been imprisoned and subsequently executed here, among them probably his own brother and uncle. Some of the exhibits are photos taken of prisoners, including some after their deaths, to be added to the person's file. We also met and listened to a 93 year old survivor (one of the few left) talk about his experiences.

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Following this visit, we paid a short visit to the Russian market. We picked out some items to buy we return to Phnom Penh before flying home. The markets are very crowded and hot. There's a section full of things for tourists but also parts of the market which are clearly used by the local people for their shopping. One long corridor running the full length of the market had stalls for tools both sides. Except for the heat it was quite pleasant to wander around and look at the stalls. The sellers were not at all aggressive as they are in some places. There was so much to see I forgot to take photos but will try to take some when we go back to shop.

Our next stop was the Killing Field. This is a difficult place to visit and very hard to write about. There is an atmosphere here - probably because you know about all the awful things that were done here but maybe not. Maybe so much pain and suffering leaves a mark on a place. The mass murder of Cambodians by their own government was a part of my late teenage years so I thought I knew about this but the details were so much worse. Eight or nine thousand skulls have been found and are kept on display in a shrine near the entrance and lots of excavations have been done at the site but more bones come to the surface when it rains. It's estimated there could have been 17,000 people killed at this site and there were 500 killing fields throughout Cambodia though this is the largest. It's believed approximately 1.7 million people died between 1875 and 1979 though the number varies depending on whose figures you believe.

After the tour of the site we had lunch in a nearby restaurant and then headed back to Phnom Penh to visit tge King's Palace. Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy and the King has no official power but is respected and revered and probably has a lot of influence. The Palace is not really one building but a complex of buildings, including on housing the throne room and the Silve Pagoda. The Throne Room is beautiful but we were only allowed to look in not enter and photos of the interior are strictly forbidden. And there's guards who will sternly remind you of this if they see you hold up a camera or phone. The ceiling is completely covered in paintings, ther are huge crystal chandeliers from France and a carpet made specially to match the tiled on the verandah running around the building. The gardens are lovely and there are many other stunning buildings in the complex.

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Unfortunately it's wet season in Cambodia so it rains most afternoons for an hour or so. Our guide thought he had timed the rain so that we would be inside the National Museum when it started but it came earlier and caught us out in the open in the King's Palace complex. The rain was torrential and we were all soaked within minutes. Raincoats made very little difference though I managed to keep my phone and camera dry. Luckily it's hot so even though we were very wet we weren't really cold.

Because of the rain we didn't spend quite as much time looking at tge buildings as we might have done but the visit was still worthwhile and the whole experience was a good antidote to the sadness if tge morning.

Our last stop for the day was the National Museum where there was a collection of statues from different ereas of Cambodian history. We had a very knowledgeable Museum guide but not much time so he spoke very fast. Many of the statues were wonderful and the collection is housed in a marvellous building.

We returned to our hotel very damp, though we had dried out a bit. After changing we walked to a local restaurant serving Khmer food, recommended by our guide. We both had rice dishes with chicken, Laurence had a beer and I had a passionfruit smoothie which was excellent but potentially dangerous since I have no idea where the ice came from. A drink and a chat with another couple on our tour in the bar of the hotel finished off our day.

Most of my photos from this day are on my camera and I'm having trouble uploading to the phone. Check back in a day or two, might be able to do it then.

Posted by Gone Travelling 01:03

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Comments

Amazing Narelle, what an incredible day! Brings back memories!

by Sean Anderson

How amazing to be able to speak to a survivor although very sad at the same time. An experience I’m sure will last a life time. Can’t wait to hear more about your travels!

by Tara

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