Phnom Penh, Cambodia:
Our last stop within Cambodia was its capital, Phnom Penh. With about 1.5 million inhabitants, the city was the complete opposite to the little villages we visited in the neighbourhood of Battambang. But even within its boundaries contrasts are stark! On the one hand there are the magnificent palaces glittering in gold and silver – and on the other there are the haunting monuments reminding the visitor of the bloody history of the Khmer Rouge. The communists ruled Cambodia only for four years (1975-1979), but managed to kill around two million of their fellow countrymen! Places to learn about this time include the Tuol Sleng Museum. This former high school was used as a security prison by Pol Pot’s regime and witnessed the torture and death of thousands of victims. Many prisoners were brought to the nearby Killing Fields of Choeung Ek where approximately 17,000 people were executed and buried in mass graves!
In contrast, a visit to the splendid Royal Palace is much more enjoyable! Especially the famous Silver Pagoda inside the palace grounds is worth a visit as it enshrines several exquisite Buddha statues. Other sights within Phnom Penh include the National Museum with its collection of ancient sculptures, Wat Phnom on the city’s highest point, and the lively Central Market. In any case, it is already an adventure to just stroll down the streets of this city spread along the shores of the mighty Mekong River.
Our original plan was to head north and travel through Laos towards northern Thailand. However, time flew by and hence we decided to backtrack and reach our next destination via Bangkok.