We were advised to go by plane to Phnom Penh rather than risk getting ripped off on the Thai/Cambodian border which is known for being one of the most corrupt in South East Asia.
Upon arrival we cleared customs and immigration quickly and changed some Thai Baht for USD (the de facto currency along with the Cambodia Real) and picked up SIM cards with data for $3 each.
Next up was a taxi into the city, which of course being Cambodia was nowhere to be seen. After a wait we were told our taxis would be $12 into the city, where we were taken to various hotels in the City.
Cambodia really shows its French colonial heritage in the capital. Even considering that the city was all but wiped out in 3 years, its returned to much of its pre Khmer Rouge cosmopolitanism in the CBD, with wide scale investment from around the world (I spotted an ANZ bank on Russian Boulevard).
Our Hotels cost $30 for a clean room with double bed, hot water and ensuite, which was walking distance to the riverside area. Our dinners in the city were cheap and tasty, with a decent selection of beer and some of the best beef I’ve had in South East Asia (try finding beef in Thailand!).
After dinner we went to #11Happy Hostel for some beers and met up with the owner Jasper who was able to arrange an English speaking Tuk Tuk driver for the day at $15 who would be our guide for the S21 Museum and the Killing Fields.
The Museum reminded me a lot of previous visits to places such as the Tunnels in Sarajevo and Dachau in Germany. We paid approximately $6 USD for a tour guide who unfortunately didn’t speak clear english, but it still seemed worth it after the horrors that she must have experienced in her youth. The museum is full of photos of the regime and exhibits that were used for torture and holding Cambodians against their will.
After this we loaded back into the Tuk Tuk and ventured to the outskirts of the capital for the Killing Fields. These were not what I expected, but were still a deeply moving experience. Most of the fields are a park (and former Chinese cemetery) where the bones have been moved into the memorial in the centre. That said you still see fragments of bones, teeth and clothing in certain areas after heavy rain. The stories on the virtual tour guide were interesting and very moving, especially when you see landline victims on the outskirts of the memorial begging.
We returned to the #11Happy Hostel for some much needed refreshments, and ventured down to the waterfront for dinner. As per the night before we were not disappointed, with some amazing food available at great prices before boarding our bus for the next step of our journey.