on November 14, 2011
Cambodia is known as the Land of Smiles, and I've seen this for myself. However, beyond the smiles, lies a dark past, which was brought about by a group called the Khmer Rouge, which ended in one of the largest genocides to ever take place on earth. My friend Kat and I, wanted to visit Choeung Ek, also known as the Killing Fields during our stay in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The site was located approximately 10-15 minutes outside of the main city centre, which meant that we needed to hire a tuk tuk for the journey. As usual, there were are few drivers lingering around in the vicinity of our guesthouse and after a small negotiation, we paid US $10 for a return trip for the both of us.The journey was enjoyable, aside from a few bumpy spots along the main road. The roadside scenery was interesting, helping the time to fly by and before we knew it, we had arrived at the entrance gate to the Killing Fields. We arranged a spot to meet up with our driver after we were done, and we approached the ticket booth. We paid $3 each and began our independent tour of the area.There was a main path which visitors followed along, and on the way, there were different trees and objects which had signs explaining the significance of each. It honestly didn't take very long for the horror to set in. There were hollows in the ground and signs depicting that they were mass grave sites, warning visitors not to walk in the vicinity. The numbers of bodies which were buried in each hollow was staggering, and definitely made our hearts heavy.We then started to pass several clear containers which held a large number of bones, collected during an excavation in 1980 (only 8 years before I was born!). I think that it was at this point when I really started to understand exactly how recent this tragedy took place, and how massive the genocide really was. As we continued, our pace got noticeably slower as we feared what the following signs would tell us. We were right to be apprehensive, as a few seconds after, we felt chilled to the bone. We were standing before a massive tree which was apparently used to bludgeon toddlers and newborns. The sign informed us the the Khmer Rouge did this, to prevent the children from growing up and turning against them out of revenge. How could anyone do this?? We were beyond shocked and appalled at the blatant cruelty which was forced upon the people of Cambodia only a few years ago.A few feet away stood another receptacle, containing various pieces of clothing which were unearthed during floods and excavations. From shirts, to pants and shoes, they were piled into the container, and I tried to put myself into the position of the Khmer people. How would I be able to visit this site which could possibly held the remains and belongings of my own grandparents?? I wasn't sure I'd be able to.There was a massive building ahead, where we were told to remove our shoes and headwear before climbing the stairs. Inside, there was a large glass box containing thousands of skulls, belonging to the unfortunate victims of the Khmer Rouge. It was seriously painful to look at the reminders of the atrocity which unleashed on mankind during my lifetime. The final leg of our tour led us to the museum, where they had the entire genocide recorded. There were large posters inside, with the names and profiles of the heartless men who were respobsible for almost wiping out an entire nation. Also on display, were the different devices which were used to bind the victims, and other posters which gave vivid details on the different ways in which the captured individuals were killed.Needless to say, we were in tears when we left the Killing Fields. If anyone needs a reminder of exactly how much world peace is important, they only need to visit this site. It was an eye opening experience, and I definitely see the Khmer people of today as a strong people, and wish that their future be a very bright one.
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