Farewell trip pt1: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Before going back to the Philippines, my friend (Hi Kimmy! sorry for the late post, as usual) wanted to go on a trip outside Singapore and being an easy goer, she decided to tagged me along just like what happened last time in Taiwan^^ Of course, I will not refuse especially since I haven’t been in Cambodia and the air tickets were so cheap compared to normal rates that time.

We booked one way tickets from Silkair to fly to Phnom Penh from Singapore and Siem Reap back to Singapore for S$230 all-in via Expedia. Our trip was only 4 days 3 nights but, I can say we made most of our time especially in Siem Reap.

Our flight was very early so when we reached the hotel, Okay Boutique Hotel through booking.com and our stay was more than OK! We were lucky enough that early check-in was possible. We decided to sleep during the morning then walk around the area in the afternoon. We just looked for places to eat, and strolled around the plaza by the sea at night. We don’t really have concrete plans on what our itinerary was except the fact that we will go to Phnom Penh and the Siem Reap afterwards.

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our boutique hotel, surprised on how big our room was for a cheap price! take note, free breakfast buffet!
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our lunch/dinner 🙂
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Plaza at night
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the Royal Palace at night

And while I was researching on the first night, a huge shocker came to me while reading. I have no idea of the significant events happened in Cambodia before. All I know about this country is that Angkor Wat is situated in Siem Reap, which is very famous among tourists and I really wanted to visit it since it was the biggest temple in the ancient city of Angkor Thom of Khmer empire which dates back from the twelfth century.

However, are you all familiar with the Khmer Rouge rule during the ‘70s? If yes, good for you. As for me, I was not really aware of it, or maybe I knew it before from history classes but, I forgot all about it. It was a heartbreaking tragedy for the whole Cambodia and I learned it again in Phnom Penh, where the most gruesome events happened.

So what really happened in Cambodia? For a quick history guide visit this link: Cambodia Khmer Rouge. Basically, they wanted to transform the country into an agricultural communist classless society. Khmer rouge officials set up policies that disregarded human life and produced repression and massacres on a massive scale. They kidnapped intellectuals and all those potential enemies of the state and murdered them secretly. They also torn apart families and sent them to different parts of the country.

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tuktuk ride to the center
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our ride to the central market
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snapped a picture at the rotonda

Me and my friend learned it all over again through an audio tour in one of the saddest places I’ve been to, the Cheong Ek killing field. With our tuktuk guide, we went to the killing field and paid for US$6 for our audio tour. It was a simple walk, like walking in a park, but, with so much melancholic ambiance. It was different kind of experience, to listen to all those people who were traumatized on such events, which I cannot even imagine how grave it was really to live during those years. I remember one memorable story, the killing tree where the executioners use to beat and kill children. It was the heaviest and saddest story I had heard that I cannot stop my tears from welling up.  They beat the babies onto the tree, fast and in one stroke to prevent noise from crying, then dump the children on the mass grave beside the tree (sorry for the gruesome detail). They masked all the noise from the killing field with loud sounds from speakers so that nearby neighborhood will not know anything about it. But, you know what really gave me goosebumps? those butterflies swarming in a flowerless field beside the grave.

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the stupa they made for the commemoration of all the victims of Khmer rouge for Choeng Ek Killing field
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bracelets donated by travelers as a sign of being one with the victims of Khmer rouge
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bones and skulls collected by the government after the discovery of the killing fields; every skull has a sticker in which it indicates how these people were killed
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blindfolds and children dresses collected in the area
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the mass grave for children
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me: trying to internalize everything 😦
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the audio tour guide and map

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As I’ve once written in my Instagram:

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“Whenever I see a butterfly, I always remember that a loved one who passed away might be passing by, visiting me from time to time.. Earlier, I saw a lot of butterflies in a flowerless field near a mass grave of infants and children. These field was among the 300+ killing fields discovered in Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge. It was a very sad experience and at the same time a learning one. Life is so precious to be wasted, let alone to be taken away from a person..brutally, forcefully, and unjustifiably. Thus, our freedom is something we should all value, and be responsible with it. There are things we can’t control, yet we must still be grateful on everything, always.”

After the short visit in Choeng Ek, we decided to stroll inside the Royal Palace during the afternoon. There’s not much really except the exquisite architecture. We were really wondering what did the royal family did during the Khmer rouge.

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the Royal Palace buildings

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a little shopping at central market
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inside the market

We visited also the central market/russian market for some souvenirs then we  headed back to our hotel for our things. We then left Phnom Penh by riding a night bus to Siem Reap for a ~7-hr journey.

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The world is full of ‘what ifs’ so I’m on my journey of seeing and exploring where my life can take me. Every single good thing in the world is worth trying. 🎡📸✈️

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