Wow is the first word that comes to mind. A gritty, big, dirty, vibrant city. Not terribly cosmopolitan, but lots of life here and the people are friendly, humble and proud. I don’t think I’ve digested it yet so hard to write about it. It is such a transition from Laos. I love it, find it a place that is wonderful to visit, but don’t think I could live here.
Last night we visited the Living Cultural Theater. Incredible and is one way the country is healing after the regime of Pol Pot. The dance and puppetry was bar-none magical, fun and enjoyable. The
Earlier in the day we visited the National Museum and it was like a mini-Egyptian Museum. Much smaller, but so much history here. Sloooooooooly, perhaps absorbing the epochs. a very lovely space and so nice to get so close to the best of the sculpture.
Today we hired a drive to take us to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, the Toul Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes and the Market (a useful interlude). I had expected the Killing Field to be the clincher and place that grabbed me with pain. It was sobering but I could not wrap my head around the death and stupidity of it.
We took a quick trip to one of the markets (called the Russian Market) as it is between the two genocide sites. I have to say, in Central and South America, Mexico, north Africa, Bangkok, Laos and of course Europe, I’ve not been in a market that made me not want to eat the food more. It is of course interesting, but it just had a dirtier sense. The bugs, frogs, and rats in Laos were more appealing.
Stick to the tourist restaurants???
Our last stop with our driver (we used a driver as opposed to a tuk tuk for the AC as it is hot here. The killing field (there are *many*, is about 45 minutes out of town in stop-and-go traffic and we have become weak.) was the Toul Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes. This had an amazing audio tour and re-created the atrocities of this torture facility (they tortured here in an ex-school in town and afterwards killed people until there was no room to bury them. At that point they sent them out of town for killing. It was two to three hours of seeing rooms where people died, were held in shackles, were tortured, ….
They were systematic in keeping records (evidently this is common with regimes such as this), the museum has audio testimonials of survivors, stories of those killed and stories of families displaced or separated. I have been to Rwanda and seen the memorials. This museum brought the atrocities as close to home as I have experienced.
But enough of that. We have had several lovely conversations with locals, from our driver, folks at our hotel, tuk tuk drivers and the woman on our sunset cruise about life in Cambodia, the past, future and peoples wishes. The Cambodians and Phnom Penh folks are sincere, lovely people. It takes the edge off a gritty city and creates a place in my heart for this city.
Oh, and I cannot forget… this city is full of Prius. I am not exaggerating when I say we have see 50 or more. They have caught on. But, there is money here. We’ve seen, Bugatti, Rolls, lots of Lexus, Mercedes, Audi, …. There is money here and the scooters are the “name brands: seen in America.