WHY YOU SIMPLY MUST SEE THE KILLING FIELDS AND THE TUOL SLENG GENOCIDE MUSEUM IN CAMBODIA
Cambodia is like a cultural patchwork quilt full of different squares that make up a beautiful picture, mountains, cities, beaches, temples and tribes, there is something for everyone. Like every good patchwork it’s held together by something not always visible to the eye, a bonding strength that holds everything together. For Cambodia their resilience against a horrific past is the strength that holds together it’s people as it pushes towards the future. Despite moving forward, revisiting the past is simply something you must not miss seeing which is why it is so important to make the time to visit Choeung Ek (The Killing fields) and Tuol Sleng (The Genocide Museum).
Learning a valuable history lesson
Most tourists have very little to contribute to a discussion on Cambodian history, their knowledge about it’s hardships are limited to a familiarity with the names Khmer Rouge and Polpot. It’s not so much that the world is ignorant, more the fact that the atrocities that occurred through Cambodia weren’t even known about until the thousands of bones and graves were uncovered. Choeung Ek, more commonly known as the The Killing Fields, gives an amazing insight into the Polpot regime with comprehensive yet easy to understand audio tour. The audio guide focuses on what the Polpot regime envisioned, what crimes they committed and of course how they went about killing nearly a quarter of the Cambodian population. Tuol Sleng offers a different insight into the Khmer Rouge, focusing on interrogation and and imprisonment. What better way to learn the history of a country than to be in the very places that it was written.
Let the stories of those gone not be forgotten
When you enter The Killing Fields and you commence the audio tour you will be thrown into a sobering pit of empathy and sympathy within the first ten minutes. Maybe it’s the chilling story of how the prisoners were brought to the fields not knowing they were to die or maybe it is the giant memorial with hundreds of skulls and bones in it, either way it chills you to bone. Feeling a sense of sadness and discomfort wash over you is nothing compared to those beaten and bashed to death and it’s important to give those who suffered a few hours of your time. Tuol Seng gives the spirits of those imprisoned who never got a trial or were made to give a false confession a chance to be heard. Even if it’s boiling hot take the time to pay your respects to every man, woman or child who never got to say goodbye to their family and never had their stories told.
You will not regret it
There is something for everyone at both The Killing Fields and The Genocide museum so fear not if you’re not huge on museums. The Killing Fields audio tour is fantastic and incorporates both historical lessons and stories from Cambodians, it’s better to split up from the group and do it at your own pace. Everything is somewhat optional at the fields and you can either listen on the audio tour or just read the signs, we’d recommend listening to the tour as it gives a greater depth of detail. If you like history head to the Museum afterwards and read all the Polpot facts and check the video presentation too. Tuol Sleng has an audio tour as well but we decided against the $3 fee as we only had a short time to walk around before it closed. If you want to see it all you can walk into every single room and look at the beds and photos that depict beat up or dead Cambodian victims. Some of our group went by a ‘they’re all the same’ opinion however we checked out as many as we could, each bed had different impressions in it left by the violence the victim faced and we wanted to see everything. Once again there is a museum at the end of it if you want to bulk up on history facts.
A lesson taught is a lesson learnt
Perhaps one of the most important reasons to take time out of your holiday and see these sights is to build awareness in future generations. People need to hear the pain and violence that was dealt to the Cambodian people so that it never happens again. A quarter of Cambodia’s population was brutally killed for no other reason than a dictator wanting to make the world his way, it was genocide in every form. If we are able to share others pain and hardships perhaps we are able to prevent these acts against innocent people from happening again.
So there you have it, a few reasons why you should check it all out and a few life lessons to learn along the way. Well worth your time and your respects. If you’re a bit squeamish and don’t like such confronting details consider donating to the societies that help preserve these two sites.
Choeung Ek is $3 entry and $3 for the audio guide, $6 in total for as long as it takes you. Tuol Sleng is the same but you could probably go without the audio tour.
ARM & A LEG: WHAT IT COST US
TRANSPORT FOR 6 hours $15USD between 5
Make some friends in your hostel and go on this adventure together.We crammed 5 people in a Tuk Tuk and had to pay a measly $15 between everyone, making it a grand total of $3 each before tip. The killing fields is a solid 30-45 minute ride depending on traffic then back into town for the museum