** Excursion to Choeung Ek Genocidal Center and Tuel Sleng Genocide Museum **
Cambodia these days is one of the preferred southeast Asian holiday destinations by many travellers be it budget or luxury. When the country has a simplicity yet a vibrant difference of scenery and surrounding to offer to it’s potential tourists, which in every way has so much positivity and sense of security; there is another side of this country as well, the comfort about it, is, even if not long, its dead past but not an unforgotten past. The facts are shocking and indefinable. When planning my trip, I was looking for a sightseeing option available in the city and I stumbled upon this tour option. I wasn’t aware of Cambodia’s history before and neither did I search much after coming to know of this tour, I just went ahead and wanted to know everything from a local. So I chose this tour to the ‘Killing Field’. Though I did get a glimpse of one such tour in Battambang, Phnom Penh has more intense details to tell.
So the tour consisted of two places, Killing field or Choeung Ek Genocidal Center and Tuel Sleng Genocide Museum.
Choeung Ek Genocidal Center
Starting with Killing Field or Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, because that’s the place I went first and it’s 16 km away from the city, so better you choose to visit here first, then the museum which is in the city. The journey to the Killing field is through the outskirts of the city, sometimes in between some prune lands, then you to see new townships are under construction, which definitely means after about 4-5 years the place will be lot different, technically more updated and industrial.
Coming back to our first stop, Choeung Ek Genocidal Center was actually found to be a mass grave. Before this let me tell you a little about the time of this prolonged incident. From 1975 to 1979 Cambodia faced the most painstakingly darkest and grievously tormenting times in history. After Khmer Rouge Party took over under Pol Pot, the countrymen of Cambodia were left to die either by poverty, hunger, and loss of secured life or simply by getting captured and followed by mass murdering. There are many genocides scattered across Cambodia, some discovered, some left still unidentified and the stories will leave anyone to mourn to that time of history. So this particular Killing field in Phnom Penh has been found to be the biggest mass-murdering grave; numerous skeletons were excavated from the graves (there were more than one and it was more of a huge dumping pit) and rest were left undisturbed deep under the ground.
To honour these tarnished innocent souls, the Government of Cambodia built these genocides, they preserved the skulls, bones, the torn pieces of clothes, or whatever they could recover from the excavation years later and they have kept all these for display as a tragic memory of that despairing time of Cambodian history. There was a time the people here were so heartbroken to talk about this time but gradually they decided to bring this time forward to the world and make it a part of their written history.
- One must respect and consider the significance of the place and maintain silence or a low voice to communicate and maintain cordiality.
- The place is closed after 5 PM and no one is allowed to come inside or near the place after the time.
- The tour across this place takes about 40-50 minutes.
*** Entrance fee: 3.00 USD per person without an audio guide, 6.00 USD per person with an audio guide.
Tuel Sleng Genocide Museum:
Next stop was the Tuel Sleng Genocide Museum which is inside Phnom Penh city. This place also holds a similar history, only this building was a high school, eventually turned into a prison than a graveyard to hold the prisoners in captivity. Irrespective of men and women, common citizens or mostly the generals from the previous regime were detained here for interrogation and torturing viciously. The prison at that time was divided into four parts based on the rank of people being captured. At present, the place is converted into a museum and tourists get a thorough tour of the place as to how the prisoners were kept or treated inside the cells and many other things which are very tough to describe in words.
*** Entrance fees: 5.00 USD per person.
- Photography at many places inside is strictly prohibited
- Proper dressing is mandatory (anything above knees or sleeveless tops not allowed)
- The place is closed after 5 pm and no one stays inside after which.
Duration of the tour: It’s a half-day tour, usually takes about 3-4 hours. Second half of the day is quite a good option to choose this tour.
How to go: You may go for a guided tour (which can be booked directly from your hostel/ hotel, Travel agent or Viator or any other booking aid you are comfortable with), or you may hire a private car or maybe a tuk-tuk and can purchase an audio-guided tour ticket at both the places.
Dressing: For both places, you have to dress respectfully, which means dresses should be below the knees and no sleeveless. In case you forget, at Tuel Sleung Museum they let you hire a t-shirt and some loose pegged pants.
More post on Phnom Penh Part I