Phnom Penh and Silk Island, Cambodia

„Same same, but different“

After visiting Vietnam last year I still had Southeast Asia in my mind so I was very excited leaving for Cambodia this time. It is one of the poorest countries in the world with a really sad history, but still, it is an amazing place to travel around with super friendly people and you get a different perspective of life. It feels very far away from home (and I don´t mean the distance).

After a long journey I arrived in the capital of Cambodia, in Phnom Penh. My first impressions were: chaotic, polluted, full of dust and dirt. Streets are filled with chaos and a lot of buildings are run down. It feels like there are millions of Tuk-Tuk drivers and everybody keeps asking: „Lady, Tuk-Tuk?“ After a while I felt even bad not answering everybodies request.

I spent 4 full days there. It´s nice to have time to get used to this incredible heat and humidity but it´s also more than enough time to stroll around, get lost in the streets, visit temples, watch the people, go on a Mekong cruise, visit the killing fields and for using a lot of air conditioned bars and restaurants to cool down. During noon the heat is killing and a lot of locals just take a nap somewhere in the streets. The Tuk-Tuk-drivers use their TukTuks while workers just lie down on the ground somewhere.

And like anywhere else in Asia the traffic is crazy, lots of motorbikes with sometimes 5 people on it, even little babies, without wearing any helmets; insane in my opinion. Motorbikes are also used for transporting any kind of goods: animals, furniture, food and everything you can imagine. Unbelievable how much they take and I often asked myself how they manage to balance their bikes. Grabbing a coffee somewhere and watching the street life is like watching a movie 😀 .

It was hard for me to pick just a few photos so this blog post has a little more content 😀 , I hope you don´t mind. These are my impressions of Phnom Penh:

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Silk Island

On day 2 my friend, who I was traveling with and I decided to get out of the city and visit a close by island on the Mekong. Silk Island or Koh Dach, like the locals call it. We thought we would have a nice breeze on the boat but we were wrong: no breeze at all 😀 . We passed a floating village on the Tonlé Sap lake in Phnom Penh, which was interesting to see. Fishermen live on their boats and in shacks very close to the shore.

Silk island is only 45 minutes away from the city by boat but so different; very quiet and laid back, no chaos at all. While cruising along the shore we got to see a little of the life on the island: people washing their cows, taking baths or kids playing in the water. There is only a very small village to visit and some beautiful temples. Usually I prefer to walk, but in this heat I didn´t really feel like walking at all, while sweating like hell without doing anything, so we took a Tuk-Tuk,  which, of course run out of gas after a while 😀 . Well, in Cambodia pretty much every shop sells gasoline, in Pepsi bottles 😀 , so the driver didn´t have to walk far to get an extra liter of gas. It made us laugh a lot. How far can you actually go with just a liter? 😀

I saw a little girl on her bike transporting a huge block of ice, in 45°C 😀 . She wasn´t biking very fast though  😉 …

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The Killing Fields

I don´t want to talk to much about the Cambodian history but the killing fields, which we visited, are one sad part of their history. Cheung Ek is one of 20.000 sites in Cambodia where collectively more than one million people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge Regime from 1975 – 1979 right after the Cambodian Civil War from 1970 – 1975. Cambodians suffered a lot.

The Khmer Rouge regime arrested and executed almost everyone suspected of connections with the former government or with foreign governments, as well as professionals and intellectuals, women and children.

It´s just such a sad sight to visit. After heavy rainfalls bones and clothing of the buried victims surface. So while you walk through there, you need to watch your step to not walk on humid bones.

I don´t want to say more about this place, it was very hard for me walking through this site…

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While being in the bathroom, trying to get rid of horrible pictures and sort my emotions, I heard kids laughing. I didn´t feel like staying any longer at this place so I wanted to see where the laughter were coming from. I found a school, so  I was staying at the entrance, watching the kids, while I catched their attention after a while. The kids kept came right to me telling me „Hello“ and we started to play around with my camera. I  could capture some really cute photos. It for sure put me in a much better mood…

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Back in the city, we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The site used to be a high school but under the regime of the Khmer Rouge it was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) from 1975 to 1979, since schools were forbidden. Tuol Sleng was one of more than 150 execution centers in the country and out of 17.000 prisoners, mostly intellectuals only 12 survived. While we were visiting, there was one of the survivors selling his biography. I can not describe the feelings going through me while seeing this old man.

It is so sad what one human being was able to do to a country  🙁

Every victim was photographed while getting imprisoned and today all the original photos are presented in a building. The Khmer Rouge has proof of their inhumanity. There are photos you don´t really want to see…Innocent people were tortured to death. Just horrible to see!

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