Cambodia is hot, in case you didn’t catch that in my previous post. We’ve been here for a few days now, and it’s been averaging high-30s each day. BEFORE HUMIDITY. My hair is unruly, my patience waning, and energy zapped. So essentially, I’m hot and lazy. Therefore a cyclo tour of Phnom Penh was a great way to spend an evening!
The cyclos support the homeless and we had great guides zipping us around some of the sites to help orient us with the city. Granted, my guide seemed a tad hell-bent on playing chicken with traffic and consistently veered into oncoming cars – and I have video proof of this which I’ll edit and post soon. But otherwise, it was an interesting (and touristy) way to get around. We even got to ride them at one point…which almost ended in a spectacular disaster for me when I couldn’t reach the pedals or steer.
After drinks at the FCC (Foreign Correspondents’ Club) we had dinner at a great local restaurant supporting street youth, and I went to bed quite happy and content at how the day had gone.
The next day, we visited Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21) and the Killing Fields. While I did take some photos, I felt conflicted in doing so as I didn’t want to be disrespectful to the deceased and anyone who suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. I was unprepared for the emotional impact that both of these places would have on me. Our local guide had been imprisoned as a child and spoke of his experiences, and we met one of the remaining survivors of S-21. Coming from a country that has been peaceful in my time, it’s hard to understand how such atrocities can take place, and how someone can turn on their own citizens so horrifically – over 1/5 of the country’s population was killed. While I was familiar with Pol Pot and had read about the Khmer Rouge, seeing the devastation that took place, and that people are still recovering from, was heartbreaking.
And that’s the overwhelming feeling I’ve had so far in Cambodia. There’s so much poverty here, especially with children. You can’t walk down the street without being hounded by mothers holding babies with hands outstretched for food, children selling fruits or small crafts, people begging for help. I feel guilty for not giving money, but that just encourages the behaviour and we’ve been instructed not to. I did buy a bracelet off of a charming little boy who I hope gets to follow his dream of becoming a lawyer (he was such a smooth talker, he’d make a good one). And I hope that this country is able to get back on its feet as it is absolutely beautiful.