After 2 days in a guesthouse we have relocated to stay with a couch surfer in Phonm Phen. His house is literally a palace apartment where we are getting our own room and it feels excellent to have the comforts of feeling like you are home.
Phomn Phen has all the luxuries of a big city but is still small enough to get round it in less than an hour. The popular area is by the Tonle Sap river and by the lake (where all the backpackers are located). We spent our first few nights having ‘happy’ pizza by the river which was really nice way to end the days. Even though there are quite a few bodies of water in the city, the view is not pleasant. The river is extremely dirty and poverty can be seen in all corners which is a constant reminder that this is indeed a developing country.
We spent today doing the main tourist sites: S-21 and the killing fields. These are both sites which have to do with recent Cambodian history, the period of Khmer Rouge rule during which a genocide of the Khmer people took place. Going to these sites and learning about the details definitely was more close to home for me due to the similarities to what is currently taking place in my homeland of Sri Lanka. While these events were taking place the rest of the world had no idea of the atrocities, much like how the world had no idea of the 25 year long civil war of Sri Lanka. Cambodians are still recovering from these events, majority of the population is under the age of 20 and many children are orphans. The fate of this country seems identical to what will be occurring not only in Sri Lanka but also in all war torn countries around the world. Of course many of us wonder why this keeps happening, but the more frustrating question is how do people do this to their own country and how the world stands by watching over and over again, pretending it will get better.
Less than a year ago I had no idea where Cambodia was or of its culture and history. It was because I read the novel ‘First they killed my Father‘ that I was intrigued to learn and experience more about this country. At one time the Angkorian empire ruled a huge a part of south east Asia, yet now the same people are left struggling to make ends meet. It really makes you think of how lucky you are; not only because I am able to travel and learn about all this but lucky to have a life of simple opportunities.