Phnom Pehn: A Study in Contrasts

Coming into Phnom Pehn on a wide boulevard shared by expensive cars, you’d think you were in another world.  

Phonm PehnThere are towering monuments,

Phonm Pehnand a Palace that is rich in splendor.

Phonm PehnIt is an architectural delight

Phnom Pehnwith stunning vistas at every turn.  Here, one can almost forget the poverty and illiteracy that pervades the country.  Beauty, however, is only part of what identifies this capital city where most of Cambodia’s wealth exists.

Phnom PehnPart of its story is here in at the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, a school that in the days of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge was a facility for unspeakable atrocity.

Phnom PehnAs many as 20,000 prisoners were held here crowded together in small rooms.  Not all were lucky enough to have a cot but were in cells barely large enough in which to turn around.

Phnom PehnTorture forced prisoners to confess to whatever they were accused of, and one means was to suspend a person upside down and drop him head first into vats filled with vile water.

Phnom PehnImagine being held to these rules.  As you might guess, few, many of whom were children, survived such inhuman treatment,

Phnom Pehnand there are grim reminders of that truth.

Phnom PehnIf I remember correctly, this man is the only living of seven survivors whose stories are told in several publications.    We were honored to have him request a photo with us.

Following the visit here, it was suggested we go to the Killing Fields, but the Traveling Sisterhood’s emotions were stretched to the limits at that point,

Phnom Pehnand we opted for the Russian Market.  Working through the maze of stalls with temptations at every turn was torture of a different kind!


7 thoughts on “Phnom Pehn: A Study in Contrasts

  1. My friend went to the fields and to the jail. I just could not. If you have a chance go to Koh Dach island, home of many silk weavers

  2. I don’t know what to say, except that I’m pleased you went so future generations will continue to know of the atrocities. Love to you all and safe travels x

  3. Billie Keirstead March 15, 2013 — 7:27 am

    Linda, I am so impressed by the quality of your photos. Can you tell me what model camera you use. I am in the market for a new one. I gave up traveling with my long lens SLRs a long time ago and have been using digital. Now I have an iPhone 5 but don’t think it is good enough for print quality. Need advice before I leave for France this summer. Thanks. And welcome home.

    1. Billie, I currently use an Olympus XZ-1 which I have liked very much. There is a newer model, XZ-2 and I’m sure there are some improvements. This camera is way better than a point and shoot or iPhone and much easier than the larger SLRs.

  4. A visit to PP leaves its mark on you for sure Linda.. your story is so well captured.. thanks for taking the time to present this very ugly part of humanity.. indeed, PP history left a mark on humanity world wide, and the Cambodians most of all. regards j

  5. Such a beautiful country and hard to believe that there were such horrible things that happened there….How nice it was to have met that wonderful gentleman who survived the horror…

  6. Okey dokey….pretty sobering. Isn’t it just crazy that people can be so horrible towards other people? I just don’t understand how a human being can treat another like that! How do they think up that kind of crap??!!?!? They must wake up in the morning and go to bed at night thinking, “What new hell can I exact upon the world today?” I just don’t get it. Blessings upon that fellow who is the only living survivor! What nightmares he must have! 😦

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