phnom penh is one of those places that makes me emotional to talk about (in fact, I'm getting emotional writing this post). we rolled into town with nowhere to stay and no idea what to expect (besides a lot of sweating). we couldn't have been more surprised at how much we loved this city. first of all, the random hotel we ended up choosing was run by a young father, and each morning we passed him combing his two daughter's hair and teaching them their abc's. it was nothing short of adorable. then one night at dinner, our waiter just hung out and practiced his english flashcards with me. for those reading who aren't aware, this city has a dark recent history, and the evidence of a generation lost can be seen in business after business run by people much younger than us. it is heartbreaking to think of the damage the khmer rouge did to the people of cambodia, but it is absolutely beautiful to see the surviving generation rebuilding, thriving and moving forward. highlights: streets filled with young monks each morning and night, S-21 and the dish of rice I ate after discovering a lot of ants in it (what? they were cooked!)
while most of the backpacking crowd visiting phnom penh took tours out to the killing fields, we opted to head to S-21 (tuol sleng genocide museum, aka "security prison 21"). it was at this converted high school that the khmer rouge imprisoned and murdered somewhere around seventeen thousand prisoners (the total is unknown). of these, there are only SEVEN who were known to survive. it was by far the most sobering day of our trip, and one that has stuck with us. and though the horror of what happened is still haunting the country, I feel incredibly lucky that we were able to witness and touch what is rising in place of what was lost.
catch up on all the asia posts here.