After an arduous 24-hour plane ride I have finally arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The plane ride was an emotional time because I had nothing to do but think about all the wonderful people I was leaving; however, I have to say, it took about two minutes for me to fall in love with this city. When the plane landed, the city looked dark and ominous, but as soon as I walked out of the airport it was a different story. The city was alive and bustling despite it being 11:00 PM. The first people I talked to were friendly as was everyone at the hotel. It is a real city and the weather is nice enough that the buildings don’t need walls – always a good quality in my book. The air has that warm feel to it, even though the people I was with tonight were complaining that it was cold. Right now I have the window open and some dogs are barking, a familiar sound.
On the ride to the hotel, in a tuk-tuk (a carriage pulled by a scooter essentially), we passed by so many places that I want to visit; a part of me wishes I wasn’t going on to Thailand, but I’m sure that will be just as exciting. I have already made plans to go to the killing fields tomorrow (Saturday) and then get dinner with some people from my group. On Sunday, we have an official tour of the city followed by dinner at the Royal Palace! There will be eighteen total people in the group here; I don’t know how many are going on to Thailand.
Today (Saturday), I went to the Choeungek Genocidal Center, or the Killing Fields. It was a difficult place to be in, especially when you start learning about the atrocities that happened there. The Killing Tree is a place where children were beaten to death and then tossed into a mass grave close by. At the Choeungek field, there were over 129 mass graves. The graves were all about 15 feet deep and 30 feet across.
When you walk into the memorial temple, there are seventeen shelves piled with skulls that were recovered from the graves; as you walk around the fields, pieces of bone are everywhere. The center cleans up as best they can but new fragments come to the surface all the time.
Afterwards, I got to meet some people in my group (finally!) and they all seem cool. Tonight, we are going to explore Phnom Penh for a bit and then tomorrow we have an official tour and dinner.