A Tough Walk Through History: Killing Fields in Phenom Penh, Cambodia

Travel is an enriching experience that can teach you valuable life lessons, while also helping you to discover and understand more about the world and yourself.

This self and life discovery is what keeps me addicted to traveling and what has motivated me to travel until this point to more than half of the countries around the world completely alone.

Many countries across the globe have similarities in their lifestyle and traditions, but what I have learned in my journey is that, while this may be true, that every country has its own unique charm and something special to teach you if you are willing to see it.

The lessons that one learns on the roads come in different forms and if one travels with an open heart and mind, the lessons will come freely and one will begin to be transformed.

Traveling to Cambodia in Southeast Asia was an experience in particular that was full of lessons and moments that left me reflecting on my own life and way of thinking.  As I departed from Cambodia to venture off to Laos, I can remember the overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the transformation that had taken place within my heart throughout my time there.

While traveling is a beautiful experience, it also brings you face to face with humanity and shows you the different problems that have existed throughout history and still exist until this day.

That is exactly what happened to me during my time in Cambodia, where I not only traveled for fun and pleasure, but I traveled to learn the Cambodian history on a deeper and more personal level.

While Cambodia is a small country, it is known for many things.  The average person might know something about this country through seeing a scene from the popular movie Tomb Raider, the well rounded traveler through the famous Angkor Temples and a history buff through the horrific genocide and war that happened years back.

This is a country that has so much to offer, but becoming the country that it is today was not an easy path for Cambodian families. Every single family there has been affected by some way or another by war and genocide and for many these feelings still linger with them today.

A Little Background…

From the years of 1975 to 1979 a communist leader, Pol Pot, lead what was called the Khemer Rough, killing millions of innocent Cambodian people. His goal was to kill off any one that was educated, religious, wealthy, or had any important positions in the government.

Absolutely anyone that went against what he demanded was instantly killed. Families were separated, children of all ages were taught to be tough, fight and kill. The death toll during those years was more than 3 million, which is why its so difficult to find many old people while traveling through the country.

On my second day in the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, I took a trip to the killing fields for my own personal education and understanding. It was not the easiest place to visit, but I felt grateful and humbleness for having had the experience to learn for myself on the exact grounds that all of the horrible actions took place throughout history.

Both the killings fields and the genocide museum offer a great deal of information due to the fact that during those days they kept a very strict record, with photography of the men, women and child that were captivated and killed.

With a personal or audio guide one can walk through this dark time in history, listen to what exactly happened in detail and hear personal testimonies of survivors.

So one may be asking, “Why on Earth would you ever put yourself through that and visit there?”

History cannot be erased, but rather something that we can learn from.

Each and every hard time throughout history has a lesson behind it that can give us something valuable and applicable to our lives today.



1. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Tuol Sleng used to be a high school, which was turned into a Security Prison (S21) during the times of war. Up to 20,000 people were imprisoned and tortured there during those hard dark years

Personal guides are available in order to give you a better insight into the personal stories of the ones that survived and give details on the different rooms that you walk through.

2. Choeung Ek Genocidal Center (Killing Fields)

The killing fields are located on the outskirts of the city. With the audio guide it will take minimum 1 hour. The guide is included in the price and gives you a very detailed understanding of what people had to go through.

There are many difficult parts of this tour to see, including the killing tree where innocent children were beaten to death, as well as a building with more than 8000 skulls arranged by age and sex in display to see.

As I mentioned, the experience visiting these historical places is not easy, but its a very powerful way to get a good insight on Cambodian history. I highly recommend the experience for anyone that visits Phnom Penh.


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