Chapter 9 – Horrors of Cambodia’s past

The scent of death lingers in the heat. Blood stains are scattered through the small cells made of jagged bricks. Barbed wire lined the abandoned high school building walls, secluding it not only from the city but from the grounds themselves.

The pain for the fallen is felt with every breath of air taken in.

Today I toured ‘the killing fields’ better known to the people of Cambodia as Choeung Ek Memorial. It was a self guided audio tour that took me through the mass grave sights, explained in great detail the process of arrival at the camp and showed recovered bones and teeth. What used to be a Chinese grave sight was now the sight of where over 3 million innocent Cambodian men women and children were tortured and killed. Screams and moans were muffled with propaganda music and what sounded like large meetings of the Khmer Rouge Army. At the end of the tour there was a 7 story building full of recovered sculls and other large bones, it was equally horrifying and humbling.

Next stop: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, what used to be a High School had been turned into the S-21 Prison Camp where people were separated from their families, tortured and forced to sign illegitimate confessions that were documented as they were taken to be killed. Barbed wire surrounded the city, the grounds and the individual buildings – completely surrounded, over and over again. Survivors spoke to visitors, sharing their stories and inspiring life.

Processing the day needed meditation, I headed to Wat Phnom for just that. Walking up the stairs surrounded by serpents, dragons and protectors of the temple. Two large bronze colored Buddha images with the surrounding shrine of stunning blessings that had be brought and taken care of with the utmost love. A traditional band was playing and sitting in the rear of the temple, uplifting the spirits of it guests. Think of your breath, say your prayers and be present – Focus.

I needed some food, it had been morning time, at Brown Cafe, since I had anything to eat. After stumbling onto a BBQ spot that seemed to be only locals (my favorite!) I decided to order noodles with vegetables and egg. They had an unbelievable menu that also had spicy beef and broccoli that was something like ceviche and a meal that cooked on a griddle at your table. Simply wonderful. A 2 hour Khmer Oil massage (that was more like 90 minute) followed by a steam bath, from Ganang at Gala Spa, just locked in that day as the most emotionally charged in Cambodia, so far.

Photo Credit: J.Rupe

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