Uncover the dark history of Cambodia and immerse yourself in the markets, monuments and cultural performances of today. Hit this list of attractions for a complete experience.
Bokor Mountain in Kampot is another spot that offers an interesting insight into Cambodia’s heyday. A trip up the mountain, which sits about 40 kilometres away from Kampot, takes in a series of dilapidated buildings that hark back to the past, including a crumbling church which served the colonial French who frequented Bokor Hill Station – once a retreat for the country’s elite. Atop the mountain sits the former hotel, which is now an eerily derelict shell.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
For a really harrowing look at Cambodia’s recent past, Tuol Sleng – or S-21 – is a former prison camp in Phnom Penh city centre. During the Khmer Rouge reign of 1975 to 1979, it is estimated 17,000 people were sent to Tuol Sleng, and ultimately to their deaths. This was a torture centre and many died at the site. The remainder were rounded up and sent to nearby Choeung Ek to be executed. Today, visitors can walk around S-21 – which ironically was a school prior to the Pol Pot-led regime. Having been pretty much left undisturbed after being discovered by the liberating Vietnamese troops in 1979, blood remains on the walls, torture tools dot the site, and a moving exhibit showing the portraits taken of each prisoner – young and old – as they entered Tuol Sleng takes up several of the rooms. Only seven men are said to have survived S-21.
Cambodia is littered with killing fields, with an estimated two million people perishing under the Khmer Rouge regime. Choeung Ek – or The Killing Fields – is one of the largest sites, sitting about 20km outside of Phnom Penh. As well as being the place where those detained at S-21 were murdered, swathes of other Cambodians were killed here. The remains of 8,985 people – many were bound and blindfolded – were exhumed in 1980 from mass graves. Bone fragments and scraps of clothing litter the site, with more than 8,000 skulls arranged at a memorial stupa to the dead. Visitors are given an audio tour, featuring informative stories from Khmer Rouge survivors and former soldiers.
To take a glimpse into Cambodia’s faded glitzy past, a trip to the coastal resort of Kep is in order. Once reserved for the rich and famous, during Cambodia’s Golden Age of the 1950s and 60s, Kep – dubbed Kep-sur-Mer – was a seaside escape for French colonials and their families, as well as wealthy Cambodians. The peaceful town, which was given a make-over by revered architect Vann Molyvann on the request of King Father Sihanouk, was once home to premium villas boasting the latest contemporary designs. However, due to its proximity to the Vietnamese border, the town was one of the first to fall to – and the last to free from – the Khmer Rouge, leaving the jet-set destination to crumble. While Kep is quickly regaining its reputation, remnants of its past can be seen in the dilapidated, and restored, buildings that dot the area.
Read more about Cambodia’s attractions and travel guides, please visit our website. Have a nice trip!