If there’s a part of our trip that I’d rather not write about, it is Phnom Penh and its grim past.
It was already 8PM when we arrived in Phnom Penh after an 8-hour bus travel from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). And my impression of the town was as dark as the sky that night. Ever had that feeling when you don’t want to be in a certain place? I don’t know if it’s just because of the extreme humidity enveloping the town but it was just too heavy for me.
After our dinner, which I thought was chintzy, we immediately went back to our hostel and planned our activities for the next day. Rowjie and I settled that we’d be visiting the Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields) and Tuol Sleng (S-21) museums. We then took a bath inside our lodge’s enormous shower room. You know, that scene from horror movies of people mysteriously dying in a bath tub. That’s what we both felt during that time. We kissed each other and wrapped up the night following the much-needed bath.
I thought the feeling I had for Phnom Penh the last night would change as the new day approached. I thought wrong. The dusty roads filled with tuk-tuks, the scorching heat of the sun as if burning my skin, the street signs that I do not understand, and the rumors of rampant crimes. No known beaches nor mountains. It just sunk more deep into me that this part of Cambodia’s not the type of place where I could peacefully stay for a vacation or perhaps reside.
On a lighter note, Phnom Penh can also be enthralling as it has a unique charisma that attracts travelers, scholars, and soul searchers. That peculiar accent which I would never ever learn. The inexpensive commodities and way of living. The enigmatic scent of every streets. There were a couple of other things that makes the city too interesting to miss.
But it would be hard for me to drag my feet back to this place. It wasn’t just right for me. I couldn’t stand the fact that that half of its population got brutally tortured and murdered in 1970s. Phnom Penh used to be a big deathbed to millions of Cambodians brought about by a belief that meant equality and socialism.
It was nice knowing you Phnom Penh. I hope people will learn from your stories and tragedy. Do not tire of waiting for me to have a change of heart. I’ll be seeing you again, someday. And I swear I’ll know the other side of you.
Kaiz is a stay-at-home mom and currently works as an Operations Specialist for a software engineering company based in the US.