After an emotional visit to the Killing Fields, I had my tuk-tuk driver take me back into the city to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This former school was used by the Khmer Rouge to imprison, torture and kill Cambodians. They took pictures and kept records of each person who was brought here, and as a remembrance, many of the pictures are displayed. Walking through the museum was more painful than the killing fields because I could look into the faces of the victims. There were still blood stains on the floor. But the thing that’s so striking about these pictures is how many of the victims were smiling or smirking, staying brave and defiant in the face of cruelty and almost certain death.
At the end of the day I was very glad to go sit by the river and have a few beers with a girl from my hostel. She was a lawyer from the UK working in Bangkok and decided to take a long weekend to Phnom Penh. I saw her at the museum as we wandered from room to room absorbing the devastation. Pure coincidence that we were staying at the same hostel. After a couple beers, we went and had dinner, confusing the waiter by ordering three dishes for just the two of us.
The genocide museum is very powerful and a must-see for any visit to Cambodia, but I highly suggest planning something fun and light afterwards. I imagine I could’ve had a very depressing night had I not met Sarah.