One of the places you must go see in Cambodia is the Killing Fields – of course, followed by the Tuol Sleng Museum. It is also one of the places I would like to avoid during my summer here. No matter how many times I go, these two places still haunt me, sadden me, and traumatize me.
I remember when I first walked into Tuol Sleng Museum back in 1997. I was.. 7 years old. Despite the fact that I was kinda too young to realize what was really going on, the disturbing images of the ‘skull map’ (which was taken down in 2002 by UNESCO) still remain as one of my first memories of Cambodia.
Most recently, I visited the museum in December when my friend was visiting from Boston. I thought that having been there a few times and with more knowledge about it, I would be less emotional and really focus on the historical aspect of it. Rather, I was more emotional than ever to the point where my head was hurting and I was having a hard time breathing. The whole time I was there, I remained silent. A trip like this to the museum always ends up with ‘ I don’t want to do anything for the rest of the day’ kind of feeling – so that’s exactly what we did.
I got a similar feeling while reading “First They Killed My Father” by Loung Ung. I finally managed to finish the book, which was not an easy read for me. I had to take long breaks after each chapter because the way Loung Ung describes the images were almost too real.
Cambodia’s tragic history still remains in parts even though Cambodia has managed to fight its way back up – and in order to really understand, appreciate and respect the culture here, it is crucial and almost a necessity to have at least some background knowledge in its history. So please, if you are planning to visit Cambodia, do more than just googling ‘hotels’, ‘things to do’ and ‘places to visit’. Pick up a book or watch a documentary on the country’s significant period of its past.
As much as I would love to share photos and the experiences with you, I really can’t afford to go back – it’s definitely not an amusement park. So I leave you with some links I found on people blogging about their visit.
But please, don’t let that discourage you from going – I love Angkor Wat, the Palace, and everything else too but both the Killing Fields and the Toul Sleng Museum are a must – def. a must to understand Cambodia just a little more.