The other 2 most important things to do during a stay in Phnom Penh are S2 Prison and The Killing Fields, unfortunately, these 2 things are the main reasons Phnom Penh is one the tourist list of ‘must-see’ places. We sorted out a bike and decided to try our luck in the traffic getting to these places on our own. S2 Prison was first on the day's agenda. It will cost you $3 to get in, but if you’re a student it's free. Buying the $3 information booklet is well worth it and gives you some good knowledge on what went on in the prison, although I’m sure we will never really understand what the prisoners went through.
Originally a school, then transformed into a prison/torture camp by the Khmer Rouge for people suspected of crimes against Angkar, the feeling once you walk into the grounds at the S2 Prison is eerie. The whole place is kept close to original, to the point where there are still blood stains and splatters left on the floor in some of the rooms. Adding to the pretty gut-wrenching scene of torture weapons, prison cells (if you can even call them that) and victims pictures is the silence that falls over the prison, although this place see’s 250 tourists on average per day, the only thing you can seem to hear inside is the shuffle of your feet and click of your camera.
When we say the prison was set up for people who were suspected of crimes against Angkar, we use the term pretty loosely. When the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia under Pol Pot's command, anyone who was educated (doctors, teachers, lawyers etc.), anyone who had soft hands (indicating no hard labor was endured), people who didn’t agree with Angkar’s views or anyone in any form of government work was captured, along with their family and were tortured until they signed a ‘confession’ stating they were guilty of these crimes (one man, for example, had his fingernails pulled by pliers then alcohol poured over his fingertips until he confessed he was a C.I.A Spy. A pretty shocking job for a man who didn’t know what the word ‘spy’ meant.) Once this confession, or death contract, was signed, these people were then sent to ‘a new home’ (or so they were told) this leads us to the killing fields.
When you arrive here, you are given an audio guide to help you understand what happened. The audio guide here is the best we have come across, it's worth listening to every piece of information on it, you will sit down in the shade and want to break down (I did on multiple occasions). The guide takes you through different sites around the field and explains what happened to the prisoners. It's pretty gruesome, heartbreaking and makes you lose a lot of faith in the human race. The aim of the fields was for effortless and cheap murders to take place, these acts (such as bashing children against trees, hitting men across the head with a machete or any blunt object they can find, slitting peoples throats with spiked plants) were carried out by ‘men’ so young they probably didn’t understand the full intensity of what they were doing. ‘Men’ who as adults would have a mind very dark and sickening. The tour finishes at the stupa in the middle of the field that houses over 8,000 skulls recovered from the site, still to this day as heavy rain comes, more bones and items of clothing surface.
We spent the rest of our trip in Phnom Penh riding our bike around the city and enjoying the other best part: food and drinks.
I better go, my delicious Lok Lak and 75cent double vodka and red bull is here.