I decided to stop in Cambodia on my way from Bangkok back to Bali, and it did not disappoint! While there I visited the typical touristy places such as Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Bayon, and Kampong Phluk ( floating village). Of these my favorite was Bayon with all of the carved stone “mosaic” faces - so cool! However, the most profound experience was visiting Wat Thmey in Siem Reap, which is a small memorial and pagoda that houses some of the remains of the people who lost their lives during the tragic Cambodian genocide.
During the Khmer Rouge era from 1975-79 somewhere between 1.5 - 3 million people were murdered in Cambodia in what is now known as the Cambodian genocide. Aiming to create an agrarian socialist society this new government led by Pol Pot forced the urban population to move to the countryside to work on collective farms. Poor conditions, lack of medical treatment, starvation, and exhaustion led to countless deaths in addition to the mass executions carried out by the regime. The areas of execution are known as the “Killing Fields”, the largest being near Phnom Penh, which now has a monument to remember those who died and also serve as an educational tool. It’s important to remember the past in order to prevent history from repeating itself. This was a sobering experience but well worth it. It is hard to stomach that this actually happened.