#1 It`s Gruesome
If you choose to go to S21 prison you’ll see images of half naked adults and children. You’ll hear stories of people being tortured and killed. You’ll see living conditions that will haunt you.
If you drive, or take a tuk tuk, out to the killing fields, you’ll see a small building filled with human skulls.
#2 It`s Boring
S21 is more interesting than the killing fields but by the time you’ve gone through all the buildings, you’ll be ready to go. The most boring thing was actually the killing fields. There is nothing there put some large, empty pits, two or three buildings (one beautifully built one is filled with human skulls), and people trying to sell you stuff.
The most interesting part of the killing fields, for us, was the ride there in a bus that showed a video that talked about Pol Pot and his rise. I wish the site had more information about the Khmer Rouge, communism, the American War of Aggression, etc.
#3 There are other activities
Cambodia is a beautiful country full of things to do. If you’re considering going to the killing fields and/or S21 because you think there aren’t many other options in Phnom Penn, think again. There are museums, the king’s palace, shows, restaurants, etc.
#4 There are other ways to help the remaining Cambodian citizens
Cambodia is rebuilding and there are tons of local organizations that teach valuable skills, help get girls and women out of poverty, and provide jobs to Cambodian citizens. You don’t have to wallow through the sad history. Instead you can help build the future.
#5 It`s a Racket
Tourism seems to be a HUGE income stream in Cambodia … and the Cambodians know it. Everywhere you go people are offering to sell you things, take you places, and show you around …. for a small fee. Unfortunately, the violent history at S21 and the killing fields are no different. I’d read up on the Khmer Rouge before we arrived and I didn’t learn anything new at either site … but I did spend a few dollars in the process.
All in all, we enjoyed Cambodia very much.When we go back, we won’t be visiting either site again but we will make more of an effort to see more shows, visit more museums, and eat at more open air markets.