Tag Archives: Phnom Penh

Candy corn!

Candy corn is sacred in the United States. And it’s also something that people seem to really hate or really love.

When I was in Cambodia, there was a Halloween party for a mix of ex-pats and Cambodians. A gentleman from the States had enough foresight to buy a big bag of candy corn during his recent visit back home. It was perfect for our Halloween party and made it actually feel like Halloween.

During the weekend following Halloween, there was a parade of tuktuk trick-or-treaters through downtown Phnom Penh. My friend and I made our way through PP and laughed at the traffic jam we saw ahead! So many tuktuks packed with little witches, Elsas, and pumpkins making a set loop to American businesses around the city. Their candy bags stuffed full of yummy treats. I can only imagine what the Cambodian tuktuk drivers though of our crazy holiday! (Sorry no photos it was too crazy!)

Ode to the shrimp temple

On the way to a silk manufacturer in Cambodia, we came across a temple with large statues of shrimp outside. While yes there are frequently statues outside of temples, they typically are not statues of shrimp……

However considering the role of small dried shrimp in a majority of Thai dishes, it surprises me that I had to go to Cambodia to see a shrimp temple.

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Silk worms

On my last day in Cambodia visiting my friend, we took an adventure out to a silk making place across the river. The ferry crossing was a little interesting as most are in SE Asia but we made it across safely with our tuktuk driver so we were happy.

They showed us a back area with silk worms all nestled into their cocoons. Cambodian silk is more yellow (thus yellow cocoons) whereas Vietnamese silk is whiter. But to get “bridal white,” chemicals are needed.

They take half of the silk worms/cocoons for silk and the other half for mating. They have to get to the silk before the worm bites a hole through the cocoon or else the silk cannot be used. Each cocoon contains 300-500 meters of silk. The cocoons are boiled and the end of the silk is located. It is then gathered and a strong fiber is created as the cocoons are unraveled.

It takes two weeks to setup the looms for weaving the garments!

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The Khmer Rouge – Killing Fields and Tuol Seng Genocide Museum

The history of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia is horrific. I hope I can portray it accurately.

The Killing Fields are about 45 minutes outside of Phnom Penh. They provide you with an audio guide that includes accounts from actual guards and workers. It is heartbreaking to hear their words and see exactly what they are talking about.

The crazy thing about the genocide of the Cambodian people is that it wasn’t so long ago – 1975-1979. The history still effects people on a daily basis.

The Killing Fields feature a memorial stupa as the central point which contains bones of bodies found in one of the many mass graves. The bones are categorized by age, gender, manner of death, and bone type. The first ten layers are skulls and you can see the way the person was killed based on the cracks and holes.

There are over 300 killing fields in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge closed all the borders and put down land mines to prevent people from leaving or entering the country. (More on this in a later post.)

At this specific place, bones and teeth continue to surface, especially after heavy rains. There was a baby killing tree where the guards would slam the babies into the tree and then toss them into the mass grave. Human matter was found on the tree. The guards would play loud music and use the sound of the generator to mask the sounds of the screams and killings.

Overall between 1.4 and 2.2 million people were probably killed by the Khmer Rouge. Some due to execution and some due to starvation.

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According to my friend, 7-9 people had a college education at the end of the genocide as the Khmer Rouge had killed anyone with education. They also eliminated anyone who disagreed with them. There is a stat I heard but did not have evidence to back up so take it with a grain of salt – there are only 30 Cambodians that have PhDs, all of which were obtained outside of the country.

On part of the audio tour, a person said,

“It’s as if spirits of those that lie here will not lie still.”

In the afternoon I visited Tuol Seng Genocide Museum. It is a former high school that was turned into a prison and used to torture thousands of Cambodians and a few foreigners. When the Vietnamese arrived to stop the killings only 7 survivors remained at the prison, known also as Security Prison 21 (S-21). A total of 13 people survived. Almost 20,000 people were tortured and eventually killed at the prison.

The leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime only recently underwent trials and conviction.

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