Killing Fields Tour – An incredibly moving Experience
A Killing Fields tour is something to remember. Cambodia has such a moving history and a Killing Fields tour shows what this country was all about over the last 50 years. It’s a very intense thing to do and a real eye-opener in many ways. What happened in the past really shaped this country and made it to what it is today. Even though Cambodia has a moving and very dark past, the people are still very proud of their country, which is a thing to respect.
The Killing Fields tour is not something you do every day. It is a very rare thing and it depends on which attitude you have whether you can learn something from it or, if it’s just gonna be one of these days where you soak up a little bit of cultural knowledge.
Doing the second mentioned thing is fair enough, but the Killing Fields tour can really help you a lot to grow and gain some gratitude for what you have. For me, it was a very moving experience. I once or twice had to sit down and take a couple big breaths to calm down. What you gonna hear is very intense and hard to believe.
But let’s start with some general information before we go on to what the Killing Fields tour really comes down to…
Killing Fields Tour – General information
There is so much to tell about the Cambodian history and especially about the Killing Fields tour. This is why I only try to inform you about the major points, so that you get a good overview. If you want to get even more information, you should check this out. Just like always my focus will rather be on what you can learn from the Killing Fields tour instead of pure information 😉
The Killing Fields have been a number of sites (about 300) in Cambodia during 1975-1979, where the Khmer Rouge collectively tortured and murdered about 100.000 people. They either did not have any food, got sick from deadly diseases or have just been killed. 2.5 million people have been murdered during the Cambodian genocide, which conformed a quarter of the population (roughly 8 million in 1975).
All this happened right after the civil war, which went on from 1970-1975. Pol Pot was the Prime Minister of the Khmer Rouge regime and executed all his machinations with an unreal brutality. The killing stopped when the U.S. and Vietnamese invaded in 1979.
It took many, many years to penalize the manipulators of this fatal murdering. Pol Pot for example, was able to enjoy himself for a long time in the jungle near Thailand after the invasion and he had quite a peaceful life until he died. Crazy, right?
Statistics & Facts
If you look at the facts and statistics, you can really see the magnitude of this brutal time period:
- 8 million Cambodians
- 2.5 million died between 1975-1979
- UNICEF estimated even more (3 million)
- 20.000 mass graves
- 1.3 million executions
- 100.000 people killed at all the Killing Fields
- At least 1/20 out of all genocide victims died at Killing Fields
If you look at these numbers, it seems quite unreal, that something like this happened within 5 years. Especially, if you think about the fact, that all the victims have been fellow countrymen.
How to get there
I have had a look at the most famous one of all the Killing Fields. I did my Killings Fields tour at Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh where about 1/5 of all the people, who died at Killing Fields, have been killed.
Choeung Ek is located about 17 km southwest of the capital. You can get there by taking a Tuk Tuk or a taxi. I would not recommend any other vehicle to get there. Using a train for example is completely pointless.
Even though it is just a distance of 17 km, it taks longer than 1 hour to get there, because the streets are so crowded. You will see a lot of poverty along the way, but that’s another story.
Duration & Procedure
The Killing Fields tour usually takes about 2 hours I would say. It is up to you, how long you want to stay and let the scenery sink in. But after 1,5 hours you will have seen everything, that you need to see.
At the start you get some headphones and an audio player. The tour is available in many different languagues. From there on you can have a look at everything all by yourself. The audio tape will guide you from one point to the next. It exactly explains what happened at each an every stop.
Short tip: Be mentally prepared. There is a lot of shocking information
The Killing Fields tour itself costs 10$. Transportation will cost you about 15-20$ to get there and back. We have been 3 people, so we payed about 5$ each. I recommend you to do that, because it saves you some money and you can chat with the others afterwards about what you have seen. For some people that might be important to handle the input…
Short tip: Also include the S21 prison as well, if you can. But be aware, that it’s gonna be a long day full of dramatic information
Killing Fields Tour – Highlights
I don’t know, if you can speak of highlights in this case, but I want to tell you which parts of the Killing Fields tour impressed me the most/ left a mark on me.
Basically 3 things during the Killing Fields tour have been very memorable to me.
Skull hill & Bone box
During the Killing Fields tour you will come along a lot of boards with detailed information about each specific place at Choeung Ek. One board really sticked out. You could see a picture of a mass grave with countless of human skeletons on it. They have just been stacked up like they are some kind of rubbish. Insane and hard to imagine how it must have been in real life.
The 2nd thing was a small box with all kind of bones. It have been bones of many different victims including children and babies. Obviously the Khmer Rouge did not know where to put all the remaints of the human bodies. They just digged mass graves and put the corpses in there. Some of the remaints can now be seen in this box.
Something, which really left a mark on me during the Killing Fields tour, was a special tree. It is a tree where a lot of colourful ribbons have been attached to. They are a sign of grief and sympathy. This tree was used as a tree to smash children and babies against. Soldiers of the Khmer Rouge took them and smashed them against the tree until they died. After that, they just throw them right next to the tree on a muddy graveyard.
Nobody, not even kids, have been spared of the deadly actions…
You will see a lot of crazy stuff on the Killing Fields tour, but the “skull tower” is maybe the most symbolic and memorable one. Towards the end of the Killings Fields tour you will come along a tower full of skulls from victims. You can actually already see it when you enter the area. The stupa is mostly made out of glas, so that everyone is able to see the skulls. In total you find 8.000 skulls in there. Ridiculous, right?
When you get closer to the stupa, you can see heavy cracks in many skulls, which might give you a little inside on how brutal the Khmer Rouge regime proceeded. Really crazy!
At the end of the Killing Fields tour, you can stop at a small museums to get even more information about what happened. Make sure to stop at that as well. There are some great side notes.
Killing Fields Tour – What I have learned
I dont want to educate anyone with what I say in the following. Not at all. In all of my other posts, you can see that I always write about what I have learned personally. It’s never about what others should do or not do. Sometimes I might give some “advise” or point out my opinion and say how I think things should be. I say what I would do. But I won’t ever say: DO this or that! Never ever…
That said, I want to mention that this part might be a little longer than in most of my other posts, because I think it is important to think and talk about such intense topics. Not a lot of travel bloggers really do that. Most actually only inform about sites, places or tours, which is completely fine. But it paints a picture that everything about traveling is always positive. We live in a fluffy/ rosy world where everything is super beautiful. No, it isn’t!
Almost no one really talks about the deeper topics of travelling or the bad sides of it. And the Killing Fields tour is definitely a more intense topic to talk about and I think it’s worth thinking about it/ adressing a couple thoughts.
Two faces of planet earth
Our world is a truely beautiful and horrible place at the same time. It really depends on the way you see things. Because, what you see, is/ becomes your reality!
But the thing is this: As much as I love our planet + life in general and all the wonderful things we have like our wonderful nature, amazing people, interesting cultures, cool technical innovations and whatever else is out there, there are still bad things happening every day. That’s just reality. And the Killing Fields tour is the perfect example for it.
I mean, name just one proper argument as a justification to do such horrible things to any human being on the planet. There is none. It’s as easy as that…
Still things like this happen every single day, even, if the media does not report everything that happens in our world. And we all know that these things happen. As pessimistic as it might sound, but no one is able to change that, because of how our modern world works/ is designed.
The only thing anyone of us can do, is to choose the right side of these two faces. Either being a good human being with good moral integrity or being a bad person doing bad things. It’s up to ourselfs. But it’s pretty obvious, that, if everyone starts with him/herself and makes changes to become a better person, it would eventually make the world a better place. And things like the ones you can see on the Killing Fields tour hopefully won’t happen anymore in the future.
We are all the same
As different as we all might be, we are all the same. We all have the same needs, wishes and dreams, if you cut it down to the core. Everyone of us wants:
- Cover the basic human needs
We all basically want to live a good life full of joy. For sure, not every day and phase in life is a happy phase. But mostly we all want to have more good times than bad times in life.
If you let that sink for a second, then it’s pretty obvious that the great injustices, which we have on our planet, or the horrible things you can see on the Killing Fields tour must not happen!
How to achieve this?
It really does not take a lot to be happy. Still, there is this question of why so many bad things happen all the time, right? This has countless of reasons in my opinion (different story though). But at least, if you think about that question for a second, you will realize pretty quick what you need to do.
Be a good human being
This will not only do yourself and others good, it will also help you to attract more and more positive things in life. Since the Killing Fields tour and even already before in Australia, I changed my attitude. My attitude now is: Always think positive, be a good person and work towards your goals. Step by step and never stop.
And I can say for myself, most of what happened to me since then was positive, even, if it sometimes took a while to realize it. So, always remember: We are all the same. And how to you want others to be? Good people, right? So, start with being a good person yourself and good things will happen to you.
Learn from the past
I admit straight away that I also struggle with this, but I try to remind myself of it as often as I can. This is a very important thing in life in general – to learn from the past. I actually try to follow a specific saying:
We live and we learn
We all seem to forget very, very fast. Mostly, because the historical past doesn’t have anything to with us, right? We are not responsible for what happened in the past and we can’t change it anyway. I actually think exactly this way.
BUT there is also the other side of the medal. We should all learn from the past, doesn’t matter, if it’s our own or history in general. Why? Because obviously none of us wants these bad things to happen again. And learning from the past is an important skill in my opinion. It will save you from falling into the same traps over and over again. Most of us only learn from personal experience, but history can also be a good teacher. That’s for sure!
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