Legend has it that the city of Phnom Penh was founded when an old woman named Penh found four Buddha images that had come to rest on the banks of the Mekong River. She housed them on a nearby hill, and the town that grew up here came to be known as Phnom Penh (Hill of Penh).

To get there from Siem Reap I jumped on a boat and went down the Tonle Sap Lake and further down the Tonle Sap River. Phnom Penh was very interesting but also very sad. Here you have to face history from the Khmer Rouge regime and it hit me big time. Luckily I found a nice tuk-tuk driver, his name is Peter (what ever his real name is, that’s how he used to call himself), who drove me for one day around town. Peter is around 40 years old and he was 10 years old when the Khmer Rouge regime, under the power of Pol Pot, took Phnom Penh on 17 April 1975. As part of the radical social programme, they immediately forced the entire population starting from that date into the countryside. Who was out on the street that day was directly send out of the town or killed. Whole families were split up on those first fateful days of the Khmer Rouge regime. Like Peter, who was sent into a labour camp where he had to work on rice fields, split up from his family. While he was telling his story I knew that this day will last for longer in my mind. He showed his tongue, which had deep cuts from torture and different illnesses. Hepatitis, Malaria and everyday torture was common during that time. Approximated 3.5-4 mio people had been killed, tortured to death in special prisons or killing fields. Between 1975 and 1978 about 17,000 men, woman, children and infants who had been detained and tortured at S-21 (a former school in Phnom Penh which was converted into a Security Prison called S-21) were transported to the extermination camp of Chong Ek, the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh. People were often bludgeoned to death to avoid wasting precious bullets. Only 7 people from 17,000 survived the prison or the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh. Cambodia had much more Killing Fields and special prisons spread out over the country during that time.

It is a peaceful place today, masking the horrors that unfolded here less than 3 decades ago. I found it pretty intense and depressive walking through the different sides of the camp. Trees where used as “Killing Trees” to beat children or baby’s with their head against – until they dead, mothers often kept beside as spectators before they where killed with any other brutal practice.

After 2 days of Phnom Penh I decided to head south to clear my head from the heavy pictures. I needed to restart my system – clean the cache. Beach, drinks, party and nothing to do all day long. Because this sounded like the perfect plan for me, I jumped on the first bus next morning and drove down to Sihanoukville, a pretty laid back and easy going place at the South Coast of Cambodia, surrounded by white sand beaches and undeveloped tropical islands. And so far … I like it a lot. It is pretty laid back and more hippie than any kind of mass tourism. But also here you can not escape from the follow-up of the Khmer Rouge regime. Landmines. Cambodia holds the world record of landmines and landmines victims. A lot of landmine victims you see over day and night at the beach, where they try to collect some money from westerner’s or rich Cambodians from Phnom Penh. Not easy to watch and very sad. So I always give them some smaller cash but there are too many. As sad as it is, it’s part of the country’s history and you can not close your eyes.