You arrive today in the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh
, long known as the Pearl of Asia, thanks to its many temples and French colonial buildings. This morning you’ll learn about one of the darkest periods in the country’s history, when it was ruled by the Khmer Rouge.
Choeung Ek is one of the many sites known collectively as the Killing Fields, where Khmer Rouge forces systematically executed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. The remains of almost 9,000 people have been unearthed from 129 mass graves on the site, and a memorial stupa houses many of their skulls.
Many of those killed at Choeung Ek were first interrogated at Tuol Seng, also known as S-21, after the name given to a former high school when the Khmer Rouge converted it into an interrogation center. Today, the Tuol Seng Genocide Museum’s displays, which include thousands of photographs of political prisoners, give voice to the regime’s victims.
In the afternoon, visit Cambodia’s royal palace. Construction on this vast complex of halls, pavilions, and temples began in the 1860s and it’s still the principal residence of Cambodian kings. While roughly half of the complex (the royal living quarters and offices) is closed to the public, you can explore many of its structures, including the Silver Pagoda, the Moonlight Pavilion, and the Throne Hall.
Then, after a visit to the city’s central market, return to your ship to rest before returning to the city for a tuk-tuk tour, with stops to sample typical Cambodian dishes. There’s also an optional DiscoverMORE tour, Phnom Penh by Vespa
, for an additional cost.