Travels 234: Crying on Christmas day at the Killing Fields in Choeung Ek

After having been subjected to my life-changing reflections at the Tuol Sleng (S21) visit early in the day, I paused and prayed at the Choeung Ek Wat on my way to the infamous Killing Fields in Asia and that is in Choeung Ek in the Kingdom of Cambodia. So named “Killing Fields” by survivor Dith Pran, it is living museum where atrocities to humanity were forever paused for many around the world to come and reflect. The horrors of 1975-1979 years of the evil Pol Pot regime were mostly evident in the Killing Fields.

Nowadays, many tourists and backpackers around the world come to Choeung Ek to come to this memorial which stands time and perhaps learn more about what made Cambodia into what it is today. I understood Cambodia now more than ever, much more, felt her and embraced her and the entire Cambodian people because of what they had been forced to go through some 35 years ago. Million of Cambodians died and perished, families, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, siblings, children have died after a gruelling torture and rape. This particular trip is my final stop on my self-imposed reflection journey on Christmas day.

I have designed my itinerary around these sites for me to embrace humanity as everyone back home celebrates a joyous Christmas. I and my friend Lyna arrived in time and I paid $7 for the audio guide. Upon arriving at the Killing Fields as they say, I felt the sudden burst of raw emotion. If one was not to the Tuol Sleng (S21) Genocide Museum, one perhaps can never connect and relate to the horrors. For me, it is as if I took on the simulated trip of a prisoner from Tuol Sleng to Choeung Ek for execution, only for me, I stopped at the Wat to pray.

When the narrator started to explain the holy and sacred place called the “Killing Fields”, I started to walk along other tourists and backpackers, some were with me at Tuol Sleng. I was allowed my own personal time by my friend Lyna to walk around the entire complex on my own. He just patiently waited for me. I pass other numbered stations until I came across the Killer Tree which is the same place I felt my tears fell on the ground from my cheeks. The audio guide explained that the tree in front of me is where children and babies were killed by smashing their little heads on the tree, brains scattered on the trunk then they will be thrown off the open pit which serves as their mass grave.

I walk farther away, I saw bones, fragments of skull on the ground and were cordoned off by a rope reminding guest not to walk on mass graves. I also saw the Magic Tree where no magic was wielded but sheer cruelty and eerie music played on loud speakers to defuse the moans and cries of people dying and fighting for their lives.

The “Killing Fields” is a tragic community where men and women were reduced to nobody and whose physical body were subjected to so much pain, broken their spirit and left to rot. It may served as a memorial now however, the pains of the Cambodian people remain including that of the entire world where many have suffered after those evil years where Pol Pot ruled the country.

The last stop of the audio guided tour to the “Killing Fields” is the stupa which sits at the center of the complex. It is where hundreds of recovered skulls were placed meticulously on glass dividers and where visitors can come in and pray. I did went inside and prayed, took photos, said my prayers and left in peace.

The journey I took reduced me to tears and I was wiping it through which others can also gleaned. I silently bowed down my head and absorb their silence and their peace, seeing some in tears too. The first Christmas I cried was never home but where my heart felt at peace and it is at Choeung Ek. I never mind it was Christmas that I took the journey for it defines me my own humanity and strengthened in me resilience to see through every pain and challenge I will have to face while I live. The journey was entirely one that created in me the longing of a son to a father and a mother whom I lost already and felt their spirit too, abiding in me.

Categories: Cambodia, Choeung Ek, Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

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21 thoughts on “Travels 234: Crying on Christmas day at the Killing Fields in Choeung Ek

  1. Hindi ko parin maiwasan kilabutan kapag nakakabasa ako ng tungkol sa karahasan sa Cambodia noon… Kawawa… Lalo na yung mga bata..:,(

  2. Huwaw sobrang nakakakilabot cguro d2 doc,,, ngaun q lng nbasa bout d2 sa killing field ng cambodia,,,and its true n tlgang unknow , never read any books about dis tnx for the info,,, nice post doc

    • Salamat din bro. thanks for your comment. It was Christmas day and yes I went there to know more about Cambodia and how it changed me into a better and responsible person.

  3. Grabe.. ganda ng mag scenes.. kahit may mga bungo. hehe..
    Sana makapag tour din ako tulad nyo po.

  4. Mitch

    Very nice, Wends! Gotta start saving money so I can personally see these images here. =)

  5. waah ginawang display mga bungo parng katakot, pede ko ba mahiram mga pics mo pala

    • Chris, sure po but kindly cite me as the source or kindly just retain the watermark for my blog. Thanks for the comments. This is the Killing Fields Genocide Memorial in Cambodia.

  6. When I went to Cambodia, I immediately proceeded to Siem Reap. I only had 1 hour in PP so I didn;t get to see this. Too bad, it would have made my knowledge of Cambodia history more complete!

    • It is alright Aleah so now you got more reasons to come back. I spent 2 days in Phnom Penh and pretty had a great and full day to spend with my Cambodian hosts and friends. I am humbled to come and spent my Christmas day on these memorials I had been and renewed my faith on humanity that one day, we will never see a repeat of these horrors though confluences of world events years after this happened directed us to a repeat of history as it did happened in Kosovo and Rwanda and in many Balkan states in Europe.

      Thank you Aleah sa comment and wishing you all the best for your first solo backpacking trip to Europe. Enjoy

  7. Kinikilabutan pa rin ako lalo na sa mga bones .hubby was beside me looking at the photos ,he got interested at this post while I read carefully while trying not to look at the skul and scroll faster downward but he said”wait a minute” .

    • Tess, I never felt afraid though there are plenty of skulls and bones and despicable horrors and pain when I went to the Memorial. I am more at peace with this visit and each step reminds me of my own humanity and how much we are given the stewardship to make the great leap of faith for others to do good at all times to our fellowmen. This is a lesson, a hard lesson that I took firsthand and it happened on Christmas day. I am forever humbled.

      Thank you for your comments and God bless you both and your family.

  8. Joey

    This is a good one dellski! Keep it up! 🙂

  9. grizzly reminder of a brutal past that mankind hope never to be repeated again…

  10. I was deeply moved by your post. I would definitely feel the same if given the chance to go to this historical place. A very meaningful way to spend Christmas… Thanks for sharing this experience to us. God bless all their souls.

  11. Pingback: Cambodia, the all inclusive cheapest holiday « Journeys and Travels

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