the top 7 things to do in phnom penh cambodia 1 825x510 - The Top 7 Things to Do in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
02 of 07

Face a History of Genocide at Tuol Sleng

The Top 7 Things to Do in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Image courtesy of Cormac McCreesh / Getty Images

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This former school found itself in a very, very dark place in the 1970s — as the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, its fanatical leader Pol Pot instituted a “Year Zero” that deemed intellectuals, noblemen, and city dwellers as worthy only of death. Torture camps like S-21, or Tuol Sleng (location on Google Maps), contributed to a genocide that eventually killed up to three million people.

“The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh is an important site to visit to have a deeper understanding of what the Cambodian people have been through,” said Joslin. “It is a horrifying to see what humans are capable of doing to one another over ideals, yet important to see so that history might not be forgotten nor repeated.”

Four buildings stand around an open courtyard, their grisly contents attesting to the gory and utterly needless suffering that the Khmer Rouge inflicted on innocents for four long years. A macabre photo gallery of victims stares blankly out at visitors in Building B; all-but-empty rooms and starkly lit interiors allow travelers' imaginations to run wild at the horrors that must have happened here.

“It is such an intense experience — one you will be glad you had to better understand Cambodia and what people and their families have been through,” said Joslin.