The Choeung Ek Memorial Killing Fields are one of the most well known places in Cambodia, second only to Angkor Wat. The name the Killing Fields has been the title of books and films, based on the atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge rule. Today Choeung Ek acts as a memorial, and it is an important place to visit when learning about Cambodia's history.
Choeung Ek is not Cambodia's only killing field, but featuring a large memorial for the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, it is the most common one for people to visit. It's easiest to get here by tuk tuk, and it is about a 15km drive out of Phnom Penh.
Walking around the memorial can be a hard task. Choeung Ek was the place where thousands of Cambodians were murdered, and buried in mass graves. The signs tell stories of the men, women, and children who were beaten to death here because bullets were too precious to waste.
There will often be many people around the memorial, willing to guide you for a small fee. They'll be able to explain the different areas, and will have their own stories to tell. You're hard-pressed to find a Cambodian who hasn't been affected by this dark history; it was something that touched everybody.
In the centre is a large stupa, which is filled with the bones and clothes of many of the victims. This is most commonly where people pay there respects, and you can buy flowers and incense to leave out the front.
Walking through Choeung Ek can be quite harrowing. While the place itself is quite unassuming, it is the stories that surround it, and the realisation of where you are walking, that make it so difficult.
If you're visiting Choeung Ek you should also visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Neither make for happy viewing, but both will help give you a better understanding of this period of Cambodia's history.
There is a $2 fee to enter Choeung Ek, and you may wish to spend more money to get a guide and some flowers.
It's best to plan your day around visiting Choeung Ek and Tuol Sleng. Both are quite hard to get through, and chances are you will not want to add anything else to your day.