Just Outside Angkor Wat

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Siem Reap, Cambodia is the base town for visiting the temples of Angkor Wat. There are no stop signs in Siem Reap. Cars, motorcycles and bicycles sometimes race down the right hand side of the road, sometimes down the left. My first thought was that maybe they have a signless four-way stop rule in effect at all intersections. That's not it either. It's more like the chicken rule - he who stops or cowers loses while the vehicle that goes on through wins. Once yesterday, it took Ellen and I 3 or 4 minutes to get across the road. We breathed a sigh of relief only to have a motorcycle come charging along the sidewalk straight for us. It's like being trapped in a video game.

All around us in Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, the legless people of Cambodia begin playing reed instruments as you walk by in hope that you will notice them and drop a few Riel in their tin cups. I spoke with one such fellow who had the misfortune of stepping on a landmine not far from here back in 1989. Both of his legs were blown off at the knee. Cambodia is the most densely mined country in the world. There are around 50,000 amputees and they still average 2,000 victims per year. Muth, our 29 year old driver's father was one of the hapless 1 million - 3 million people who perished in the late 70's under the Pol Pot Khmer Rouge genocidal regime. A country with one hardship after another. A depressed, downtrodden people you would expect. Nothing however could be further from the truth. Much like the people of Burma and Laos, the Cambodians, or Khmers, are a friendly resourceful lot. The last two evenings Ellen and I spent an hour or so helping one of the young workers at our guesthouse with his English studies. All of these fatherless, 20-something year old young men strive for the big time - they want to become licensed, $15-$20/day tour guides at Angkor Wat. In order to make the grade, they must pass exams in both Angkor specific archeology and English proficiency.

Back in Thailand: A few days ago we rode on an express bus for a couple of hours. There was a farmer who sat a few rows from us with a chicken on his lap. Two hours is a long time for a chicken to go without having a call to stool. Here's how it works: The farmer places the chicken in a standing position on his lap. He then places his hands firmly on each side of the chicken. When the farmer feels a certain tensing in the body of the chicken, he simply opens his legs and the chicken makes toilet onto the floor of the bus. No muss, no fuss.
We don't get much news here, but we've heard talk of a new health concern - bird flu. Today there was a picture of a Bangkok KFC outlet on the front page of the Bangkok Post. KFC has declared that it's OK to eat chicken - at least their chicken. Thanks Colonel Sanders, but the only chicken we'll be eating for the balance of this trip is the chicken of the sea.
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