Battambang to Phnom Phen and everything in between
Trip Start Aug 21, 2004
50Trip End Mar 03, 2005
I have a good reason. I swear. I know it's been 6 days since I last wrote, but I really haven't had time. "How is that possible?" you might ask.(considering that I'm on "holiday") It's not my fault, it's everyone elses. All those wonderful people I've met in the last 10 days. Telling me stories, filling me with beer, dancing with me, kissing me... just the best of the best. So to break from my pattern of typically abnormal entries, I feature a collection of short stories.
My time in Siem Riep was so rewarding, that I HAD to see more of Cambodia, but preferably somewhere not touristic. Emily, Stacey and I took a 5 hour boat ride from Siem Riep to Battambang. After a few hours travelling through a large lake, we maneuvered through small intricate water ways
The next day Stacey took the early bus to Phnom Phen, and Emily & I set out at 9:30am. We were the only westerners on the bus (which was great) but were subjected to poorly dubbed Kung-Fu movies and VCD Kareoke (which was bad). In fact, Khmer music just plain sucks. We passed the time away listening to Curtis Mayfield, Mum and various others and joked around too. When we finally got to Phnom Phen, we got a moto to the (dumpy) guesthouse where I subsequently crashed. At this point, I had caught this wonderful cold that made it all the way from China, and my Asthma kicked in like nobody's business. (Don't worry Mom, I'm better now) I didn't really do too much sight seeing, but spent 3 nights socializing, drinking beer, coughing and not sleeping a lot. I did visit the Tol Sleun (S21) prison (formerly a high school) which was used by the Khmer Rouge to torture and interrogate. Of the 8000+ people who passed through, only seven survived. Lots of the rooms are still intact, and blood stains were still visible in some places. I've seen my share of holocaust exhibits, but have never passed through anything like this. (I've yet to visit Auschwitz or Dachau). I wiped back tears as I walked through the rooms of photographs. On one side the "victims"; Khmer professionals, government officials, doctors, anyone considered to be an intellectual. On the other side the "torturers"; Khmer citizens too, yet horribly warped and brainwashed. (Mainly 10-15 yr. olds) What blows my mind is that this happened not even 30 years ago! It's happening now in places like Darfur as well. If any of this interests you further, E-mail me and I'll send you a "must-read" list about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge.
Friday night 12am
I leave the room for a breather and I have said boy in tow. His friend follows behind us, and looks me up & down rather sternly. He tells me in his broken-lisping English "You're not Gay". (Yeah, it's pretty obvious) I tell him "no, but I like to dance!". I think I broke his friend's little heart. Oh well!
Sitting on the deck at the guesthouse, an extremely attractive Khmer girl approaches me and sits down. She hands me a flyer and tells me about some party at a new place that I should check out. I say OK. Then I think she's flirting with me, but I can't really tell. She looks at my earring, and before I can protest, pulls it out and sticks it in her own ear. Yuck! Then she tells me how she doesn't like boys, just girls
Mark (Irish) Tim (English) and I decide to ride bicycles to the killing fields outside of Phnom Phen. Everyone tells us we're nuts, and that the rode is too bad. We shrug it off and begin out adventure. It's HOT. We ride in city traffic. People are smiling and waving at us and trying to talk at us. Want a great way to meet people in Cambodia? Ride a bike in the middle of city traffic? Want to have attention comparable to your favorite Hollywood starlet? Do said ride shirtless. The Khmer men rarely take off their shirts, so I guess we were a novelty item in that sense. We're white. They're dark skinned like Indians or Sri Lankans. I think the jist of our attention was "look at the crazy white foreigners riding bikes!" But everyone was smiling and waving at us...It was great
So alas, I leave Cambodia behind me. People told me not to go there. Others warned me about land mines. I was told that I would be received in a most inhospitable manner. Wrong, Wrong Wrong . The friendliest people I've ever met are the Khmer people. So the lesson is:
everyone gets something else from their journey. everyone has a different agenda. take what people say with a grain of salt (and a shot of Tequila).