Jan 04, 2002
Sorry for the delay.... here is an overdue update on my travels.
You know you're in the third world when...
The most dangerous job is mine sweeper and the second most dangerous job is opposition party candidate.
I like Cambodia. Cambodia has character. I came here expecting lawlessness and my expectations were wrong. It was dangerous in the past, but no longer. The change was sudden. 5 years ago in Phnom Penh AK-47s were everywhere and there were shanty towns of brothels. Now the guns are gone. There are still some brothels, but they are nicer. The largest shanty town of brothels which had a nice location on the lake has been replaced with a mosque. And as of this week, they are considering helmet laws. How about that for a quick change? 5 years from the wild wild west to helmet laws!
Khmer Rouge and Genocide
Obviously a big topic here in Cambodia. Since most people here have an American education, the atrocities in Cambodia were probably skipped over. Here is the very very short version. Up to 2 million people in a country that was only 11 million people died under Khmer Rouge rule between 1975 and 1979.
What made a much bigger impact on me than the facts and figures was someone in a bar telling me "Look around, every Cambodian you see, someone in they're family was killed." This may not be exactly true, but it's close enough. That one statement made a big impact on me. While in Cambodia I spend a few minutes everyday pondering this. It's an odd mix of feelings. Initially it's very saddening. Then you look around and see all the Cambodian smiling and you realize that the story, while terrible, did have a happy ending. The country and people as a whole did survive.
The Temples of Angkor
Spending your day exploring the temple ruins where Tomb Raider was filmed would be cool enough. However, that's only the 3rd coolest temple surrounding the ancient city of Angkor Thom. This city had over 1 million residents back at a time when London had only 30,000.
Doomed to the fate of being known as the Angelina Jolie temple for the next 20 years. Archeologists decided to leave this temple pretty much as they found it. Their intent was to create a feeling of discovery for future visitors to the site. They failed - it's pretty hard to feel that you've discovered anything with tour groups of Japanese snapping photos. However they did succeed in that it is a beautiful mix of temple and jungle with massive trees growing on top of or through the temple walls.
I'm sure others have written books about this temple. I'll sum it up simple as "An ancient temple covered with 216 identical giant stone faces each with a huge silly grin". From any point within the temple there are at least 3 or 4 grinning at you. How cool, how bizarre is that.
To get to Angkor Wat you first need to walk across a lake sized moat to reach the outer wall. Once you cross the outer wall you are greeted with your first full view of the temple. I wasn't that impressed. Then I started walking down the paved walkway that leads towards the temple. As I'm walking the temple gets bigger and bigger and bigger. At some point, I reverse my earlier judgment and decide "Whoa! That's one hell of a temple". 5 towers, the center tower is a small skyscraper, 15 stories tall. Indeed, it is one hell of a temple.
And a link to someone else's photos.
Sihoukville and New Years
Beach, hammock. Beach, hammock. A very quiet relaxing New Years. I had planned to spend New Years in wild and dangerous Phnom Penh. However, Phnom Penh turned out to be a nice relaxing quiet city. They stopped firing guns into the air for New Years some time ago. Without a crazy party to attend, I took the other extreme. After 10 days of relaxing, doing nothing, sitting in hammock on the beach culminating with New Years Eve around a bonfire drinking with a couple of friends.
Great philosophy on life. I envy your travels. I just returned from a month in West Java on a boat searching for surf and in Jakarta partying my ass off. It sounds like you like to have a great time. I recommend Jakarta. Stay in a nice hotel with a disco (Crown Plaza) and indulge!