A thousand splendid smiles

Trip Start Jan 05, 2009
Trip End Jun 30, 2009

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Saturday, May 9, 2009

The first thing we noticed when we arrived in Cambodia was that everybody was smiling at us. We were initially suspicious but we eventually realised that they really are a smily population. The second perception we had was the contrast that reigns in this beautiful country: the magnificence of the royal palace in Phnmom Penh and the temples of Angkor compared to the horror of the genocide museum in Phnom Penh (a place that gives you the "cher de poule).

We started our Cambodian journey in the capital Phnom Penh. Scooters, motorcycles and tuk-tuks reign over this city: there is no way you're going to be able to cross the road without literally throwing yourself in the middle of the street waving and making them stop to let you through: quite an experience for us, used to Switzerland where car stop if only you raise en eyebrow close to a pedestrian crossing...in Phnom Penh they don't even have the sign for pedestrian crossing!! To better experience the town, Massimo's friend Stefano lent us his Vespa: driving around Phnom Penh in a Vespa PX 125 was absolutely amazing and, once you get into it,
the Cambodian driving style, isn't so different from the Italian one!

The stay in Phnom Penh was made even nicer by the fact that we stayed at an old friend of Massimo's, Stefano, whom he didn't see for over ten years. Stefano has a beautiful family with Jennifer and together with their kids Lisa and Jona they made us really feel at home.

Jennifer showed the shop she opened with another Italian partner where they sell their own brand (www.smateria.com) accessories (bags, wallet, etc) produced from recycled material (tetrapaks, mosquito nets): not only they reuse our rubbish in a fashionable way but also to produce their products they only hire Cambodian people and pay them more than the average (which in this country is 90 USD a month). So visit their website and buy their products...it's a good way to make something good and have a nice accessory for yourself!

With the help of Stefano (a travel agent in Phnom Penh) we organised the rest of the trip and, in particular the stay at Siam Reap, the base town to visit the temples of Angkor and discover the Khmer history. To do this, Stefano not only recommended us to get a guide, but also booked us the most unique guide you can find in Cambodia. Sebastiano, an original "venessiano" (from Venice, Italy), who ended up being a guide in Siam Reap...quite a change but with his huge knbowledge and his natural pleasant way of talking about history made us really appreciate all the stories about the various Javayarman kings (they were all named the same) and the tells about Buddha, Shiva, Brahma and Visnu. He also went a step further and invited us to join him to a traditional Cambodian wedding the night after. That was quite an experience: we were initially a bit shy about the idea of crashing somebody's wedding but he the explained to us that this is normal in Cambodia as families are so big that the bride and the groom do not know half of the people they invite! There were really like 500 people in a restaurant and after the 5th plate everybody went dancing their traditional music. Of course we were involved and started the Cambodian version of the square dance (the difference is that you go in circles...) with Sebastiano and another million strangers who were smiling and having fun seeing us trying to dance their music.

We've now moved to Laos and even though the end of this trip becomes closer and closer we are still enjoying every second of it.

Soon coming, M&M's in Laos.
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