6 letters for a future ?
Trip Start Jan 01, 2010
57Trip End Jun 30, 2012
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It took me some time to realize where I was and what I wanted to do in Cambodia. Since I had planned to spend the first few days in Eastern Cambodia and read about the rest of the country in the meantime, it was quite a surprise to be directly in the capital. During the 2 days I spent there, I did not do much : going to the Vietnamese embassy to make my visa (easy), walking into the main bazaar and visit one of the main symbol of the crimes of the Khmer Rouge, Tuol Sieng Museum, or Security Prison 21 (S-21). I won't say too much about it, like Auschwitz, it is a place where visitors may want to keep their feelings for themselves
Then, together with Tal, the Israeli girl I met in the tourist bus 2 days before, we took a bus to Kampot, on the Southern Coast. It is funny to realize that I got lucky twice in the last 10 days : first Helene, and then Tal. I am not looking for anything, last time was in India nearly 4 months ago, but if it must happen, then it has to happen, right? But, I am not sure it is wise to give too much importance in any relationship while traveling. How many people I met in the last 6 years I have been traveling ? 1000, 2000 ? When I say "meet", I mean people whom I discussed with more than just a few minutes. When traveling, and even more when traveling alone, it easy to become very close very fast to fellow travelers : sharing a tuk-tuk ride, being seated together in a bus/train/plane/boat, having lunch, drinking a beer, sharing a room to cut cost (sometimes even a bed !!!), going to a museum and, in countries where there are few tourists, just meeting in the street... There are many opportunities to spend some time with other travelers. Usually it is very intense, in a matter of minutes, you can know all their lives, but it never lasts long. I used to ask for emails or facebook before each of us follows his own way, but I stopped when I realized I never talked to them again
So, better not to ask many questions when you meet somebody you like. Carpe Diem... We spent a few days in Kampot, a sleepy village along a river. We had the plan to visit Bokor Hill Station, a ruined resort left behind by the French, but people told us it was not possible anymore to visit it on our own, because people were upgrading the road to allow more tourists to come. In the meantime, it was possible to visit it only on a tour, 13$ / person + 5$ entrance few..
Dany is originally from Russia, and like many Russian Jews in the 80's, his parents immigrated to Israel when he was 6. I can't explain why, but since I started this trip across Asia, it becomes more and more evident I would also eventually spend some time in the Middle East. At first I wanted to go directly to one of the Emirates or in Qatar, because it looks easy to find a job, a matter of weeks, or even just a few days if I am lucky... Now, I am considering other options : Egypt or Israel. I can't believe that less than 2 years ago, I said No to a job in Cairo, and instead chose to fill Excel tables in Paris. It took me one year and a half, 25 countries and 70.861 kms taveled (and still counting) to realize that it was indeed the perfect place for me to live some time...
I would be happy with Cairo, probably more than Dubai or Doha, but Israel slowly makes its way. Just imagine the energy into this place : Jerusalem is holly not less than 3 times ! I don't know if it realizable, I know about immigration procedures in the Emirates, I don't know how complicated it is for Israel
In the days I spent with Tal and Dany, this feeling grew stronger, not only because Tal is lovely, but because she kind of opened my eyes in the way we use to see Israel from Europe. It took her hours of passionate debates, 2 or 3 self-controls to restraint herself from killing me and eventually a few tears (I wish I could feel it as strong as she does), for me to admit that the conflict in the Middle-East is taught and described in the medias as a little bit too much pro-Palestinian. Of course, it does not mean that Europe is against Israel, no doubt than if Iran or Syria one day launches an attack against Israel, and if Israel calls for help, France, on behalf of NATO, together with the UK, the USA, Canada, Germany.... will rush to defend Israel (but so far Israel did not need anybody to defend itself). When she talks about our pro-Palestinian education, Tal is probably right, but the situation might (and I say might) have evolved when Nicolas Sarkozy became President of France
So, after these resting days of intense reflection in the tranquil town of Kampot, Tal and me took leave from Dany, who continued his journey to Angkor Wat and Thailand, and we went to Sihanoukville, a beach resort, the 2nd most touristic destination in Cambodia after Angkor. I thought I would have enjoyed it, I don't like beach, but I sometimes look for the ambiance of this touristic places. It was a big disappointment, I really disliked the place at first sight, very expensive for Cambodia, with tuk-tuk scams up and running, and worst of all, many old tourists who came here to have some good time with young Khmer. I wrote previously that I see tourism and the money and progress it brings as a good thing for locals (I guess Thai people have a better life now than 30 years ago), but Sihanoukville appeared to me as evil when I saw this girls, even if adults, hooking up with foreigners and clearly not being comfortable with it... Cambodia is not Thailand, and it would be sad if Cambodia falls into this dark side of tourism...
It took me some time, and it was not easy, but I left alone the next day for a road trip inside Koh Kong province, home to incredible natural sites
I spent a tranquil night, and not to make the same mistake than in Don Det (I did not know how camping would be seen in Cambodia), I packed my tent in the morning, left it at the tourist office and spent the day riding around the countryside and waterfalls. At night, the rain started again (apparently wet season came earlier this year) and as I was waiting into the tourist restaurant (3,5$ a meal !!!) because they had free Wi-fi (yes, free Wi-fi in the middle of nowhere !) before pitching my tent for the 2nd night, one of the woman working there asked me if she could offer me food
I left the village the next day. The treks offered by the association were too expensive for me. Tal told me she would met me there, but you never know with girls, do you ? I drove further in the province. At first I wanted to reach the town of Thma Bang using a dirt path in the countryside, but locals told me it was too dangerous and slippery to do it on my own. I tried anyway, but came back after 15kms, because the path was too difficult. I could have tried to go on, but I know my limits, and if nothing really bad never happened to me, it is not without reason... So, I went back on the main road, who was completed only recently thanks to the money offered by Thailand to built bridges, and reached Thma Bang in the middle afternoon. I spent the rest of the day exploring on foot the countryside around this village, where no tourists go, and decided to try the hospitality of rural people (what happened in Chi Phat may happen again, who knows...). Using signs, I asked a family if I could pitch my tent in their garden, and they immediately invited me into their house for the night
When I arrived in Sihanoukville, I bumped into Tal and her friend, who had not left the city. You really never know with girls, actually... I spent the afternoon with them, resting and packing my stuff, and I took the night bus the same day to Siem Reap, and the temples of Angkor, after having made the promise to Tal I will see her again when I'll go to Israel (and I mean it).
After these 4 days in a remote and little visited province of Cambodia, I was ready (and excited) to visit the highlight of this country, Angkor Wat !