Popping through Phnom Penh

Trip Start Aug 19, 2012
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Trip End Ongoing

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ever wondered how to pronounce Phnom Penh or Khmer?  Or come to think of it, Laos for that matter?  Probably not.  

But I'll share with you anyway.

Phnom Penh = P-nom Pen
Khmer = Kmye
Laos = Lowse (for the country)
Lao = Lau (for the adjective, such as Lao people; for the name of the language)

Ok, that's over with.

How do I summarize PP (local short form of saying Phnom Penh)?

For me (Carolyn), it's good to be back.  I was here about 4.5 years ago.  And I've wanted to return since.  This time, especially since we've been travelling so long in SE Asia already, it's felt way less shocking and kind of like coming "home" in a way.  No, I don't feel like I want to move here, but it's nice to be travelling back to a place that feels familiar.  I even remember various things like visiting the Royal Palace, going to the Russian market, eating at specific cafes.  Recognizing specific things is so weird.  In a way, like time hasn't passed.

But it has.

Things have changed.

Some people actually pay attention to traffic lights - when they want to.
Most people actually wear helmets while on motorbikes - when they want to.
Items are still relatively cheap (I use that term loosely given then we still get ripped off) at the Russian Market - though the prices have risen.  Yes, I still remember how much I paid for things the last time.  It's my uncanny ability to remember prices because, well, I'm a bargain hunter.

Then there are things that I WISH have changed.

Foreigners still purchase "time" with local girls and women.
Children, land mine victims, elderly, etc. still beg on the streets.
Vietnamese still have no human rights.
The poor still sell their children, particularly girls.
HIV is still rampant.
 
I do not miss bed bugs either.  Yes, we had bed bugs.  In TWO consecutive rooms at our hotel in one night.  Some were very big, and there were many.  It was so bad we started to wonder if they were coming from us.  But if that were the case, they would've had to be running amok on my body and in my hair.  We even checked each others' heads like we had lice or something.  And our hotel is ranked 28th of 171 hotels in Phnom Penh!

Three time was a charm though as we finally got "upgraded" to the 5th floor to an identical room to our first, and no bed bugs that we can tell since!  At least nothing we can see with the naked eye.
 
Not to mention riding our tuk tuk through flooded streets to the Russian Market.  The water was so high we had to hold our feet up as it splashed through the open wooden slats of the bottom of our tuk tuk.  Or how about the tuk tuk that gave us a $2.50 ride around the city after we left the Russian Market because the driver was lost and actually didn't know how to get to our hotel.  He literally took us in the opposite direction for quite a long time until we stopped him because our gut told us he was going the wrong way.  We ended up showing him our map 3 times, and giving HIM street directions to get back.  In the process, an SUV missed us by 3 inches (no joke), and our driver nearly did a u-ey in a six lane road with oncoming traffic despite the fact that he didn't need to turn around at all.  Oh, yes, traffic rules don't exist here, including stopping at intersections to merge into traffic.  Seriously.  Gotta love Cambodia!

We have also since learned that drivers cannot read maps here.  It's just not how they work.  Landmarks they know, but if they're not familiar with the exact location of where you want to go, good luck.  Oh, and most don't speak English.  And beyond "hello", "goodbye", and "thank you", I don't really speak Khmer.
 
We talked today about how we will miss SE Asia.  There is a warmth here that is so natural, and no, I'm not talking about the heat and humidity.  THAT actually takes the warmth out of interactions.

There is a warmth of character here that is refreshing.  Cambodia has a tangible warmth of character.

But there is also a struggle to sense, emit, and maintain hope.  As we've had a chance to become friends with Khang and Amy, and talked with them about their experiences in Cambodia and gain a better understanding of the complex underpinnings of this culture, the niggling thought I've had is how hope exists, but is so easily dismissed or quenched here.

I realize this isn't a local phenomenon given that poverty exists everywhere, and that I will encounter this again through our travels.  However, the symptoms of this are unique in Cambodia given its horrific genocidic (I know that isn't a real word, but work with me) past.

Nonetheless, this country is slowly getting back up on its feet.  It may be on its knees right now, but I see it on its way to standing upright.  We just need to continue encouraging it.

We head to a village about 1-2 hours away tomorrow.  We will visit and see if we can help with some locals through a friend who moved from Vancouver a few years ago to the village.  It's called Oudong Village, and may not have internet.  There may be radio silence for several days.  Then again, Cambodia is surprisingly technologically advanced when it comes to WiFi, so I may post as early as the next couple of days.

Over and out.
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mawood! on

i get so inspired and so hungry after reading your posts

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