After a night in bangkok (hi dino!) i got ...

Trip Start Jan 12, 2002
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Trip End Mar 25, 2002


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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Saturday, February 9, 2002

After a night in Bangkok (hi Dino!) I got on the bus to Siem Reap. The border was a shock, all the dirt, the beggars, a casino. Of course, the bus broke down and we arrived in the middle of the night. I was so lucky I had the budget to spend a little more on a room in such a situation!

I hired a crazy (and usually drunk and/or stoned) driver who took me around the amazing temples of Angkor Wat on his motorbike.
In spite of all tourism, living conditions in the villages right next to the Angkor premises were almost like 100 years ago. People were riding ox carts to their fields and transporting huge piles of sugar cane on bicycles.

After 3 days in Angkor, I got on the speed boat across the Tonlé Sap to Phnom Penh, then the bus down to the coast (Sihanoukville) and then made my way to Vietnam.
Phnom Penh was a bit of a ghost town with huge boulevards but no cars to fill them and sort of shanty towns right in the center. Sihanoukville wasn't pleasant either, but the beach was like paradise.

Cambodia was a mad experience, beautiful and difficult, amazing heat, poverty and lovely people.
It's difficult to explain the contradiction of this country. One day, I'm chilling on the most beautiful beach I have ever seen, the next day I wander through the S-21 museum and see what the Khmer did to innocent people, babies and women. One day I have a smiling cute kid sitting on my lap, the next day an aggressive beggar with a false limp disturbs my dinner.

Temples, prostitution, drugs, rice fields, land mine victims, monuments and people rising from the dust of decades of war - that was my impression of this country.
People were friendly, but passive and somewhat without vision, especially compared to their direct neighbours. Wherever you see a smile it seems to be empty and sad. Almost everybody could tell a sad story and that's a depressing consciousness. But that probably is the only way to get a hint of the horror of war and genocide. That time is still so close to these people with the terror of the Khmer dictatorship following the years of carpet bombing by the US in the American war, liberation from Pol Pot only a few years young.

It wasn't easy to like Cambodia in the beginning, but meeting a particular warmth with people, I finally happened to love it in its own way.
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