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A well deserved break! "La vida es como la espuma hay que hecharse al mar", because "we are here for a short time but for a good time"!!!!

Siem Reap: first introduction to Cambodia!

CAMBODIA | Sunday, 17 February 2008 | Views [449]

Aaaah so where was I when I left you last time? Oh yes that's right I was in heaven...

We left heaven at six in the morning in a truck loaded with a reasonable amount of people (nobody was hanging out of the back..), 3 bags of fish and 4 ducks. Then on the way from the bus station to Pakse I counted 13 people plus 1 baby on our tuck tuck (the normal capacity would be for about six people). It doesn't stop to amaze me how people here manage to load any means of transport to a point where you just think:  "impossible, this has to collapse!" but no it never does. They just pile more and more on and seem to master cubic meters and the art of balance to the perfection. Today I saw a scooter with 6 people on it. The other day one was carying 3 pigs on the back seat (I am not joking!), I have even seen a scooter carying two people and a bicycle...

So when we boarded our propeller Lao airline Plane for Siem Reap we marveled on how luxurious it was! As much as we enjoyed traveling the local way, this time there were no bumps, no animals, no dust, we had one entire seat to oureselves and a hostess that handed out scented cloths..eeer We actually decided to fly because it seemed sensible after hearing that the cambodian border crossing is very tedious. It takes ages, is very tiring and you are expected to pay some bribes along the way. Not worth it if you don't have much time to spare and don't want to arrive in Siem Reap exhausted. On the other hand If I had the time I would definately have gone overland just because you experience so much more that way.

We finally had to say goodbye to Laos; a country that I repeat has stolen a piece of my heart. I really loved my time there and as much as I am reluctant to recomend it to people, because I am selfish and wish it could always stay as it is: if you have a chance go now because unfortunately it is not going to stay that way for long.

Now I am writting from Siem Reap where we have spent three days exploring one of the most beautiful sights in the world. The temples of Angkor, capital of Cambodia's ancient Khmer empire are just breath taking. It so incredible to be here and be able to witness such beautiful cultural heritage. Unfortunately we are not the only ones and getting up at 5 in the morning trying to beat the hoards of Japanese and Korean bus loads is quite exhausting but still worth the effort. Standing at six in the morning in the middle of Ta prohm the jungle temple (where Tom rider was filmed), practically alone is a must. 

Apparently Siem Reap has been overwhealmed by tourism over the last years to the extent that the infrastructures are collapsing (sewage systems etc...). If nothing is done about it the sights might literally start to sink. Hopefully this will not happen. The point is that coming from Laos one can see that tourism in Cambodia is way more advanced. Siem Reap is very touristy and offers a pampered vision of Cambodia. I gather that once away from it you get a very different impression of the country.

We are talking about a country that has suffered terrible times, namely ocupations and genocides up until the late 1970's. It's entire territory was riddled by landmines by the Khmer rouge in the 1980's and nowdays 300 people a month still get injured by landmine explosions. Somehow I was expecting a rough introduction to Cambodia but the beauty of the temples and the fact that Siem Reap has been accomodated for tourism stirs you a little away from reality.

Still reality is lurking behind the facade and I imagine my trip here to be quite unsetling at times once I move on. I was a bit worried at how I was going to be able to handle this but I must say once again the people make up for it. Cambodian people so far have been amazingly kind, they have a great sense of humour and always a smile on they face. Once again it makes you think. People who live in such poverty, who have suffered mutilations and wars and still find the strenght to smile. And their smiles are often much wider than most of the ones you find back home...

Tomorrow Julia is heading to Vietnam (Yes on the roads alone again) and I am taking a boat trip down the Mekong to a place called Battamban. Then I Shall head to the capital (Phnom Penh) for a couple of days. After that I will go down South to Kampot and to Kep by the beach and try to take a boat back to Thailand. My time left here is running out and I wish I had more ....

Still I miss you all of course :)

Tags: Culture

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