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Fresh eyes / Familiar Asia

CAMBODIA | Tuesday, 8 February 2005 | Views [926]

STC’s snapping with new camera is frenzied and the results electrifying. We’ve only been here for 24 hours – fresh eyes’n’all that!

Cambodia is feeling a little more familar than I thought – Vietnam in 2002 was a great Asian introduction – now the street vendors seem like great places to eat; the hanging ducks, strange smells and plastic stools on lumpy footpaths as restaurant floors are not only comprehensible , but indeed exciting culinary adventures.

I was scribbling some notes about all this in Siem Reap’s ‘In Touch’ bar, drinking beer and pissing sweat at 9.15pm whilst STC busily read the camera manual to ensure that no street corner ruckus or beautiful saffron robed monk passed a lost photographic opportunity. I am attempting to distill 24 hours of travel to a small white page with a blobby pen. Now, in front of a computer, it is similarly hard to transcribe.

We ended up in Siem Reap after a short flight from Bangkok, cheaper taxi fares as we figured out how it all works, the essential puchase of a calculator (still in conversion chaos!) and the purchase of an el-cheapo full photocopied Lonely Planet guide.

Siem Reap (pronounced with a Jamaican accent to sound like a local – strange but true!) is a frontier town, exploding with tourism. Hotels are flourishing skywards, propped up with bamboo poles as another level is erected. Tuk-Tuk drivers smile before asking you if you need lift; there’s 3 on every street corner. The Khmer are a happy bunch.

A large bottle of Angkor beer costs $2.00 – 2.50USD and tastes fantastic whilst sitting under fans, rotating on gimbles from every roof and terrace. Our bill for dinner and a few lagers comes to $7.50USD, but we’re stuck with a $20 note, nothing smaller for the moment. Change comes as $12USD and 2000 Riel. Both currencies co-exist happily here, but we try and spend Riel where we can.

Mmmm… there’s a power cut in the bar whilst I write notes in a little black book. The head torch comes in handy… the musicians keep playing like nothing’s happening, candles arrive quick smart and life and hospitality continue. It’s a beautiful soft atmosphere, although illuminated further behind the bar with the blue glow of the manager’s mobile phone, unaffected by the need for a power cable. Such paradox. It’s always the small details that so excite.

Tags: On the Road

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