Published: June 13th 2005June 11th 2005
I think that I needed this trip, after the academic tumult and emotional histrionics that has characterized this last school year. The change to this rural setting has been surprisingly easy, full of sunshine, languor and rest. My brain is revelling in the lack of hyperkinetic memorization, wallowing contentedly from each full night of sleep like an elephant who’s just found a mud patch. The slower pace has also allowed me to rediscover the red, orange and yellow end of the colour spectrum as I relearned how to drive a 100 cc scooter.
Culture and perception is a funny thing. Put on a pair of long pants, and I blend into the general population in Cambodia as just another face with ubiquitous black hair and eyes. Put on a pair of shorts, however, and I’m instantly transformed into a Tourist and a Crazy Foreigner Who Jogs. This effect is most noticeable in the Khmer male population, who pass me on their motos then swivel their heads back to stare until their necks can’t crane any further. A mere 20 inches of fabric and such a world of difference.
Thailand and Cambodia are both such interesting places. Physically, Cambodia looks like the Thailand before tourists discovered it. Gastronomically, Thailand is spicier and in my opinion, more vivid in tastes and flavours. Culturally, Thailand is the more Westernized and established of the two. Cambodia is the young nation with the old soul galloping forward making up for lost time. Demographically, Cambodia is very young, with the majority of its elders having died in the Khmer Rouge campaign. The Khmers are a hardworking lot who always seem to smile. You have to wonder how they can keep doing that when you hear some of the stories behind their smiles, stories of abandonment, of heartbreak, and of circumstance.
In many ways, it seems as if I’ve never left South East Asia, and I’m excited to see more of the one I’m in now.
Another day beckons,