Riding Through The Minefields In Barbies Pink Party Bus

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June 6th 2006
Published: June 7th 2006
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Into Cambodia
The bus that took us across the border was an hour late leaving, had dubious airconditioning (they just circulated hot air) and was certainly a far cry from the 'luxury' that I had been told I would receive. On the plus side I found out that the person sitting next to me had paid 6 times as much as me for her tickets, which of course softened the blow. Around the Cambodian we ended up changing busses 3 times (and avoided being scammed into changing money at famously bad rates in spite of the attemtps of the drivers to get us to do so (bloody hell thats a bad sentence)) before finally ending up in our comortable airconditioned bus. Which was pink. At least the interiour was - bright pink and with nice frilly pink curtains. Someone joked that it was Barbies bus, and that stuck!

Land Mines
The road to Siem Riep was rough - a bit like brook drive in the pre commitee days except a LOT longer. About 7 hours longer. The reason for such poor maintenance - apparantly the government minister responsible for it is also a major shareholder in the key Bangkok - Siem Riep airline. Not that I'm suggestion corruption or a conflict or interest... At times along the road we could see teams of mine clearers, and worryingly their work was not in vain. From time to time there were the red marked areas of an identified mine. A vicious legacy of Pol Pot and the Khymer Rouge there are estimated to be 6 million land mines in Cambodia - and only 90 sqkm of land has been cleared. That leaves 3000 sqkm still 'infected'. Luckily for me that 90 sqkm covers most major tourist areas, but unluckily for the maimed people on the streets of Siem Riep you dont need to go too far to find them.

Catching Crickets
As it turned dark I noticed the presence of a number of flourescent tubes hanging over tarps. It turned out that these were acutally cricket traps, the crickets of course being subsequently deep fried and scoffed down. With the dust clouds illuminated by truck headlights, these cricket traps and the most impressive electric storm I have ever seen overhead the image bought to mind some sort post apocalyptic sci fi movie. Really very strange.

Drugs and Guns and Rock and Roll
Despite the constant flow of spliffs going around, and the dealing by the guest house staff, cannabis is illegal in Cambodia. Sort of. Marijuana is a legitimate ingredient in traditional Khymer cuisine, although SRs rows of Happy Pizza bars are certainly there to get tourists stoned rather that to maintain culinary traditions. But it is illegal. Guns are becoming less of a problem that they were - although apparantly in certain circles their use is still common. The sign on the guesthouse wall is evident to how common being armed was - "no drugs or guns inside the guesthouse". One guide book comments "Increasingly it is being seen as impolite to take a machine gun into a restaurant or hotel room". AS for rock and roll - I have no comment on that.


8th June 2006

OK - All I'm saying is that this post was SCARY - and I don't mean scary in terms of bad grammar and misspellings. You're supposed to make us want to go to Cambodia!
8th June 2006

Its lovely
I think Cambodia is great, everyone should go there. The whole landmine stuff is sobering rather than scary - I'm not about to go wandering off into the paddys. Sadly its an issue for the locals and not for tourists. And the guns... everywhere has its gun problems. A New York city drug dealer has a longer life expectancy on death row than on the streets. Tis true. Having said that I did find the guidebook comment mildly amusing/scary! Enjoy Florida!
16th June 2006

I think your post is so exagerating...driving thru landmines? then the people there must have mines planted under their houses? pls........Cambodia is great place and mines areeeee mostly along the border.
19th June 2006

Durex, Thanks for reading the post and taking the time to comment on it. While driving along the main road from the border to Siem Riep we passed 3 teams clearing mines, all of which had found at least 1(marked with a red sign and surrounded with red tape on bamboo staffs). As for your comment about houses being built on Land Mines in 2004 46% of villages were still classified as unsafe. Not sure about the latest stats on this. Also look at the number of amputees around, and you will realise that while the title may exaggerate my specific experience (although 3/4 mines in a day is enough for me!) that it does not exaggerate the general experience of the Cambodian people. And yes Cambodia is a great place- I loved it! Alex

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