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Published: September 14th 2013
CAMBODIA...Countering conceptions...Sweeping aside perceptions.
When you finally reach a destination that has been on your wish list for years...is it as you expect?
Does any exotic destination turn out as you expect?
Cambodia...where zillions of TBers have snapped away.
Has any photo of the ruins around Siem Reap...around Angkor Wat...not been seen on TB before?
That was my challenge.
Then I saw it...but I didn't ask our driver to stop...gnawed at me for too long...probably would have missed the moment if we'd stopped...funny that I regretted I had not called "Stop"...risking us crashing to maybe get that shot.
There were two large dogs having a tug-of-war with a plastic bag...then a third joined in...a tiny mite...determined as...three dogs tugging in three directions...the tiny one giving the others a run for their money...still wish I'd stopped the car!
I was expecting it to be humid and hot...maybe even wet and mozzie ridden.
I was aware of the Killing Fields...the genocide that was the Khmer Rouge and their leader whose name I will not repeat.
I was aware all teachers had been killed...education eradicated in those evil
Civilisation and normality turned on its head.
I was aware the Vietnamese had invaded Cambodia to eradicate the evil...my kind of heroes...while many countries still recognised the despot as legitimate.
I was aware as a result of the genocides a majority of the population was young...a country in revival.
That for much of the populous...poverty had to be survived...endured...hopefully defeated.
I was aware this was a land of extraordinary past glories...evidence of the Khmer Empire being extricated from the jungle in recent times...reviving ruins so to speak.
I was aware of the issues of child exploitation...trafficking...sex exploitation...little tots working to help the family earn a buck...to feed the family.
I was aware some in the West had a "holier than thou" attitude to some of these issues.
I was aware it was a land swarming with tourists.
A land full of conceptions...perceptions...maybe misconceptions.
A land I would approach with open eyes...and hopefully an open heart.
Having studied my old manual of all the temples around Siem Reap for years...you'd reckon I'd bring it...nah...have to wing it as usual...no room in the backpack for travel
guides when this year our sojourn takes in China, Vietnam, Cambodia...reckon I'd have brought my common sense...nah...left that behind as well.
Got my travellers cheques though...carried them for years...first place in years that would take them...Siem Reap Airport...persuade me local currency better than U.S. dollars...got a fistful of notes...then the driver to the hotel tells me U.S. dollars are better...I've thus lost heaps on the exchange rate...no matter...allowed me to be generous to the local populous to get rid of it.
After summitting Yellow Mountain in Anhui...Inspiring the Nomad in Shanghai...a Cockle, a Camel & a Dancing Duo for Mischief on the Mekong...we are pretty knackered.
What better place to have a rest...enjoy a bit of luxury...culture...ambience and serendipity...than this land we found that was full of peacefulness and smiles...this land of Cambodia.
His father had been killed by the despot...had supported his family since the age of nine...mother and sisters.
But he was not bitter...he accepted his lot...a determination burning within that educated himself...now married with child...extra mouths to feed.
His smile and his humour warmed our hearts...his intellect and obvious intelligence warmed our minds...no radio or TV at
home so no concept of western music, films or celebrity...but a knowledge that was extraordinary...and the ability to impart it.
Greeted us one day with knowledge of Australia's Prime Minister & Opposition Leader...obviously doing his homework...then quizzing us on our political climate.
Happy to learn...to embrace and listen to our thoughts...our music...to look after us...to guide...to educate us.
And in return we were more than happy to learn...to embrace and listen to his thoughts...to play him our music...to be looked after...to be guided...to be educated...to share our meals.
We reckon we had the best guide in all of Cambodia...made sure he stayed with us for the duration of our trip.
His name was Baley...and our driver was Youeta.
They took us to the sights...and also into the soul of Cambodia.
Baley commanded our days...our cuisine...our destinations to embrace my lens.
However, our nights were completely different...so different to other tourists...catered just for us...two Aussies...and two Austrians who could not pass up the delights.
We greet them "How are the kangaroos?"...they greet us "How is the skiing?".
Excellent company...but that's another story.
Relax & Enjoy,
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