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Published: February 25th 2007
Gate to a Temple
Angkor Wat is full of these things, but I never seemed to tire of photographing them.
The road to the Cambodian capital from Siem Reap is smooth. The bus is inexpensive, and the journey is uneventful. All of these factors made for a very pleasant ride, indeed. I was compelled to write about this because you can take these things for granted when you live in Canada, and your average highway speed is 120km/hr on what I have now come to romanticize as billiard-table-smooth roads.
Our arrival at the "bus station" was greeted with much fanfair from the local purveyors of intra-city transport. As far as two blocks away from our point of dis-embarkment that taxi and tuk-tuk drivers crowded the bus, peering in, looking for white faces: these were their potential passengers/cargo. If my clumsy and all too subtle attempts at communicating our wish to make our own way to the hotel did not get my point accross, Jen's manner certainly did. We have an expression in Quebec to describe someone who is uncompromising and determined: "Tu fais ton chemin a la largeur de tes epaules". It translates to "You cut
...let me know when you've seen enough.
your path at the width of your shoulders." Jen did just that, falling just short of mowing the unsuspecting drivers down to the ground. Good fun to watch.
We stayed for three days. We got out visas for Vietnam from the embassy, and visited the few sites in the city whose names didn't have the words "Killing Fields" in them. This included the Silver Pagoda, with its floor of 5000 silver tiles, and the National Museum. You can't take pictures in either of these places, but I only found out about the restrictions in the National Museum after I had been firing off my camera for half an hour. My apologies to the curators of the museum, but I promise that no flash was used at any time in the production of the photos.
The condiotions in Phnomh Penh range from very affluent to desperate. With very little in terms of social services in the country, beggars abound. This is to be expected, I well know, but I as I have metioned before, this is a city that makes you wish you were drunk. However, this is not a city where one should be drunk; I never felt
that we were in danger (but then again I double the average Cambodian in size, and any ill-intentioned element has any number of more attractive targets to choose from), but you always have the feeling that anything could happen at any time. Perhaps we were just road-weary.
The author of the Lonely Planet guide to Cambodia and the guide to Vietnam lives in Phnom Penh, and he exhibits what I would have to call more than a slight bias for his home town and adoptive country. In our next installment: How much better is Saigon than what the Lonely Planet guy says it is.
Ciao for now!
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