Our plan in so far as Cambodia was really to treat it as a way of getting from Vietnam to Thailand and to visit Angkor. We didn’t know quite what to expect from Cambodia and were a little nervous. Some people had told us how friendly the Cambodians were whilst another traveller told us we could end up having a gun pointed at us!
Our experiences in Cambodia were however fantastic. The people are wonderfully friendly and the country is beautiful.
Almost as wonderful as the temples was the time we spent with our tuk tuk driver Davong. He is a grandfather and probably aged around 45. Which means he lived through the attrocities of the Khmer Rouge.
He didn’t speak fluent English but he knew enough that we could communicate fairly well. As well as explaining about the temples he also told us about life in Cambodia and in particular life subsequent to the Khmer Rouge attrocities. The region north of Angkor suffered sporadic fighting well after the Khmer Rouge had been driven from power and as such the country people moved away. Then in the 90’s they were able to return after the UN had removed many of the land mines.
Davong was such a lovely person and was so proud to be showing us a part of his country. The fee he asked us to pay for his 2 days (20 hours) driving and guiding was the almighty sum of US$24. Suffice to say we paid him what we thought he was worth which was a lot more.
Neither Claire or I will forget him.
One of the temples we visited was 37km from the rest and the journey there was through some very remote countryside. We saw all sorts of wonderful sights but most touching was the young children who always waved to us. When we waved back the look of joy on their faces was heart warming. It was sad to see the poverty which they lived in yet they looked happy.
One aspect of visiting the temples which some people find wearing is the various children and adults selling their wares. Some of them just won’t take no for an answer and the children in particular were incredibly persistent. It’s not easy saying no to the children, but unfortunately it’s not practical to buy from everyone. This girl took about 10 minutes to give up so I took a photograph of her which she found hilarious when I showed her!
And this boy was also great fun. When he refused to accept that we didn’t want to buy a guidebook, as we already had one, I asked him if he could swim because I was going to throw him in the lake, which he found funny. I was joking of course.
One exchange I had with a (roughly) 7 year old girl outside Angkor was incredible. She was trying to sell me something or other and I was continually saying no thanks. Suddenly our conversation went like this…
Her : Where are you from?
Me: Great Britain
Her: Great Britain capitol city London, population of Great Britain 60 million. Population of London 10 million. Prime Minister of Great Britain David Cameron.
Me: Crikey. What is the population of Cambodia?
Her: Don’t know.
One of the final child touts we ran into asked me to buy postcards. We didn’t need any (blogging is easier than writing postcards!) so he asked for money for his school fees. This is generally how their script goes and I just said no. Then as I was walking away he asked if I had a pencil or pen he could have, which differentiated him from the other children. We planned to find him and give him some pencils and a couple of dollars on the way out but sadly he had gone by then.
We left Cambodia 5 days after we arrived. That we left so soon has become our only regret so far. It’s top of the list if we ever come back to South East Asia.