Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

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Location: Home, United Kingdom

You all know who I am, I assume.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Holiday in Cambodia

Again, it's been a while, but there wasn't a great deal more to write about in Ho Chi Minh City - a few museums, that's all, and none of them were great. So I didn't bother.

After another bizarre journey, on more of which in a bit, we have arrived safe and sound in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. So far it's a bit strange, primarily because despite having it's own currency, the Riel, each unit of which is considerably more valuable than, say the Vietnamese Dong, many of the prices here are printed in US dollars. To think the good ol' US of A invaded this country not too long ago (secretly, of course) to try to stop the Red Menace. Turns out economic forces are stronger than military ones. Yet again.

Anyway, on to our journey. It was actually pretty straightforward by our standards - just got on a bus and got to the border, then got on another bus after the border and got to Phnom Penh. It was (as usual with these things) the border itself that cause us trouble. The actual stamping of passports and issuing of visas and such was more or less as you'd expect - lots of tourists becoming hot and irritable waiting in a cramped office for a man in a uniform to stamp their documents an alarming number of times. Bureaucracy - don't you just love it. The trouble with borders, and in fact airports, is that they require large amounts of patience, respect for authority figures and specific, seemingly-arbitrary rules, and form-filling and queuing. On none of which, as you probably know, I am particularly strong.

But you just have to suck your guts in and get on with it, smiling in the face of incompetance, arsehole behaviour from fellow tourists, and outrageously blatant attempts to get more money from the Westerners with stamp tax, ink rates, paperclip fees and other such crap. All of which I can take better than perhaps you might think (especially you, Mum!).

What irritated me most this time, though, was the behaviour of two idiots who took our bags off of our bus without asking, and transported them in a cart into no-man's land between the borders without asking, and then tried to charge us a dollar a bag to get our own stuff back from them. "But we carried them all that way", they reasoned. Course, we informed them that since we hadn't asked them to do any carrying, would quite happily have humped our own loads, and they were not uniformed officials, we would be paying them bugger all. Course, they held on to our stuff by force, and while we probably could have got our bags back, there being ten or so of us against two smallish Vietnamese/Cambodian (sorry, didn't ask) guys, it might not have been a good idea. And anyway, I was brought up to not to resort to violence. After about ten minutes of waiting at an impasse in the blazing sunshine between two countries, we eventually settled on a deal. One US dollar for all the bags. We gave them some leftover change in dong that amounted to just over a dollar, and took our rightful property. I fell bad about giving them anything, but we really couldn't get into a fight situation, especially seeing as the ten of us was comprised of seven broads plus me and my two mates. And me and one of my mates are confirmed cowards.

Right, so we're in Cambodia. Today we went to a quite good museum containing lots of old Hindu statues - it's like India all over again. Mind you, I can see why the Cambodian government would want to be bigging up their ancient history. "Ignore the Khmer Rouge! Ignore the Khmer Rouge! Pol Who?" they seemed to be shouting. Tomorrow? Yeah, we're going to a museum dedicated to the Killing Fields. And to think, I went to a urinal today (sorry, too graphic?) and someone had crudely daubed "Stop the commercialistation of horror" on the wall. Which I assume wasn't a protest against big-budget bad horror films on behalf of quality low-budget horror films. Food for thought, anyway...

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