Travel time…Cambodia

Cambodia, in the days of the Khmer empire, ruled over Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. In relatively recent times, Cambodia evokes a sense of stuggle and hardship that its peoples have had to endure, given the legacy of Pol Pot. In this context, I felt my time here would see many different sides to a country that has had so much to deal with in its past.

Cambodia

Cambodia in the distance.

After undertaking the border crossing formalities at Dom Kralor, I clambered onto a bus bound for Kratie, a small market town, in North Eastern Cambodia.

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9 Responses to “Travel time…Cambodia”

  1. Nadeem Butt Says:

    There was something very Pakistan like about Kratie. The cluster of shops and compact market square reminded me of trips to Attock City, Pakistan, I made as a boy with my family. Thats it. Its the fruit. The bright orange peel and … grapes!

    I cycled out 10km to Kampi along a palm tree shrouded single road and passed by endless flophouses of all shapes and sizes, stopping ocassionally for sugar cane juice. The people, wonderful as ever. Just a great day.

    Kratie, first stop in Cambodia

    Kratie, first stop in Cambodia

  2. Nadeem Butt Says:

    I am leading to something. That evening I went to my room ( on the ground floor ), laid my moneybelt on the bed and took a shower. I began reading and fell asleep, forgetting to take the moneybelt off the bed. I awoke around 3am, feeling a light breeze from an open, but grilled window and thinking nothing of it, went back to sleep.

    In the morning I awoke and on deciding to take some breakfast, looked for my moneybelt. Gone!! Passport, credit cards, money – all gone!! I beckoned in the hotel manager and he inspected the room, the window, asked a few questions, but couldn’t really offer an explanation.

    A common approach to successful theft is to push a stick ( curved at one end ) through the grill of a window and hook out possessions. In some Asian countries, its even been known for trained monkeys to leap through open windows and do away with valuables.

    A new passport would require a police report. I assisted in writing the report as best as I could but had the impression that they were more interested in finding out how I would repay them for their help. I told them I had no id ( since my passport had gone ) and very little money left, so I could not give them any money without id, even if it were wired to me. They took my fingerprints, and after almost 3 hours, I left.

    I went back to the hotel. I cancelled cards, organised a meeting at the British embassy in Phnom Penh and sent a few emails to friends and family. We explored options. Suddenly there was a bang on the door. The hotel manager stood there with my passport and cards in his hand! Naturally, the money had gone! ( If I were to consider a conspiracy theory, this all seemed a little too organised to me… but I don’t want to go there. )

    An overwhelming sense of relief struck me. I surprised myself how calm and organised I had remained throughout the episode, but had felt at the time that a clear head was better than a dazed one. My travel experience counted for something, after all!

    I suddenly realised the importance of id and how it is everything when you travel. Money matters little, but my id is literally my passport to everything. Thank you to one and all for your help during this period. Especially Mark, Sadia and Colin. I may make light of it here, but its gratifying to know there are people willing to help when you need it most.

    Money was wired to me and with my new found freedom, I made my way to the capital, Phnom Penh.

  3. Nadeem Butt Says:

    I had forgotten the organised mayhem that symbolises any real asian city. Phnom Penh certainly ticks that box. It awakens the senses and I love it.

    On the second night in the city there was a power blackout and I wandered the streets, traffic headlights providing a good guide for directions. The city folk carry on undettered by this regular blip, ensuring it doesn’t interfere with their daily lives.

    Streets of Phnom Penh

    Streets of Phnom Penh

    People are friendly and warm natured, even persistent cyclo and moto drivers. “Hello Mr” is a frequent call and there seems a respectful curiousity towards visitors. Wire cables that energise the city are spaghetti bundled on top of each other and seem to hold Phnom Penh together like loose sellotape. Everything interconnects, everything functions and chaos theory is alive and well. I am most delighted to be amongst it all.

    Around Phnom Penh

    Around Phnom Penh

  4. Nadeem Butt Says:

    Perhaps its the case everywhere but I can’t help notice how industrious people are. Of all ages. They get every ounce of economy out of everything. It takes a certain kind of strength and temperament to be like that. I wish I could bottle it up.

    This is levelled by a spiritual sensibility – most places of business have a small buddhist shrine in the building, ordained with candles and food laid out. The woman in the internet cafe presented me with chewing gum everytime I sat down to work. I rather sheepishly acknowledged her kindness. ‘Aw kohn’.

    As well as the usual disclaimers, the bus ticket from Phnom Penh to Kampot carried the following notice. Where “Children are over 8 years old or 1.3m tall you must buy one ticket”. I had an image of the bus driver walking up and down the aisle, measuring tape in hand.

  5. Nadeem Butt Says:

    Midnight.

    One aspect of improvement in my personal development has been the capacity to look beyond things. To recognise what is important and to not allow ‘smaller’ matters to consume my time and energy. Travelling has given me that. I see the way people live, in some cases survive, and it touches a nerve. Through other peoples experiences I can recognise what matters most and how to better shape my own life, my own individuality.

    This journey is giving me a kind of resolve that I have never acknowledged before. The ability to let go. Grandfather would have been proud, I am sure.

    Moving around Kampot

    Moving around Kampot

  6. Nadeem Butt Says:

    Ofcourse the temples of Angkor are nothing short of spectacular.

    I would prefer to talk about Jianzi for a little while. Every evening along the river in Siem Reap, a group of guys kick a heavily feathered shuttlecock up in the air using their feet ( mostly ), culminating in back flicks and various tricks they have doubtless perfected over the years. For me, the elegance, precision and natural skill needed to excel at this is just a joy to watch.

    Jianzi Wizards, Siem Reap

    The Jianzi Wizards of Siem Reap

    Ofcourse there are similarities to football, but this is another whole new level. I am there, clapping like a penguin. Actually I am not sure if penguins do clap, but you get my meaning, I’m sure.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jianzi

  7. Nadeem Butt Says:

    I felt compelled to cycle to the Temples of Angkor over three days. Every time you go you discover something you missed the first time – stone elephants guarding the gates; imposing buddha statues; wall carvings of battles fought.

    It feels like you are stepping through history. Or in my case, tripping through it. Having two left feet doesn’t help as I made my way along the loose stone and rubble remains, but its wonderful to feel a place like Angkor.

    The myriad of temples overshadow the small villages which surround them today, but the combination conspires to provide an insight into the past, alongside the present. I had a ball.

    Angkor moments

    Angkor moments

  8. Nadeem Butt Says:

    I tailed off my time in Cambodia with a trip west to Battambang. It was a raw city brimming with energy and a smile. I cycled around for a few days to remoter villages and reflected on my time in Cambodia.

    What strikes me most is a sense that people want to move on from their scarred history, let it take a back seat and look forward. Cambodians I came across never talked of their country’s past – only the future. Its very buddhist like to just look ahead – whats done is done. Not forgotten, just in the past.

    Great people and country.

    For travel time in Malaysia, click here.
    For travel time in Vietnam, click here.
    For travel time in Jordan, click here.
    For travel time in Syria, click here.
    For travel time in Turkey, click here.
    For travel time in Laos, click here.
    For travel time in Thailand, click here.
    For travel time in Myanmar, click here.
    To go to the start of this blog, click here.
    To go to missedabit.com, click here.

  9. Colin Holmes Says:

    Hi, i greatly enjoyed reading your impressions of cambodia. I too found it a remarkable country to travel through. Hope all is going well for you now and in your future travels. Cheers, Col.

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