Cambodia - 2
Phnom Penh Travel Blog› entry 2 of 8 › view all entries
August 14th, 2007 – by: rodzphotos
The flight over was very long and uncomfortable. If not for the wheelings and dealings that Tash did before our flight (She has strong negotiating skills) it would have been almost unbearable. The initial culture shock took it's toll when I arrived with my two best friends and traveling companions in Phnom Penh to see the old and damaged French styled buildings and the state of poverty most of them lived with. Being westerners we can't fathom living life that way. On a closer look after a few days what I saw was that even though most of the people there made less than we spend on a monthly electircity bill they kept themselves clean, dressed well and had a dignity about them that was inexplicable. Their looks toward me was stern but inquisitive. This I could understand for the most part because they don't see foriegners that often and this region has a history of genocide, financial hardship and many wars with neighboring countries.
Upon reaching my hotel which is like an Oasis among the walled and sparcely maintained street, I climbed the steep temple like stairs to an outside bar that made me feel like I was entering in a scene from Casablanca. Somehow I got the feeling that people here were running away from something or was very suspicious of outsiders. It is owned and operated by an ex-pat (an ex-executive from Warner Bros. studios). My conversation with him revealed that my perplexed feelings about the locals could be answered by simply smiling. He sat back in his chair as we both downed a JD and coke and said "A smile goes a long way". So, after waiting at the bar for my room to be ready I ate and set my bags in my room by the pool. When we ventured out into the city we took a local taxi called a "tuk tuk". It's basically a motorbike with a two wheeled carriage on the back designed to hold up to 4-5 people. While riding along I took on smiling and I got instant results. The people smiled back at me even wider and brighter. At first it was forced because it's not that common to smile at everyone here in "The States" let alone LA. We do not smile for no aparent reason becuse it seems others may think you may be up to something felonious or want something from them. We live in our own personal bubble. But after a few minutes it felt quite good to relax and have some fun getting them to smile back at me. Now there are'nt very many westerners that look like me in Cambodia. So, they were as surprised as I was. They see Anglo Saxons more but an African American styled, western dressed man with dreadlocks is quite a rare site to them.
I looked at it as an opportunity to represent who we are in the U.S. With that outlook, I can't say I had a bad day socially the whole time I was in Cambodia.
The streets are crowded by motorbikes and the smells were not as pleasant. The bad sections of NY do not even come close to what Cambodia streets can muster. I later found that there was a particular local fruit that made up for a big part of it. Yeah, I really want to try that one. But, what amazed me was the apparent ease at which they just negotiated thick traffic with very few signal lights and no dividing lines. To drive on the wrong side of the street against traffic is normal and accepted. Kinda like the wild west of Asia but with motorbikes. The amazing thing added to that is that no one argues, makes rude gestures or gets upset by getting cut off. They just cooperate with no egos. Imagine that. Never happen here in LA though. Too bad. The local hang out "FCC Cafe" was cool and it became a landing spot for me and my fellow travellers to hunker down and contemplate where the hell we were, why we came here and what we are gonna do next.
More in part C.
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