Cambodia - the poor truth

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

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Lines for Boat to Siem Reap (one of the most-crowded journeys I've ever taken)


I nervously joined dozens of other travelers at the pier in Phnom Penh early yesterday morning, and crowded on to the overloaded boat that would take us all for the 6-hour journey up the Tonle Sap river.

A tough life - but they have TV!
Dozens of people hanging from the railings above, while I sat below clutching my backpack. Yep, it was a long ride.

I must keep reminding myself that Cambodia has been ravaged by wars and genocide, and thus, I should expect to see things that make me uncomfortable. The views of life along the river provided many of those uncomfortable moments. I don't think I have ever seen human beings living with so little. Thatched roof huts sit on bamboo stilts, and entire families live in one simple room. No water, no electricity, and - how shall I say - very hygiene-challenged.

But I also saw something else. Almost without exception, each person would smile and wave as our crowded boat chugged by. Living with so little - yet seemingly happy enough. It was a good life lesson for me that day.

Drinks are cheap - and so is life
Both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have several "Pub Streets" that are geared specifically for the many foreign tourists. It is so cheap for us to visit here - and backpackers love it! Beers and cocktails cost around $2, a taxi to anywhere will cost $1 or $2, and complete dinners are under $3! You can sit along the raised sidewalk cafes and enjoy a great, cheap meal as you watch the nightlife all around you.

But here's what KILLS me to see - the children begging on the street. Imagine sitting up on your "tourist perch" while little children - some barely able to walk - continually come by to tug at your pant leg and beg for money? And you can't give them food either, 'cause it's cash they are after. Most of them are probably being controlled by parents or other adults, lurking just in the shadows. It is absolutely embarrassing for me to enjoy the "luxurious" moment, knowing that there is so much poverty all around me. I'm ashamed, actually.

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Lines for Boat to Siem Reap (one o…
Lines for Boat to Siem Reap (one …
A tough life - but they have TV!
A tough life - but they have TV!
Kids always know how to smile
Kids always know how to smile
haircut time
haircut time
Phnom Penh
photo by: terminalfunk