Tuk tuk lady??

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

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Prior to the morning's shuttle bus ride to the bus station, the only part of Phnom Penh I had seen was the walk from my guest house to the clinic. I can tell you now, one of the last places you want to walk when you're feeling sick is a Cambodian fish market.

I had picked the most direct route to the clinic, which led me past one of the markets. I could tell I was getting close to the fish section because of the smell. OMG the smell. I didn't want to look, but when I did I saw fish out of water still alive, bouncing around, next to other fish that had recently had their heads chopped off. I also saw a bunch of ducks (still alive) cuddled together on the ground (what their fate was, I don't want to know). After that, I kept looking ahead, trying not to see whatever was there, at the same time trying not to get hit by a passing motorbike.

The morning's shuttle bus ride (which was early and unheard of!) brought us through various parts of the city. It's really tough to describe what the city looks like without being there for yourself. The best words I can think of include: dirty, garbage, lots of people on motorbikes, run down buildings and more garbage. It's a stark reminder that you are in fact in a capital city of an impoverished third world country. Development in the country probably wasn't helped by the relatively recent genocide that resulted in many of the country's professionals and intellectuals being killed.

I did find the few Cambodian people I spoke with to be friendly (especially if you're looking for a tuk tuk .. tuk tuk lady? Hey lady ... tuk tuk??!). The ones I will remember most though, are the small children, dirty and hungry, begging for food and money in the streets and the mothers who sit on the sidewalk with their deformed children begging for handouts. It's impossible to help everyone, and I'm not even sure if giving directly is the best idea. I hadn't given anyone money until my last night when I handed a woman sitting on the dirty ground with a new born baby, the rest of my Cambodian Riels. She was very thankful, and I couldn't help but feel incredible sadness for this woman and so many other people in the country in similar situations. I heard later that the best thing to do is to give the kids food and the adults small amounts of Riels. My first day there I had seen a small boy (maybe 6 or 7) asking a couple who were sitting at a restaurant to buy some random thing he had for sale. When they said no, he pointed to their uneaten spring rolls and they handed them over to him. It was the first time I'd seen anything like it and it was very eye opening to the poverty in this country.
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Phnom Penh
photo by: terminalfunk