Friday, January 20, 2006


When I arrived in Cambodia it felt like the saddest place in the world. The contrast between Thailand and here couldnt be more marked, we travelled from green fields and prosperous looking towns on the Thai side to a kind of hot, dusty hell on the Cambodian side. Piles of rubbish everywhere, mud, little kids with no clothes run through the debris, military vehicles roam the streets, chickens and geese peck through the garbage. We are crammed onto a bus, bags piled up in the aisles, some people standing for the long hot journey to Siem Reap, the road is a roller coaster of red dirt accompanied by metal bridges that look like they will collapse any day now. At one point we are told it is another 80kms to town, it takes us 2 hours, the whole trip almost 6.

Siem Reap is bizarre, a town with open sewers and amputees begging right next to super deluxe hotels where one nights accomodation can cost $2000 US dollars. The tourist restaurants are like something out of a home decorating magazine but beyond the potted plants that screen the street there are kids holding tiny babies begging for money on the other side. It all feels very, very wrong.

One night two little kids attach themselves to me, holding my hands tightly and basically taking me prisoner. We walk down the street and I cannot get rid of them, finally we stop in front of a shop where Ed and I cave in and decide to buy them something. The little boy and his sister march into the shop and straight to the back shelves where we think they will probably want sweets. But they are pointing at a tin of something on the very top shelf, it is baby formula. "For little, little" coos the girl, pointing at the tin. So we buy it for them, they take the bag and the boy opens the door for us with a little flourish. He and his sister grin, say bye bye, put their arms around each other and disappear into the night. It's just another sad night in this town.


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