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As I put Phnom Penh to paper

It is raining here, or rather, there are large vats of water being dumped from up on high. I am sitting in a cafe on the western bank of the Tonle Sap, drinking a Gin and Tonic, and watching the 1000s of motorbikes slowly wade past in puddles 4 or 5 inches deep. Something that is common in Asia, but I had never seen before was the sheer numbers of people and goods that can be fit on a 250cc motorbike. I have actually seen 8 people on one! That was surprising enough, but with the roads as bad as they are, one would expect certain safety precautions, but no. I have seen more women sitting sidesaddle with small children in their laps on the backs of bikes, no helmets, nothing. I have been lucky to have been spared thus far the inevitable wreck with fatalities that must surely occur all the time here.

On first blush Cambodia is a combination of Thailand and India: Populated by Asian looking peoples, but with the lack of western infrastructure in terms of traffic controls, paving, sanitation, etc., as well as the lack of major western chains, large buildings, neon, and all the other things that made Thailand so refreshing after a month in India. Also, one cannot help but notice that this once was the heart of IndoChine as most of the signs are still En Francais, and the elder portions of the population-those that survived- all speak French fluently. English is pretty common here too. Perhaps if the rain lets up, I will head out on the town tomorrow to look around, or possibly go the 15km out of the city to the Killing Fields. In my wanderings, I have been reading up on the Khmer Rouge, and I have learned 1000 times more information about the conflict then I’d even dreamed existed. This was a bad one, a massacre with no rhyme or reason that killed more than a million people in a country of 15 million.... and I wasn’t surprised at all to see that it had more than tacit approval from Europe and the States....

Insert great joke: Bush is getting his morning intelligence briefing and is told that 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed in Iraq. Bush is overwhelmed, hangs his head, and ponders for a few moments. After gathering himself, he looks up to his aides and says "That’s horrible. Such a loss. How many is a Brazilian exactly?"

I can add a new major river to my list of those seen on this trip: The Mekong. It is brown and lazy and as mysterious as I imagined it to be. I will see if I can get a boat out on it, or perhaps take a boat up to Siem Reap...

So, today is my 30th birthday (at least here). This is the first time I have been out of the Eastern time zone for it. I kinda like the idea that its actually 12 hours longer, especially if it starts at midnight my time and ends at midnight eastern. I think I will splurge and go out to a fine meal here, which means 10$. I have finally found a place where it is practically impossible for me to spend large amounts of money. Then again, I have only been here 8 hours, so we will see how creative I get.

Posted by Daver141 08:37 Archived in Cambodia

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