Culture, Friendship, Crime, Sex, Love, Cambodia Days 6-7 of 7
This was my big Angkor Wat day. I could drone on and on about the temples, but Google it and you can see all the various pictures people much more skilled than I have taken. It is beautiful, and worth seeing especially if you came all the way from the other side of the earth.
The one interesting thing that I wasn’t expecting in Siem Reap was the amount of children selling junk. They all sell the same thing and all try to inflate the price. They have little word games they will play to trick you into agreeing to something then feign disappointment when the final answer remains no. At best they are funny and cute, at worst just downright annoying. Some are like robots just droning their sales pitch while others treat it like a game and seem to love talking to foreigners.
I did meet an extraordinary 16 year old girl in front of one of the temples. When she spoke her accent was perfect. I relaxed and went from my simple English to a more slang fluent English. She picked it up and responded in kind just like she had been born and raised in my hometown. I had to stop for a moment and ask her a few questions. So I told her I wanted to ask her a few questions and I would tip her $3 if she gave me 5 minutes to answer. She was more than willing so she took me to her mother’s base of operations and we sat down. I was most curious about her life and how she came to sell in front of the temple. It turns out she started selling here at the age of 4. She has sold in front of the same temple every day since then. She has never been to school, but she does read books at night to try to home school herself. She spends the majority of her time learning about the different languages of the world. She is very ambitious and wishes to be a Spanish teacher in Cambodia someday. Her face lit up when she talked about it and I could see it was a strong passion for her. When I asked why she chose Spanish over another language she said, “Because I think that language is the most beautiful.” At this I just had to know how many languages she spoke. The answer was 7. She spoke Khmer, Thai, Japanese, French, English, German and Spanish fluently while knowing just some conversational levels in various other languages. My first thought was that she should be doing work that is much more interesting with her linguistic skills. She told me it was difficult because her mom needed her and since she had no schooling no one would give her a better job than this. She said since she gets to talk to so many foreigners everyday language has become her primary interest in life and she wants to study as many languages as she can in the future. She didn’t seem to realize selling trinkets in front of a temple was a dead-end job so I saved my negative opinions of this line of work and wished her good luck in the future. She walked me out to the temple and promised me if I ever decided to live in Cambodia she would find a good Cambodian wife for me. I wasn’t expecting that one so I shot back, “Maybe I will come back in two years and marry you!” Her brown skin turned red and she laughed while giving me a fairly hard right cross to the shoulder. She was a sweet girl and I really wish a good future for her.
Coming back into town I got my days confused (again) and thought today was day 5 so I scheduled another trip to the Wat for the following day and hit Pub Street for some dinner. Their national dish seems to be something called Amok. It is like a chicken and coconut salad that tastes remarkably like Tom Kha Gai from Thailand only not spicy. I really enjoyed it. There is one very interesting establishment just recently opened for foreigners near Pub Street called Soksan Palace. It boasts a go-go, a disco, a karaoke, a fishbowl, regular massage parlour, and happy massage parlour. I went for the go-go and found some interesting and distinctly Khmer things. In their quest to be all things to everyone the Khmer have done their best to appeal to those wishing to have some time with all three sexes. One minute you have women on the stage, the next a ladyboy, then it is three Khmer guys, and various combinations of those. To get a performer to sit with you it requires a $5 fee which was a little odd, but there was no getting around it. So I found my lovely and paid the $5. We talked and drank and laughed. The go-go became a disco at about 1am and the oddest thing happened. The hip-hop stopped and the traditional Khmer music started. All the teens went crazy and ran to the dance floor to dance Khmer style. I had never seen anything like it in Thailand before (although I do not claim to have seen it all yet), and I was surprised that teenagers would be into traditional dance like that. I was pulled onto the dance floor and given quick instruction. I have to admit it became a welcome change and was quite fun to mimic the movements.
The thing I remember distinctly from Soksan was the constant flow of backpackers. They would enter with clothing perfectly placed for optimum display of their tattoo collections, turn their nose up at the scene, and head for the door. I cannot begin to count how many white female noses got turned up at me for having a damn good time in there. Oh well sweetheart, put on your sandals and go trek to a fake village tomorrow so you can feel worldly. I will be here having fun without pretense.
At closing time the girl I had been chatting up made for the door with me and we headed back to my room for you know what. It was good, but not as good as the girl from the day before. I went to bed around 4am.
I was in bed contemplating the temples and realized I valued sleep right now more than culture. I walked downstairs at the appointment time and told my driver to come back after noon because I wanted sleep. I hit the pillow and went to slumber town. At 11am a knock came on my door and behind it was the receptionist. He informed me the taxi to take me to the bus was here. I told him it must be a mistake because I am not leaving until tomorrow. I went back to sleep, but before I could get to sleep I just needed to double check and be sure I was right.
Oh no! It was my last day! I had no time to contemplate that news because it was time to pack fast. I raced downstairs and paid the bill then got a taxi to the bus stop. I barely made it in time for the 6 hour journey back to Phnom Penh. I took a taxi in Phnom Penh straight to the airport and back to Bangkok.
I saw and experienced some messed up things in Cambodia. I learned something too. Poverty breeds crime, but it also breeds warm hearts. Honest people who have simple lives are some of the best in the world. Their thoughts and actions are genuine. If you go to Cambodia you might have some problems, but you can have problems anywhere. My advice is if you have never been then go. I found it to be quite worth the time and money I spent. When I return I will definitely hit the south more and try to get away from the city centers. I will probably grab a girl in Phnom Penh to be my traveling partner. Having a guide and translator you can have sex with is always something that makes trekking through the remote parts of any country more enjoyable.
It sure sounds like Siem Reap has come a long way since I was last there.