We have only been here for a week and could easily spend a month. I will be back here about a months time to help build a school in either Battambang or Siem Reap. If you feel like joining feel free to let me know and I can ask for availability.
The last 7 days have been fantastic. We arrived in Seim Reap and the girls went to the temples while I did a 10 square mile drive around the outskirts of the city to see what has changed since I was here 4 years ago. Whether it is Siem Reap or Kampot you can definitely see things are changing. New roads are being built and what looks like Cambodian style suburbs are being constructed. This a country that has had a troubled past, more recent past to be exact at the hands of the asshole pol pot. It’s a sad story but if you want to read about it try this link http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/pol-pot.htm
The Khmer people are a resilient bunch. Even with years of oppression they still find a way to give a smile whenever possible. Take the time to talk to any of the locals and they will undoubtedly have an interesting story to tell. Driving around the countryside most people give a stare and as soon as you give a wave or a smile they are grinning ear to ear. The older generation gave more of a worried stare which made sense by the time we reached Kampot. We were staying at the Columns hotel and the owners sister mentioned that she was scared of the Defender 90. This is due to the fact that the Khmer Rouge (read the link) used the same defender (even color) for military proposes. I would be nervous as well if I thought the Khmer Rouge had made a comeback. Makes driving around a little eerie at times.
It’s the dry season and Cambodia is going through a slight drought. Nothing like California from what I understand but countryside that is usually lush and green is awkwardly grey. Most of the land is tilled and ready for the next step just waiting for water that should come next month. Will add a few more pictures so you get the idea.
Roads have been pretty good actually. Well according to the PK index of shit roads these aren’t that bad. Only thing is staying alert because you never know when a cow, child, scooter, dump truck, or dog is going to shoot out from a sideroad. Like most of the developing world trucks are overloaded and will usually have 2-20 people strapped on somewhere. Best one might have been a scooter tied on to the back of a van by ropes only holding the front tire and letting the rest hang off the back. This isn’t new but the fact that a man was sitting on the scooter like he was riding it was. Obviously there is a high percentage of falling off these rigs and we managed to pass one. Driving from Battambang to Kampot we passed a man laying in the middle of the National Highway and looked to have fallen off a truck. People from town were there to help quickly but you see why this is unsafe.
Kampot is great. If you haven’t been make the trip. Quiet little town that will be changing in the coming years. Just from the last visit I was getting confused due to new roads and hotels popping up. Don’t get me wrong it has a long way to go but hurry if you want to see its natural beauty. This used to be where Cambodia’s pepper came from but when Pol Pot was in power he ripped it you and planted rice. The pepper is making a comeback and you can buy it everywhere. Took a ride up to Bokor Mountain on a dirt bike with Margo. Absolutely stunning views from this old French look out. Interesting part was noticing that they have a (Chinese style) casino at the top. They are also building hotels etc to cater to what I thought was the Chinese. Came to find out that it’s not. This little town if you can call it that is for elite of Cambodia. Apparently there is a meeting of the heads once every few months where business opportunities are discussed over a glass of whiskey. Its no wonder that the poor stay poor in this country and the rich get richer.
Its unfortunate but Cambodians have been selling off their prized possessions to the highest bidder for years. Even Angkor Wat has been sold to a private Vietnamese business. With 14million visitors a year at $20 an entry fee you can see this would be a cash cow for Cambodians, instead only 10%-15% goes back to the government and the rest to Vietnam. Maybe this deal was done on Bokor Mountian…
So I’m saying goodbye to Cambodia tomorrow but only for a month. Got the D90 (need to come up with a name for her…) washed today, total cost of $4 and at one point had 26 hands working on her. Even though she looks great the boarder crossing will likely be a pain in…You need to have a valid Vietnamese license to enter and due to some help from the Ho family I actually have one. The travel agency in town says it’s still a 50/50 chance of success. Hopefully it’s only a $20 problem and I find myself drinking coffee on the Mekong Delta tomorrow.