Rambling Sentences about Cambodia

Oh that familiar feeling that Im so used to by now (and Im sure you are too) is creeping up on me again here in SE Asia; frustration, anxiety, difficulty embracing the foreign culture and the new mindset I have to adapt in each different place. I expereienced it first landing in Peru at the beginning of my trip, when I first got into Nez Zealand; and now again as I navigate the crowded, polluted, noisy streets of Phom Penh, Cambodia’s capital (and I thought La Paz was chaotic!) As usual, its putting me in a “What the hell am I doing here” mood. I’m sure I’ll get over it soon enough, just like I did last time and the time before that, ad nauseum. So don’t pay attention to my whining.

I did a crazy thing yesterday and rented a bike to cycle through Phom Penh. Biking through Phom Penh is just like biking in Manhattan except there are no traffice lights, stop signs, rules, right sides of the road, or sense of relative order. Plus dirt and smoke filling the nostrils and blinding the eyes. Throw in the heat, humidity, and spontaneous thunderstorms and you’ve got yourself a first class adventure.

my bike rental

my bike rental

The locals hollered and hooted at the crazy foreigner- who would actually choose to bike amid the chaos! Just to add to the experience, rainy seeason reared it’s ugly head in the middle of my 28k roundtrip ride back to Phom Penh from Choeung Ek where I had ridden to visit the Killing Fields.

Warning: The photo below is of remains from the Killing Fields and is mind numbingly disturbing.

a mind numbing display from an atrocity not so long ago in Cambodia

Locals sped past me in motos and tuk tuks, all turning their heads back to stare. I had to laugh. Later back in Phom Penh a tourist approached me and asked “Hey, weren’t you just on a bike- my friend wanted to take a picture of you,” HA! I still can’t believe I did that.

cecilia 006

cecilia 005

It was nice to escape the harassment from the hoards of tuk tuk drivers and street vendors for a while- I’ve found myself reverting back to my NYC mindset of blocking the unwanted ambience out. At least the beer selection is surprisingly decent. Stouts are gaining ground here and the local beer is not far from good ol’ PBR. And as I discovered last night when I found myself hanging with some local Khmer (the correct term for “Cambodian”), a good selection of imported wine (there probably wouldn’t be such a large community of Frenchies here if not). I’ve been enjoying my $3 meals as well. For a time I preferred Western tastes to Eastern and if there was ever an option during my visits to China/Hong Kong/Thailand, I’d opt for Pizza Hut over the local food. I’ve even turned down the plethora of baguettes, croissants and cheese (see the French influence) in favor of the huge vats of curry, fish and rice. Yum.

Good thing I have a strong stomach

Good thing I have a strong stomach

So I know I said I’d be headed to Vietnam soon but I don’t feel ready to deal with another border crossing, another culture, and a new set of scam techniques. On a whim I think I’ll head to Cambodia’s south coast instead. Plus I’ve been meeting some great locals. See how fickle I am (I dont know how to do a question mark on this keyboard).

Note: I wrote the above text yesterday. I am actually starting to like it here and realize it’s a pretty cool city, laid back in a totally different way that takes the Western mind a bit of getting used to. I feel like I was giving Khmers a bad name too when in reality, most of them are totally friendly, generous, and too eager to help a girl traveling alone. I’ve also been couchsurfing with a bunch of French expats here and it’s given me a new perspective on the culture.

On Another Note: In reference to a previous blog when I swore I’d never hitchike again after the psycho incident, I still did it the next day (during the daytime on a well-traveled route, though) and got picked up by the nicest, coolest guy from Papua New Guinea that took me on a scenic drive along the North Coast. I love when human faith restores itself.


~ by ceciliabien on May 10, 2009.

One Response to “Rambling Sentences about Cambodia”

  1. remember how we used to wait for our ‘revelations’ in the city? i am so glad to have a record of yours here – i find your realizations so powerful, loud and clear, and am happy to see your creativity, honesty, and compassion alive and well on the other side of the world. your passion for both observation and participation, and your ability for introspection, are inspiring.

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