Friday, June 22, 2007

i'm back

hello, i'm back in the uk,the journey took 2 days and was eventful but i can't be bothered to explainit all now.

i am enjoying access to high speed internet

ladies and gentlemen, it's the fucking DISKETTES

Monday, June 11, 2007

more kampot

kampot is dead, dead hot.

i decided that when i return people will take a look at my lack of tan and ask what i've been doing for the past 8 months (cos of course all there is to do here is sun-bathe). So now that i am OFFICIALLY on holiday i decided to take myself and my book (a pilfered cop of 'Guns, Germs and Steel: a history of everyone for the past 13,000 years' by Jared Diamond) down to the riverside, to sit in the grass and bake myself.

i was put out somewhat by the appearance of an aging local man who felt the need to tell me it was hot (he pointed at the sun and his head and said 'g'dal' - 'hot') so i nodded and replied 'g'dal na!' (very hot) and returned to my book. Then he kept trying to get my attention and repeating that it was hot. So, when I tired of agreeing with him, i tried to ignore him and continued to read my book. I was again put of by him spitting in the ground near me. this spitting seemed to pick up in regularity, and i noticed chatter, but i tried not to look up as i didn;'t want to get involved in a conversation about the weather (or possibly my wife/girlfriend/prospects thereof). Eventually temptation was too much and 8 or 9 Khmer guys were just sitting around watching me. I tried to continue reading but found it difficult knowing so many eyes were on me. eventually they left.

I got back into reading my book when I heard 'hello,sir!' which is the commonest war cry of the motodop. Eyes down to continue reading. 'hello, sir!' again, but this time from a lesser distance. I'd decided that i couldn't ignore this guy so I looked up and said hello. He had a book with him and asked if he could talk with me. This is almost certainly the sign of an English student. I decided to indulge him, it turns out he was reading a book for his class called 'Cry Freedom' Which I've never read but seemed to be about an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa who (i think) was beaten to death in the cells. I asked the young Khmer Guy - named Vanna- if he knew about South Africa. He didn't even know where it was. so I gave him a vague background and tried to explain apartheid. He asked me to help explain some of the words in the book and I tried, but explaining what a 'Liberal' is to someone over here is pretty difficult. These guys exist in a quasi-anrachist, ultra-conservative, pseudo-democracy.

So to explain to him the conventional meaning of a Liberal when he live sin a society where you can do anything you want, even though elected officials, and officially oppointed judges have made laws which you may glady break, unless a police officer decides they want to arrest you either for breaking a law or not breaking a law, but only so they can exploit you for money and without your possesions until you pay up, and in a country where many things which are not against the law are big taboos.. well.. i found it difficult.

He told me about a pop concert that was happening in the town that very night. So i sais I'd go along and maybe I'd see him there. The concert was a free promotional thing dubbed the "Anchor Rave Tour" (Anchor is one of the most popular beers here, along with Angkor..) featuring singer from Phnom Penh! Wow!

The venue was one side of the main round-a-bout in town, they just took over one side of the street. When I turned up a typically dull khmer pop singer was onstage with the bargain bin choreographed dancers behind her. The scene itself was far more engaging. Dozens of food stalls had appeared, even an ice cream van! there were people with some sort of ballooon-bursting competition stalls, and there was a general carnival atmosphere. Though in a reserved khmer way. After one pop performer the compéres got some people out of the crowd (some boys, some girls, though of course the girls took a lot of coaxing on to the stage, being considerably more shy than the males) to do 'western-style disco-dancing' in a competition. the winners (or maybe all competitors- i couldn't identify any winners) received 2 anchor glasses and an anchor t-shirt. each!

I left the pop concert early as I was so tired i could barely stand up.

and now I am staying on a spare bad at a bar called Comfortably Numb.
See you soon kiddy winks!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kampot - Sihanoukville -Kampot

So I finally got out of Phnom Penh. Jake and I decided to head for Kampot, a small French town on an Estuary.

When We arrived we chose a random Guesthouse and got pretty lucky cos the rooms were cheap and good, and the food was VERY cheap and very good also.
Walking around the town we soon discovered that a western person in this town is still something to be gawped at. Every child and many adults to would say hello to us. There were no motodops but people who were working with strange psuedo-cyclo bicycle-trailer contraption smiled and waved.

In the market we soon found that people we much less chatty than in Phnom Penh. Normally we'd have a little play with the people on the stalls,, chat in Khmer and/or English. But the people were not able to speak English and apparently a little too intimidated to speak Khmer. Nevertheless everyone was friendly enough and the one time we wanted something we couldn't find a woman spoke to a man who spoke to another man, who came over to us with his very meagre English skills which were far outweighed by his eagerness to help and eventually, we managed to find some Chess pieces for $2. (since then I have cut some ripped jeans in to shorts and used a marker pen to make a roll-up chess board- or chess table cloth i suppose)

Kampot is quite a pretty town, many of the buildings are run down after years of neglect (The KR held out in this area for some time and even abducted tourists as late as 1994 but it still rather picturesque.
Jake and I both fell in love with an art-deco cinema and were desperate to find out more about it. a quest of 2 or 3 days essentially led to us discovering that the place has only recently been leased to a company in Phnom Penh for TWENTY YEARS. The dream of The Groove Palais is no more.

There are 3 bridges crossing the river all quite close together, The New Bridge, The Old Bridge, and The Railway Bridge. We've been back and forth across the river a few times, either cycling around just for the hell of it or to visit a place called Bhodi Villa, which is a Guesthouse/bar just up the river. It's nice and relaxed with good views and friendly people.
Crossing the railway bridge was pretty intense. I'm not the biggest fan of heights, so when we got to the edge of the bridge and i saw that it was quite literally made of railway tracks and bugger all else there was no way I wanted to cross. Jake said he would've had he not had his bike with him. I reckon that makes him crazy.
It wasn't long before we realised there was a separate walk way going along one side of the bridge and crossed there. The water was a LONG way down. I noticed cow shit on the walk way.

Our reconnaissance missions to the train station offered nothing by way of train times or prices. So a our prefered method of transport to the coast was no go. We had resigned ourselves to a shared taxi but a Motodop hustled us for a coach. i turned out there was a new coach service provided by Sorya Bus Co. (Phnom Penh) and it would be cheaper than the taxi, guaranteed seats WITH aircon. The icing on the cake was that as it was a new service we got tickets numbers 000001 and 000002.


Aggressive motodops,

typical 'crazy' partying tourists,

dirty old men with women unfortunate enough to be in such a precarious financial situation impacted by a generally less than salubrious social standing that they have to suffer the fat sweaty balding deluded perverts slobbering over them

everyone seemed on the take.

on my first day I saw a needle on the beach (and more since)

I had 2 pairs of flip-flops stolen. It's not that they were taken that bothered me, it's being left with no shoes and having to walk in to town with no shoes on just to buy another pair. only to have that pair taken again. with the staff denying any knowledge of their disappearance even though one of them was WEARING them.

I didn't see much of the town, it's spread out and difficult to navigate. and on the occasions i did go anywhere I was harassed by motodops, shouted at when i politely refused to use their service, harassed further by pimps, and seemed virtually unable to purchase anything without someone trying to bleed me dry.

The bets event in Sihanoukville was probably getting lost after we'd been to the market. Assuming the road we were on would eventually lead us to the street we wanted. walking for miles, turning down a dirt road, jumping in the back of a work truck simply to get wherever the hell it was that we were going a little more quickly. arriving at some village, following the general direction to the sea, passing an abandoned go-kart track, crossing a river by the airport, fording a paddy field, and eventually winding up on the beach approximately 500m the other side of our guesthouse than we had anticipated arriving from.

I was trying not to each in Sihanoukville, partly because the food all looked so unappetizing, and partly because the prices were extortionate. Far more than I've become used to paying, and with very little variation in peoples menus. Eventually I decided it was stupid and decided to go for some vegetable fried rice, reasoning that it was relatively cheap, nutritious, and tasty. I got a small plate or rice with perhaps 1/4 of a carrot, and maybe 2 long beans finely sliced. Not what one would normally receive in this part of the world when ordering a rice and vegetable dish. Since this morning (ie the morning after) I've felt pretty ill, have provided physical evidence that SOMETHING not right has entered my system, and spent most of today in bed.

This morning we got a taxi back to Kampot cos it's just a much more enjoyable place. Again the guy from the guesthouse in Sihanoukville who offered to arrange the taxi service for us took us for utter morons. Told us bare-faced lies, but with little option other than waiting another day we took his "brother's" (he was Khmer, his brother was Chinese) and have each sworn to not reveal how much we paid. it's an embarrassment.

I hope all this doesn't sound to negative, on the whole I've been enjoying Cambodia hugely and think every day how privileged I am to have the chance to be here as an outsider. Having a red passport is incredibly useful.

Only two more weeks then there will be no more tales of SE Asia. oh dear..