When I first arrived in Cambodia I really didn't like it much. It was dirty, very dirty and the people seemed more scam-y. Now I admit fully that I was mistaken. Scam-y, yeah, but trying to make a living out of nothing, more accurate.
This is a quick video of me walking across the Thailand border into Cambodia. It's crazy cool to see what a throw back in time this place is.
I met two women traveling from Hungry at the visa checkpoint (the only other falang on the bus than me; me being the only blonde however). We all decided to share a taxi and needed a fourth person to cut the costs even further. There was a Chinese woman, also traveling alone that we invited to share the car with us. After much confusion we were all smashed into converted old Toyota camry with all our luggage and driver who had a serious cold and kept making gross snorting and coughing noises. I'm taking airborne tonight! Our 2 hour drive took closer to 3.5 as our driver was uncharacteristically slow for the traffic around us, but eventually we made it. I am now somehow sharing a room with the Chinese woman, who speaks very little English and who's name I can't pronounce.
Back to Cambodia.
As with most things, education, exposure and experience changes perspective. My Lonely Planet Guede desribes Cambodia as one big puddle after the rainy season. I'd say that's an accurate description.
One big mud puddle full of beautiful green every where and poeple who, not matter what their game-or storyare polite and for the most part, all that I've encountered anyway, cheerful. Even if you tell them no they continue to smile-guenuinely so. The smile is no scam They're just laughting at their own game. They especially seem to like it when you do the play game-as long as you're smiling, too, of course.
Turns out depsite how poor Cambodia is-most of us never even able to imagine such poverty, let alone such an ability to live happily in it-is an expensive place to be. Everything is "one dollar, lady", even stuff that isn't worth a dollar. My favorite greeting was a man who called after us (us=me and Chinese woman at Angkor Wat, which is worth it's own entry), "Sweet lady! Sweet lady! One dollar, sweet lady!" Something about the cheer in his voice.
Well, there were some beautiful creations mixed in a lot of plain ol' junk/stuff. Add that and throw adorable children into the mix and I'm wishing I had all the "one dollars" in the world.
I did refrain, and did an o.k. job of not buying everything I saw or wanted or that an especially persistant child wanted to sell me, remembering that these children have something I don't....a job to come back to tomorrow.
I did end up buying some bamboo bangles and a large, lovely, piece of art. The bracelets I probably paid too much for, but I couldn't resist. They're really cool. And although I realize they cost nothing to make and they could probably whip out ten of them in 5 minutes, I like 'em. My bargaining skills are less than fantastic as I managed to get one larger bracelet added to my "special price of ten for one dollar, for you lady". My Chinese friend laughed at me as we climbed into our tuk tuk and she showed me the 20 she got for one dollar.
My BEAUTIFUL painting of Angkor Wat (hand-painted) cost me $27. Ibought it froma young man, maybe 15, who says he has been in training for 2 years to become a master painter. He did have some small ones of his own work, which I thought were pretty amaing already, as well. I now realize he's selling his practice, his homework, if you will. Still h is wveryt alented and it's not a talent I possess so I suppose that makesthse works of art even more valuable to me, as it's not an aesthetic I could capture on my own. He was very kind and lacked the despartion asles tactic that so many use, which was refreshing. In the states this art could easily sell for 100's. At least to me, if I had that kind of money. I love my painting.
And Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom were waaaay cooler than I thought they were going to be.
our tuk tuk driver for the day...
the following are of Angkor Wat (Wat meaning temple)