Cambodia - Days 9 to 14

Submitted by derms on Fri, 31/12/2004 - 11:53am.

Day 9 - Kirirom National Park: We headed off early on our journey to Kirirom National Park. Our tour guide and driver was an ex-Khmer Rouge Chief. He was forced into the Khmer Rouge army when he was 15 or 16 and would be showing us part of the Junge/Forrest where he use to fight. He was actually a really nice guy.

Before travelling to the resort, we first stopped for a ride on the bamboo train. The bamboo train consisted of two steel axles with cast-iron wheels at both ends, a long mat made from bamboo and a tiny gas engine that looked like a modified outboard motor. It was constructed right in front of us. Firstly, the steel axles were placed on the tracks. Next, the mat was placed on top of the wheels. Finally, the engine was placed on top of the mat. A large, thick rubber band linked the engine to one of the axles.

We rode the train for about an hour and I must say it was was one of the highlights of the trip. We saw local farmers harvesting rice and tending their flock. There was only a single track and we were occasionally confonted with a bamboo train going in the opposite direction. The cargo of the other bamboo train determined how the trains would "pass" each other. If the other bamboo train contained only people (as ours did), then we would simply "swap trains" (the motor was also transfered between the trains). If the cargo of the other train was more substantial (such as a train full of timber), then our bamboo train was simply dismantled and reassembled after the other train had passed. Along the way we picked up passengers and cargo. One guy hopped on board with a single, large wooden wheel. At every town we passed, people would look at Lotte and myself and laugh. I was kind of sad when it was over.

Our guide then took us to a resort near the National Park and we had the rest of the day to ourselves. Their brochure advertised all the things you could do - canoeing, horse riding etc but anytime we asked if we could do the given activity we inevitably got the "sorry, not available" answer. Nothing on the resort seemed to be working - no tv, no internet. Faced with the prospect of actually having to talk to each other (because there was nothing else to do), Lotte and I instead opted to play badminton in the pool.

Day 10 - Kirirom National Park: Our tour guide first took us to a waterfall (part of the way was covered by ox and cart), a bat cave and finally to a pinic area that overlooked a lake. The most interesting part of the entire day was talking to our guide about the current state of Cambodia. He was complaing about how corrupt everything is. His children can technically go to school for free, but unless he pays the teacher 700 real (that's the cambodian currency) a day per child, they will not pass. All up he has to pay about $0.40 US a day for his two children to go to school. That amounts to $8 US a month - a princely sum for someone who earns $60 US a month. Apparently when his children go to high school it will cost him over $19 US a month. He was also complaining about the government. Apparently just before there is an election, the government gives medication to people on the condition that they vote for them. After the election, their generosity ends and there is no more medication until the next election. It has happened three consecutive times.

We spent the night as we had the previous one - pool badminton is actually quite a challenging sport

Day 11 - Sihanoukville: On Christmas day we were driven down to our beach resort in Sihanoukville. Something at dinner the previous night didn't agree with me (aside from Lotte) and I spent most of the day lying in bed. At night we went out to a dodgy bar called "G'day Mate" that was packed with seedy old Australians (when I say "packed", there were four of them, which would be close to the capacity of the place). Their talk mainly centered around the good old days in Australia. Later we had Christams dinner at a local restaurant and went to bed early.

Day 12 - Sihanoukville: Just took a walk around town and chilled out on the beach. Not much to do there.

Day 13 - Phnom Penh: Arrived in the evening from Sihanoukville. Spent the night in the Riverfront area, where there was considerable nightlife. We didn't realise how short we were on cash and the bill at the restaurant was more than we had on us (only by a few dollars though). The restauranteur was kind enough to let us pay the next day.

Lotte got talking to an old guy from Belgium at the table next to us who was in Cambodia for sex. He was there with an 18 year old Cambodian girl who barely spoke any English. He had hired her out for the night for $10 US. He said that he wasn't going to have sex with her, he just didn't want to be "alone" that night (cough "bullshit"). He also mentioned that as a single white guy walking around Cambodia he was often asked if he wan't to have sex with children. Apparently some children are sold into protitution by their parents for $100 US.

Day 14 - Phnom Penh: Today we went had a look at the markets and just wandered around town. When we got to the airport, we found out that our flight to Bangkok was delayed by two hours (as a result of the extra flights to/from Bangkok in the wake of the tsunami in Asia)

( categories: Cambodia )