Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cambodia, Initial Thoughts

Cambodia at first sight is unimpressive in its dust blown flatness.  In under a day I had traveled from the green mountains which surround Dalat to the flooded rice fields of the Vietnamese delta and finally to the dry heart of Cambodia.   I spent seven hours on the bus traveling to Phnom Penh in the early morning.  I was the only westerner on the bus.  I watched the flat plains and stilt houses roll past.  In the front of their homes were water holes that provided a small reprieve for cow and man from heat of the dry season.  Something that stuck out about the bus ride was the ferry crossing.  It made me think I was entering a different world somehow.  When I arrived in Phnom Penh I was greeted by tuk-tuk drivers that were advertising the local tourist spots.  The first thing offered to me was a hotel and a tour of the killing fields.  His selling point was the shooting range at the killing fields.  That turned me off to the idea.  I don't know if one can really fire a gun at the killing fields, but I'm sure I wouldn't want to.  I decided to instead to take a shower and eat a full lunch.  I walked around the city for a little while before stumbling upon the 700 year old stupas of Wat Phnom.  Inside of the largest stupa are the remains of one of the kings of the ancient Khmer empire.  Today it's a park and the center of a surprisingly modern eastern capitol.  What actually excited me about the park was the monkeys jumping from tree to tree and the elephant in he park.  At first they excited me and then they drew my interest and I began to think on them.  The elephant had been reduced by its owner to a beggar in the park.  As I got closer to it, I imagined that its countenance was not a happy one.  Then I also saw a mother monkey holding its dead baby in her arms as she desperately tried to awake it.  This went on for some time before she took him away with her.  In both instances the monkey and the elephant seemed very human in their actions.  I felt for them.  I felt like these animals were suffering some sort of public embarrassment, and then I realized that animals don't suffer all the ills of city life that we do.  I spent the night in some bars by the river and then took the bus up to Siem Reap the next morning.

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