Wednesday, March 15, 2006

“Rose or Mary, pick one”. These were the words from one of the waitresses at our hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. She had just managed to sum up the problem I was having in the 3 countries I visit, the Asians can’t get their tongue (or their head) around Rosemary, tho I am expected to be able to pronounce their rather complicated names! So, now most of them call me Rose, except this waitress…she calls me Rosemary, go figure!

This is a pic of me and fellow trainee Jane when we went to Koh Samui.

My training trip was very good, my trainer Nicky, spent a lot of time making sure that I had detailed information about how to make the Intrepid Group Leader job happen. Thanks to her I was able to do my first trip alone, backwards to the training trip with no major dramas. Ok, so I didn’t know where the ATM was in SRP (Siem Reap), but in my defence I was sick the first time I was there and spent all day in bed, so may have missed out on some of the more crucial aspects, like the ATM and where the good bars are. Doesn’t matter, I know where they are now. I am still learning each time I go to a city, like here in PNH (Phnom Pehn) they wanted to know where the cheap bars are, I only know the better bars where the expats and tourists who don’t mind spending money hangout. When I get time I need to go find the backpacker area and see what is there.

So, what do I do? I meet the passengers in either BKK (Bangkok) or HCM (Ho Chi Minh) on day one and give them a run down on what to expect over the next nine days, and lay down the rules, no drugs or prostitution. I have also thrown in a couple of my own, no getting sick, lost or robbed! Then we go to Cambodia, from BKK it is a long day drive with border crossing that can be long or short depending on whether the immigration guys feel like doing any work and how many other tourists are there at the same time. From HCM, it takes 2 days by road and then boat up (or down - not sure which) the Mekong River.

The next 5 days are in Cambodia. 3 days in SRP checking out the famous Ankor Wat temple complex that is one of the 7 wonders of the world (I think), and the other temples around the area. There are other things in SRP like the Landmine Museum where we learnt about the many different landmine types that were planted by the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese during the Pol Pot era. The museum supports victims of the landmines.

We can go to a concert on Saturdays at the children’s hospital where the Director plays his cello and gives a lecture about the lack of health care in the country. He then invites the young people to give blood, the older people to give money and the ones in between to give both! Here we can sometimes go to the village of said waitress and have a traditional Cambodian meal and play with the village kids.

From there it is on PNH where we visit the S21 prison and the Killing Fields. These are where the Khmer Rouge soldiers under the instructions of Pol Pot and his generals, tortured and murdered the Cambodian people. They started with the intellectuals in their attempt to make a communist style agrarian society, before moving onto common peasants. The story is ugly and gruesome and most disturbing as it happened in my childhood. As I watch the news now about Saddam Hussein and Milosevic’s trials, and know what is happening in Zimbabwe, I wonder if we have learnt from the world of dictators. PNH also offers a Royal Palace and plenty of market shopping to do, tho as I hate shopping, I have avoided this so far. However, I need some cheesecloth shirts as it is so hot here that cotton sticks badly.

And then it is on to the city I didn’t start from. So as of today, I have completed one trip by myself from BKK to HCM, and I am onto Day 4 of my second from HCM to BKK. It is really full-on. I am with them from breakfast to bedtime most days. I organise group dinners and lunches, we spend a lot of time on buses or boats and then go to the pub after dinner on some nights. From 20-24th March I have some days off in BKK where I will probably go to the movies and have some drinks with Jane who was a fellow trainee and has days off at the same time. Then I have to fly back to HCM to start again. That is the schedule this week, but it changes every other week, so I won’t really know until it actually happens.

Some observations

  • Apparently the men, esp in HCM think that any wall doubles as a urinal
  • Women just squat on the side of the road, baring their bum for all to see
  • Pigs can travel upside down on motorbikes, 2 or 3 at a time
  • 6 people can fit quite well on a motorbike
  • 30 people on the roof of a truck is ok, along with the 30 people inside it!
  • White people have money & beggars in Cambodia expect us to just hand it over, eg the kids at the Killing Fields say ‘give me money’. Well, they don’t even say please, so there is no way they are going to get anything out of me, I cannot tolerate bad manners
  • The beggars can give you looks that will kill when you don’t give them money
    Asians have no concept of littering as an offence, everything just gets thrown on the ground or in the river
  • Passengers leave their brains at home when they come on an organised tour, which means that they can’t make normally simple decisions such as what to eat or wear and ask, ‘do I need to go to the toilet now?’ Don’t know, only you can answer that one!

I’ll leave it at that at the moment. I will update again soon, when I get some free time.


At 8:36 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marks travel tip #9458

if there is a toilet available then use it while you have it, if you want to or not, you may regret it if you dont


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