Chuck Hillig's Travel Blog

Well, I'm going to be doing a lot of traveling over the next 6-7 months so I thought that I'd better re-activate my travel blog. The last time I posted anything here was way back in 2006 when I was traveling through SE Asia. Feel free to read my entries back then about my earlier adventures through India,Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines and Hong Kong. This time (at least for the next six weeks), I'll be traveling through Greece and Turkey.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

On the riverfront in Phnom Penh...

I checked out of the House of Malibu on Serendipity Beach this morning and caught the bus for Phnom Penh. Happily, a very friendly fellow named Mark (who usually drives a taxi in Seattle), was sitting next to me and so the 4+ hours passed quickly. Once the bus stopped in the city, as expected, every westerner was immediately surrounded by at least 4 drivers who wanted to take them to the hotels that give them kickbacks. I opted to use a moto, and we got to the California 2 Guesthouse in a few minutes. I had written them an email the night before but, unfortunately, they hadn't read any of their mail by the time I arrived. No problem. I was re-directed to the Cozyna Hotel a few doors down and found a very nice A/C room, complete with TV and a refrig...for only US$20. My room faces the river and is quite comfortable. It even has its own balcony overlooking the street.
I had a beer at one of the many local bistros along the street. A young girl about ten (who was lugging around at least 25 books in a basket) zeroed in on me and asked me in fairly broken English to check out all of the titles. Amazingly, I was able to buy the 2006 edition of the Lonely Planet book on Laos for only US$6.00. What a deal! Later, however, she saw me again when I was kicking back on the quay wall by the river a few blocks away and she quickly brought her sisters and cousins (who were also selling books) over to say hello. Her older brother told me that all of the newer Lonely Planet books were, essentially, pirated knock-offs that the kids were buying for only a buck and then selling to the tourists for about US$6. Evidently, there's a flourishing underground printing industry thats able to copy other books so well that you can't tell the difference between the copy and the original. The kids practiced their English on me for a while and, since they all looked pretty hungry, I decided to spring for some food at their favorite Khmer diner. None of them had eaten since the morning and so they quickly wolfed down the very excellent food'that they ordered. These kids are very young (about 4-13) and are totally unsupervised for many daylight hours and well as on into the evening. After they ate, they all wanted to take me across the street to watch the locals dance in the open park. The Cambodian music certainly isn't rock, but everyone seemed to enjoy listening to it and singing along to the lyrics. Kids as young as six and some older folks all danced in a big circle counter-clockwise around the big amplifier in the center. The whole atmosphere was very festive and celebratory.
The Cambodian people are physically very beautiful, and they're blessed with dazzling white smiles and open, friendly hearts. As expected, I'm running into more western tourists up here in the city, but (even over in India), I have yet to see even ONE Afro-American tourist anywhere in my travels. For some reason, they just don't show up over here. Tomorrow, I'm going to see if I can arrange for a day-long tour of the city and, in the afternoon, check out the infamous Killing Fields.
More later...

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