Cambodia – Evrim and Elif Yiğit Tour Journals, April 13, 2012
Cambodia isn’t one of the places I enjoy the most. The whole country is flat so it’s quite boring for me to ride there. However since we want to stay in Thailand for 2 more months, we have to get visas from Cambodia. Siem Riem which’s 160km away from the border is the town where we have to wait for a week for the visas. During our stay here we meet new cyclists, celebrate my birthday all together, in addition we meet again with the cyclist who we’ve met in Kuala Lumpur and applied for Thailand visas together (such a coincidence). Since he’s a good billiard player, we play challenging billiard matches at the hotel’s bar. A South African writer and a Belgian teen becomes our new billard-mates as well and we play pleasant matches with them. There’s also a Turkish in the hotel. We spend nice time with Berk. He introduces us to his friends. Thus we form a group of 12-15. Thanks to this, the week we have to spend to wait for the visas doesn’t get gruelling.
I recall that I had said that I’d never come to Cambodia ever again. However Siem Rieb is a more different place. Very touristy but still people are the same. From among our crowd, every day there’s someone that had their money stolen, had to bribe or got swindled. But despite all, it’s a pleasant town that must definitely be seen.
From my previous tour, I’d like to share my first thoughts about Cambodia here as well. However these are the very first days and evaluation about Cambodia’s capital Phom Phen.
” Phom Phen
It’s still an ugly in here.
I finally managed to find a Lonely Planet for $2.5. It’s a new piracy publishment. Here, book piracy is as developed as it’s in Turkey. However it’s only possible to find books that address to tourists. I seem to figure out what makes me uncomfortable in this city. Here buildings, the traffic, cars, in short all city is disorganized. But this is not what makes me uncomfortable. What makes me uncomfortable is that there’re some things going on.
I think cities are like people. For instance even if someone appears beautiful to you, you may feel something inconvenient about her. If she’s someone you just get to know, it’s not easy to figure out what the problem is. However in your feelings, in your brain you feel that something’s wrong and you don’t want to be near her. It’s the same with this city. But after a while you begin to realize it and say that’s the problem. For example;
Even if it’s licit here sometimes, you can buy a 5 year old girl as a sex slave. It’s possible to buy smaller children but it doesn’t mean that it’ll be cheaper since they’re not sold by kilos. And this definitely isn’t legal. Which means it’s not possible to go to a market and ask where the children rayon is. But when you get on a motorbike or a tuktuk, he’s going to ask you about lady, marijuana, heroin in order and if you’re a little willing, it’s possible to find everything here. Dirty end of the stick is the tourism of this; which means there are old male tourists coming here for this. These grandpas are here to get laid with the children. Which’s admittingly isn’t the most desired scene you’d want to see after pedalling for 3300km.”
With all these unpleasant thoughts, I go to the 2nd unamiable instance of here through the busy and dusty roads. As I leave the Olympic stadium 10km behind, I’ll see the area where one of the historical record breaking attempt had occured. Here a massive massacre took place between years 1975-1979. 17,000 people had been killed on the area I’ll be seeing. ‘Killing Field of Choueung appendix’. Country-wide death numbers are much much more than this. A big part of them are educated people and academicians.
Killing Field of Choueung
“What’s weird is I take my first camera shot in this country over here. A monument and shelves raising up to 9m of height. On the lowest shelves there are clothes of the people died here. They had been cleaned up in 1983 and sprayed with deodorants. On the shelf above it are the skulls of 15-20 years-old women. And above it the other 17,000 skulls. This monument (it’s not right to call it a monument but I couldn’t recall the actual word) which’d been made from skulls which’re the same age as me or 3 years older is my first snapshot.”
I wander around a bit and get out of there as I see the first pictures of the people who had died in the museum and the tools they were killed by. I have to mention that before going out of there, it’s possible to drink something chilly or buy some things from the souvenir shop. Even if I thought that I could buy the bone comb I wanted for a cheaper price, I decide not to carry an additional weight. (consider how bizarre a souvenir shop here can be)
I’m happy as I go outside. I apologize for my rudeness but I smile. For the first time I get to like this town. After such a bad scene it’s unacceptable for one to be relaxed or maybe happy but this is the truth. I remain being happy for the following 15km. Roads, people, traffic, my wheel string which’s about to sever… Everything began to seem fine.
Somehow it didn’t take long to find out about my happiness which’s been an unacceptable rudeness. Let me explain; I’ve told you before that cities are like people. I began to get to know the one who we didn’t like as we first met. The situation we experienced is like this;
I ask him what he’ll buy his father for the Father’s Day.
He tells me that he lost his father.
Now this unpleasant news, this situation he experienced in his past can change all my feelings about the person in front of me. I don’t feel the same discomfort I felt before, in fact I’m happy to be there with him. This city and it’s awful history of it I’ve just found out about vanished all bad feelings of mine. I don’t think that I’ll have another complaint about here”