Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Ok, not really. I am just food deprived and dehydrated (surprise surprise). Our shared taxi (4 people) dropped us off curbside about an hour ago. Since then we bought tickets for a slow boat (2 days one night) to Saigon, checked into the hotel, at some uncooked brownie batter stuff, I cashed in some traveler's checks, am downloading pics right now and will finish off this splunge with a blog. But since I haven't eaten since breakfast at 9 this morning, my stamina may be lacking. I swear I am going to write a better account of our visit to the KF's (ya know, to get all depressered again), but not now. No thinky here. Instead, a quick recap of the last couple days.
How did it start? Amusedly. We bought a $5 minibus ticket for the 2-3 hour ride to Campot. Our moto rides dropped us at a market (where these things leave from, apparently) about 8:40am. Since we thought they'd told us (this was arranged thru our guest house) it left at 8:30, we bustled onto the large van and settled in, relieved at having made it. Worthless expense of effort. Our bags were tucked in and we were jammed into the back bench. No problem, it was just the two of us and it looked good to me. Fast forward 2 hours. The van has only moved twice: once to get out of another departing van's way, and a second time to do the same. Rachelle counted, and by the time we left there were 25 people in this 4 bench van. Four people occupied our bench; R, me, a small kid, and a guy about our age. Not an oversized group. Yet R and I had to switch off who sat back against the seat and who leaned forward, as there was no room for our shoulders. Funny stuff. Eventually it left, and the ride lasted 3 hours. If you remember my earlier accounts of bus rides, I vowed to never sit in the back again. I remember why. Our heads were constantly hitting the ceiling as 2 very happy women in front of us laughed contentedly at the large head knocked white people.
Sidenote: sitting for 2 hours + in this market we saw quite a bit. Much roughhousing between men, beggars, kids and adults selling, amputees, fancy types.....and one old man. As he sauntered by, I realized that there is an age group I have seen very little of around this country. And that happens to be people that would be grey haired now, and in their prime about, oh, 30 years ago. Just another skickler helping to highlight what happened here. Of course we have seen older people. Just not many. Not as many as I would expect. Granted, I have no idea what the life expectancy is here, but based on the other places we've been, into grey hair days at least. Ponder that.....
Ok. Long story short, we stayed in a new guest house a couple blocks from the river and across the street from the old market. Great location, great place. After settling in we decided a walk around town to be in order. Immediately on the street we were approached by a couple people wanting to sell us tours to nearby 'sights'. Tourism is new to this town and we've decided that everyone wants to jump on that bandwagon and make some $.
Info on Campot. This town is on the Gulf of Thailand and was a major trading post until a new one was set up to the west. An old French hangout (despite all of the shite we US'ers get, esp from the Euros, we did not originate the colonization and domination of other cultures and countries. Ask Cambodia. France ran the place for a while and has left quite the legacy. [not to mention all their other old colonies]. But yeah, we are horrible people for trying to spread democracy....), it's now been left to....tourism now. The Khmer Rouge were a bit presence there and much fighting took place in the area. In fact, in 1994 the KR took several people hostage (foreigners) and executed several. Of the 3 held responsible, only one has been found/caught. Tourism is very new there.
Back to our story. After being assailed to take tours, we decided to turn around (we'd been heading away from the river) and head back to the river for sunset. Instead of taking the main drag we turned down a dirt side street to hide along the back way. Many of the locals were out and hanging out in front of their homes as we passed. How were we received? Like freakin' celebrities. Virtually everyone waved and shouted hello to us, faces adorned with enormous grins and friendly laughter. "Hello"s issued back from us and it was amazing. An incredible feeling of joy (and hope, maybe, that seeing tourists means a better life for them?) and acceptance, I guess. Very nice people and it was so much fun interacting in this way with them. At the end of this 'street', we turned to head back out and passed 2 small boys on the way. One of them ran up to me yelling 'hello' and as he came up alongside me he grabbed my hand and started jumping. So I lifted him for big jumps a couple times, then once around in a big airborne circle. He loved it (and so did I) and ran off giggling loudly. The second boy (who happened to have a mouse whose rear leg had a string tied to it the other end of which rested in his hand. this mouse was not alive. In the 1 minute we were there, he slammed it into the ground at least twice. Some kids have GI Joes, some don't have that luxury I guess) ran up to Rachelle to do the same thing. Fun times. Hitting the street, a young guy on a bike rode up and started talking to us. We waited for the sales pitch, but all he wanted was to practice his english (a future teacher, he said. I think). Escorting us to the river, we sat watching the sunset talking to him and his friend, another 2 guys, and then still another. All students (or ex's) wanting to practice english! It was a lot of fun, but we need to come up with a list of questions to ask back.
The next day we rode around a lot in the back of a pick up seeing an old hill top French settlement type thing (even a house for the King of France. Hm) that has been long abandoned (since 1972 if I recall correctly) with some others (new friends: canadian [this guy spent a lot of time in the midwest and dated a Purdue girl, so we talked campus bars. good times!] and aussie and a canadian girl). The day ended with a long donwhill hike thru a jungle. Fun, but due to thick vegetation not much to see. The best part? Our drive back to town. There must be a bell or something that gets rung when the tour we took is over. The road (pretty remote) was almsot lined with little bare-assed kids, teens, adults, and cows that stood there and waved and yelled "hello" in obvious excitement as we passed by. It was awesome and so much fun! I just wish I'd had my camera out and ready. So incredible to see that excitement, ya know? And these kids, whoa. So freakin' cute! (Check out our Cambodia pics for proof of that)
That's about it. Fun place. Now we are here and off for Vietnam tomorrow at 7am. Not enough time here, but I am thinking that I may head back here after seeing my sis and before flying off to Fiji. I may also take a look into teaching here, maybe up near Siem Reap. Or maybe Phnom Penh, we'll see. I was thinking about teaching down in Campot, but malaria is all over as is dengue fever. Not my idea of fun.
Be good, all. I have no idea when I'll be on again. Most likely in Saigon. Hopefully the internet is not too expensive. And hopefully that commie country hasn't banned blogspot.
2 days on a slow boat to Saigon....isn't that a song or something?