Shaken and Stirre
28.11.2009 - 05.12.2009
Plenty of room in the ash tray. Move on down the rear axel. Can you move down the boot please?. Sir there is still a lot of space in the glove compartment. Just hold on to the exhaust - it is very comfortable".
Oh the joys of shared taxis! There is often a speed/comfort dilema. Do I take a comfortable coach wth a seat to myself for the 150km East bound journey from Kampot to Phnom Phen? But this takes 5 hours Or do I take the taxi that takes the route over a bridge (designed only for smaller vehicles) that dramatically halves the journey? A no brainer for me because I find road travel pretty boring. It does not evesdrop through the landscape from the interesting angles that a train can. The taxi ride however proved to be a must for any trainee contortionist. All was going well. We set off at 8 am. Just myself and 2 local chaps. I was paying $7 which I know was the considerably higher foreigners rate. That was however justified since I was taking up considerably more space than my small 'framed fellow passengers. Then we picked up a local lady. Then, to my horror, 3 more people squeezed into the front passanger seat, albeit one of them was a toddler of 3 years old. So that's 8 people in an ordinary saloon, including the driver.
If that journey was like being crushed like an orange juice extractor, a couple of days prior to this I was clearly in a cocktail shaker of a ride. Kampot is on a picturesque location by the river. Certainly it is tatty round the edges although it is being earmarked for development. There is not much to do in the town although it is is a good base. One day I took a motor bike taxi around some local sites including a decent beach called Kep. On another day I decided to take an excursion to Boker national park. This is where the king used to take a ride on an elephant. Our party were spared the royal luxary though. After a cramped but brief journey in a mini bus and a 3 hour steap jungle trek (whilst walking I saw a millepede the size of a small snake), there then followed 1 hour winding journey on the back of a truck. The road conditions were so horrendous that it felt like being pushed up an endless flight of stairs on a shopping trolly. It was all worth it though despite all my internal organs being completely rearanged on the journey.
We arrived on the top of Boker hill and the view was amazing. In the 1920s the French set up a hill station complete with church, school, shops post office and Casino. The French however abondoned this little village when the Cambodians were fighting for independece in the 1940s. In The 70's it was abandoned again for the Khemer Rouge to take over. It was caught in the cross fire in the war with the invading Vietnames in the late 70s. The numerous bullet holes are a testament to that. It is now all overgrown, deralict and very very spooky. From the carcus of the Casino there is a huge drop into the jungle below. This is where too many riels (Cambodian currency) were gambled away and people jumped to their death to escape their dept burden. allegedly it is haunted. You can imagine the Scooby mobile turning up, with the usual unmasking of the park warden, to which he would protest "I would have done it if it wasn't for those pesky kids" . By the way is Fred gay, does Dafney put it around a little and is Thelma (that's the one ith the glasses) happy after the sex change? Let's not mention Shaggy and Scoobies relationship.
After being seriously shaken and stirred by the preceding few days I arrived again in Phenom Phen. At this point I decided to slow the pace down. The following afternoon I found a tranquil spot by a lilly pond under the shade of a tree. The capital could just about be glimpsed over a number of fields. I sat in contemplation the birds sang their song. For it was around this spot in Cheoung Ek where 17000 detainees held in the S-21 prison were brutally brought here and beaten to death. Also known as the killing Fields. Big holes in the ground mark where the mass graves were.
Yesterday morning with the horrific museum images still in my mind I took the bus to Battembang, the 2nd biggest city. Like Kampot, it is located by the river. And if Kampot is full of faded battered colonial charm then Battembong has even more " run over by a herd of elephants and then squashed in an olive press" , 10 on the GBH scale charm. The town is like a giant unmade bed but I kind of like it.
I will leave this town tomorrow, bed unmade, to take the boat up the Tonle Sap river to Siem Reap for the penultimate leg of my journey. I think I am going to miss the excitement of moving on and arriving at a new destination. In my usually basic but clean hotel the first thing I read are the obligitary police enforced notices. "No explosives. No deadly weapons. No illegal drugs. No poisonous substances. No Prostitution".
I am going to sign off now. In a few hours time I will be retirng to my room to embark on the usual poisonous drug fueled, gun toting orgy which will probably end in a bang.