Cambodia,  People and stories,  Round the world

Kilometer 30 967: a depressive journey to a depressive capital

Hitchhiking in the back of a pick-up car.

Wind in your hair, panoramic views, environmentally friendly air con. A feeling almost as good as galloping on a horse back…

It called for an Asian sort of downpour to make us give up our favourite South East Asian means of transport and settle for a long distance bus to Phnom Penh.
In the next 8 hours we will regret it 4 times.

First time: the driver turned on the radio.

Throughout the weeks spent on the island, I led a guerilla fight with the Khmer staff, who very eagerly lay their hands on youtube and bombarded us sadistically with pieces like this one:

 Well, it turns out that it was not just a hit on the island and during 8 hours one can play the three favourite songs many a time. Loudly.

Second time: the driver turned on the air conditioning. That’s great! – one would exclaim. Well, let’s shout while we can, as we’ll get off the bus with sore throat and/or bronchitis.

Third time: the driver bent time and space. We look at the map, follow the blue dot on gps, watch the time, even catch a glance of the speedometer. According to all logic, 220km on this moderately bumpy road shouldn’t take more than 4 hours. As already mentioned above, the number was 8. Eight.

Fourth time: the driver arrived in Phnom Penh. We knew the city was dusty, loud, dirty and depressive – and it didn’t disappoint us.

But we also knew that a visit in the capital is a valuable history lesson on the bloody Khmer Rouge regime and that the genocide museum and the killing fields are mandatory points on the map of Cambodia.

The present only adds to the depressive history: the prime minister since 1985 is a former Khmer Rouge commander who fled to Vietnam during purges. He came back to serve his country’s best interest, all bleached by the Vietnamese government. It shouldn’t surprse anyone that significant areas of Cambodian jungle are being reclaimed and whole villages are being resettled for the sake of Vietnamese investments.

Our hosts willingly told us about the details of those ventures, only very quietly, since their windows face the headquarters of the Vietnamese secret service…

I’m not sure which is sadder: the museum itself, or the fact that visitors need to be reminded not to catch Pokemons in it…


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