On arrival in Phnom Penh, I was struck by the crowds………..the hustle and bustle………..the noise……….and, most of all, the heat.

And I LOVED it   :=))))

Oh, sure, Finland in June isn’t too cold. But, it sure isn’t warm, either.  June is supposed to be summer. Yet,  June in Finland can be colder than autumn.  And, not just the rains (which I wouldn’t mind, seeing as I love rain, anyway); but, the climate overall.  UGH  (((

Anyhoo, I had a swell time of it in Phnom Penh. The guest house where I stayed was owned by an Australian, who’d moved to Cambodia ages ago, and made it his new home.  He was very friendly (no surprise there.  Most Aussies are (lol)). And he had obviously trained his staff to be the same way with customers;  even though most of them didn’t speak good English, the quality of service was exquisite.

Arrival at the airport

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My hotel-suite

At such a cheap price, I couldn’t have wished for a better suite )))

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The up-side

The city of Phnom Penh is grand! Everywhere one goes, the beauty and glory of the Cambodian culture and heritage is obvious. )))))

Straight-up?  I liked Phnom Penh. A lot! The people were friendly and welcoming (well, sure, the smiles are not always genuine; most of the time, it’s only to get you to buy something from them, or spend your money in some other way; kinda like Vegas (haha)). But, I’d still take Phnom Penh over…………say, New York (yuck!)

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The down-side

Ok, as the saying goes : everything’s got an up-side, and a down-side. It’s true everywhere.

Cambodia was no exception.

Of course, this is my website……….my article…………so I’m only stating my personal experiences, and not speaking for everyone else.  We all have our tastes — what’s an upside for me, could be a down-side for the next bloke, and so on.

So, what down-sides were there?  Well, for one thing, the poverty is excessive.  This is not the fault of the country itself. Poverty exists everywhere.  Normally, I wouldn’t pay any mind. But………….not when it comes to kids. The sight of little kids running around, begging for alms……………it made my heart bleed.

What was worse………..it’s a well-known fact that, most of these kids are merely “slaves” to some dirty, pathetic, piece-of-garbage asshole — please excuse my French — who sends a bunch of kids out into the streets of Cambodia, to beg money from strangers.  These kids troll the streets all day — sometimes, without food. At the end of the day, they bring back whatever they were able to get, hand it over to these preying bastards…………..and in return, they get a plate of dirty rice as a reward for their “hard work”.

On one occasion, as I was returning to my hostel, the tuk-tuk in which I was riding got stuck in a traffic jam. As we waited, a little girl ran up to the side of the tuk-tuk, and offered me some hand-made beads for sale.  She kept saying, over and over : “One dollar”, which was probably the only thing she knew in English.  The tuk-tuk driver yelled at her to take a hike;  when she wouldn’t go, he got down and tried to shoo her away. I intervened;  I told him to let her be, and looked down at the little girl.  She had a fixed smile on her face.  I knew there was a whole world of pain and misery behind that smile;  but, still, seeing her smile like that warmed my heart.  I took the beads she offered me, and slipped them around her wrist.  Then, I took a 5-dollar note from my pocket, and handed it to her.  When she saw it, her eyes glowed. She began to search her pocket for the change. But I touched her hand, and shook my head : “No”.  She immediately understood; and, this time, the smile that came to her face was real.  She cried “Aw-Kunh”  (“Thank you”), and ran off.

I knew the money would never be hers;  I knew she would never get to spend it, or even have the pleasure of holding on to it.  But……….for that brief moment, when she smiled………I felt that it was the most beautiful thing I’d seen that day.

 

The Horror

Most people have heard about one of the darkest periods of Cambodia’s history : the genocide perpetuated by it’s ruling Khmer Rouge (or, Red Army), during the late 1970’s (specifically, 1975 – 1979).

This era of pure horror remains in the minds of the Cambodian people today; and, with good reason. British sociologist and academic Martin Shaw described the Cambodian Genocide as “the purest genocide of the Cold War era”.

Cambodia has a number of monuments, which were built as a reminder to all about the events of those dark years.

I visited two of them :  the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, and the Killing Fields.

These places took a huge toll on me.  I’d seen similar atrocities displayed before (such as, when I visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington D.C.). I can’t speak for everyone; but, I, personally, would never want to go back to these places.  (((

You would think that humanity has LEARNED something from these horrors of past mistakes. But, alas, the world around only seems to be getting crazier by the day!)

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