Current Location: Saigon, Viet Nam
I’ve been thinking a lot about Cambodia since I left there, it left quite an impression on me in a few different ways. I would say that the most compelling feeling is the sense of hopelessness for the poor there. Every facet of any form of government is influenced by corruption, a frequent topic by Martyn and I. Cambodia is probably one of the greatest examples I’ve ever seen of the have’s and have-not’s, we would often see huge Mercedes or BMW’s cruising around the streets and at the very same time we could see the rest of the people just trying to get by on their bicycles. Because the corruption is so pervasive we couldn’t see a way out of the struggle, I certainly left with a sense of despair for whats to happen to Cambodia.
The second thing I did a lot of reflecting on is the history of Cambodia, namely the figure of Pol Pot and his influence on the history of Cambodia. I’m ashamed to say I had only heard the name Pol Pot before getting to Cambodia, I honestly didn’t know what he was responsible for. On my last day in Phnom Penh I visited S21, the site where he had thousands of educated Cambodians tortured and killed. It was a place that held a lot of gravity and many stories were told that shed a light on what happened there less than 30 years ago. The records kept included pictures of a lot of the inmates killed there, one in particular showed a woman holding her baby with her head slightly tilted, it rocked me to my core. The expression on her face is very powerful, that combined with the rest of S21 made for a very heavy last day in Cambodia.
I then caught a ferry to Chau Doc, a small border crossing on the Mekong river. The crossing was fairly uneventful and Chau Doc turned out to be a nice little intro into Viet Nam. I spent my day and half there walking around just wandering. First thing I noticed is that the women in high school wear the outfits seen in ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ it’s amazing they keep the dresses pure white with all the dirt and grime around, along with the cycling they do. It’s stunning in effect with the white dresses and the black hair. Other than that I got stopped a few times by random people on the street to have conversations about this and that and one guy had me write down a few words and phrases in English.
I now find myself in Saigon for the last few days wandering around once again. It’s pretty unremarkable except for the sheer amount of mopeds running around. One statistic I’ve heard is that there are 4 million people in Saigon and there are 3 million mopeds running around on the streets. The only advice I was given by other travelers is to close your eyes and cross the street, praying as you go. I haven’t tried this tactic yet as the traffic hasn’t been that awful yet, I do think that Hanoi will get worse.
Running around to the different museums in town it’s quite easy to get depressed about being American. The museums are quite well done with lots of photographs and stories told. Otherwise there are more temples or pagodas to visit or just people watch. I’m moving on to Dalat tomorrow, hopefully for a little colder climate.
Pictures to post when I get a chance.