On leaving Cambodia for the second time I’ve realized that it’s quite important to be aware of the history of a country and to be conscious of what we do and how we behave as tourists in these countries. What really bothered me upon leaving is tourists wearing the red Krama (Krama is the traditional Cambodian scarf.) On the surface it seems that it’s quite harmless to wear something as trivial as a red scarf, but in this case it’s the symbol of the Khmer Rouge, and on the way back to Thailand I saw more than one tourist wearing these scarves. I’m not sure if these people were aware of the symbolism of these garments but I find that little excuse for what they are portraying . I believe it’s our responsibility as travelers to be educated and aware of what we do in someone elses home and to be as insensitive as to promote something as terrible as the Khmer Rouge is enough to make my blood boil. I’m not sure where I learned about the red scarf but it was something I knew about far before I set foot in Cambodia and while I see locals still wearing these garments, it’s something that is somewhat understandable as almost all of the educated population was eradicated in the 70’s leaving just the peasants and a few of the educated population.
All of the ranting is probably exascerbated by the fact that I visited S21 for a second time, again on the day before leaving the country. I re-read all the stories and looked again at all the pictures on the wall and tried again to understand how a human being can try to kill all of his brothers and sisters. It’s not something I enjoy doing but like I wrote earlier it’s important to understand the history of a place as a responsible traveler. On leaving a second time I realized I enjoy the place quite a bit and there is a more than better chance I go back there, not sure in what capacity but probably not a tourist for a while.
Back in Hong Kong for my 4th trip here and things are incredibly familiar, from the people to the food and everything in between. I’ve already had to loosen the belt one notch since arriving thanks to Homers family treating better than good. Most meals typically have more than 10 dishes and go on far longer than I’m really comfortable eating. I’ve put away the camera for a while as most of the pictures would be a re-hash of the last trip but I’ll wander around a few days and snap pictures to try and give a better idea of what a day in the life of Hong Kong might be. Up until this point all we have worried about is where dinner might be in 3 days time or where lunch will be tomorrow, I know it’s quite silly but I’ve done most everything in Hong Kong and typically while a way the afternoon wandering around the streets people watching. I really do love the food culture here in Hong Kong. No where else have I visited before is food so central to every day life. It’s literally found everywhere you look whether it be a food stall, someone eating, a restaurant, or a street vendor cooking something quite random. And you also have to appreciate the fact that the Chinese waste nothing when it comes to food, this time I got to enjoy ducks’ tongues for lunch.
All of this food leaves me to believe I was probably Chinese in a previous life.
I realize I tend to gush about a place as an initial reaction but I really did like Laos, even though I only stayed there 6 days. The people are genuinely laid back and don’t take too much advantage of tourists like Viet Nam, that was especially refreshing. I ended up staying just a few days in Savanahket and a few days in Vientiane, the old capital and where dad used to teach. I peddled out to his old school one day and wandered around the campus for a while getting stared at by just about everyone. Most likely because I was in the wrong attire, shorts and a blue shirt. Everyone there is dressed in long trousers or long skirt, and white long sleeve shirts and ties if you’re a boy. I start sweating just thinking about what they have to wear.
The french influence is still quite apparent in Laos, from a fair few locals still speaking french to the patisseries found everywhere. I can’t say there is much to do in Laos, although most of the backpackers head to Vienvang for ‘tubing’ down the river there. Basically an eternal spring break where people float down a river, get roped into bars that line the river and drink themselves silly each day. I didn’t make it to the plain of jars which leaves a reason to head back to Laos and spend more time.
Dad summarized some of his time in Laos as
Vientiane was a pretty sleepy little town when I was there late 60’s/early 70’s, except of course, for the USAID/Air America/and some US military “advisers”…The school was operated by the French at the time, although most of the upper echelon were Lao. Much of the teaching staff were French and IVSers. The Lao people were very good people – very friendly and seemly happy folk.”
Back in Cambodia after bouncing through Thailand is a bit much in terms of traveling, and we’re off to Phnom Penh tomorrow after doing the temples yesterday and the museum today. The temples were amazing all over again. I got to fit in a few extras that I didn’t get a chance to see last time and was pleasantly surprised, especially at Bantay Srey. The carvings there look like they could have been done yesterday instead of 967 when they were made.
I’ve taken on the mantle of flashpacker since traveling with Homer, mostly because he doesn’t have a budget like I do so I end up having to forgo my 1$ lunches and dinners for something a little more extravagant. On the other hand I did manage to get him to stay in backpacker lodging, which is something completely new to him, and quite a few steps down from what he is used to.
I’ll might post a few more pictures of the temples if any of them came out.
My time here, in Laos, is shorter than I had anticipated due to circumstances out of my control, to some extent. My first impression of this place can simply be put as, relaxed. Crossing the border took something along the lines of 2 hours, something I’m used to taking less than an eighth of that time. Due mostly to the Laos side of the border things move a shade slower than Hawaii. This is something I’ve heard about from all the travelers who had been through already and had been looking forward too after the crazy that is Viet Nam.
My first few days here in Laos has really been nice. Wandering through the streets you don’t even get touted at, instead you may get a friendly Sabadee (Hello) and a wave. There isn’t much to see in this particular town, but it’s just nice to walk around and not be shouted at or bothered really. I’ll head to Vientine and from there hop back into Thailand to collect Homer and run through Cambodia all over again. Homer having recently quit his job has a few weeks off before starting the new job, is interested in seeing Angkor Wat and since I’ve already been there he enlisted my help.