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Fear and loathing in Cambodia (29.06.01 - 06.07.01)

Part six: A final word

Cambodia hasn't been an easy place to travel in, not just because of the lack of amenities or infrastructure. Frankly, I haven't relaxed a bit since I came to the country, part of the reason being the fact that we were constantly on the move due to the lack of time. But even so, the covert desperation was simply overwhelming.

I am not a psychology student, but I believe there is a concept termed selective perception. Any traveler comes to a place rooted in his or her conceptions or misconceptions of the destination based on acquired information from news and travel guides.

However, we must be vigilant against falling into the trap of only 'seeing what we want to see' and thus stereotyping a country.

You can easily believe Cambodia is beyond hope, but two observations made me change my mind.

At the Tuol Sleng Museum, I seen Cambodian students hand-in-hand, visiting the torture chambers of the Pol Pot regime under the guidance of their teachers. No matter how many children Cambodia loses each year to poverty, to corruption, to inadequate medical services and to 'ten-postcards-one-dollar' sales pitches, children will always be the future to this country.

At Sihanoukville, we met a 22-year-old Cambodian-Chinese called Wen teaching Mandarin in the guesthouse we were staying. Just a few years back, his mother suffered a business setback, causing them to move from Phnom Penh to this coastal town. Despite missing his friends back at capital city, he has made good use of the time here by teaching young children Chinese while studying Chinese himself (at Secondary three level) part time in a local school. To most of our questions, he would answer readily. Those that he couldn't answer, he would apologize for his ignorance. He is considered well off by Cambodian standards, earning about USD$200 per month, driving a car and paying USD$10 per month for cable TV (his only source of entertainment). However, he would force himself each month to save a sizable portion of his income so that one day he could make it to university.

an old artist at angkor wat

Part one: From Poipet to Siem Reap

Part two: It's tiring to travel in Cambodia

Part three: Selected excerpts of my conversations with gunter

Part four: Off the rock

Part five: The worst boat trip of your life

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