I have just returned from a tour of Cambodia which is a country of extremes: extremes of wealth and poverty, a landscape that is at one moment, flat with endless kilometres of watery paddy fields dotted with hard working farmers and in the next moment, undulating hills with dense mosquito infested undergrowth: palm trees with leaves as big as a umbrellas and ferns whose tiny fronz unfurl into giant green fingers: tourist destinations like Siem Reap and Phnom Penh with their hotels owned by those who hold the most political and regal power, and the poverty of the people living in the corrugated homes in the surrounding villages: the endless roar of scooters that swarm the city streets, country towns linked by dusty pot holed roads, and the status symbol Lexus cars driven by the rising Chinese wealthy classes whose passengers look down upon the scooter's riders with their precariously balanced family members who can number as many as seven: and one fabulous rider, weaving his way around the streets of Phnom Penh, with an artfulness and dexterity second to none, with a fridge (yes, a huge fridge!), strapped to himself and the tiny seat. Bless him!
The worthless money called Riel with its endless row of noughts, valueless and swapped for American dollars by every seller of anything on every possible occasion. I do not mind this for one simple reason; the poorest of the poor in this country are suppressed like so many others, by any kind of first world measure. They have no real voice, and are at the mercy of an autocratic regime. Linked to this social suppression is the mercy of the tourist dollar. My tourist dollar. One hundred thousand Riel is worth twenty five dollars (US). It takes a few days to realise how important this exchange of currencies is to the locals. Their own currency will keep them powerless forever.
Then, to my shame, is my short lived guilt as I walk into my hotel, itching for a shower in an air conditioned suite with its bed, sheets and pillows that are cool and soft after the heat of the day. At that moment, I am desperate for respite from the oppressive heat and humidity; a respite I know unashamedly, millions of the poorest Cambodians will never experience.
There are lots of photos. How could there not be? They will appear on the photography page and will increase in number as I sort and edit them. One below here for a start. I love Cambodia and its beautiful people.