Bangkok to Siem Riep

Yes bangkok is teeming with people, and the views as we left town to the east showed this in all clarity – from the motorway, along the khlongs (canals) were structures patched together extending out over the water, ramshackle, falling down, yet clearly providing living space. Unimaginable to a westerner that people were living this way. the street people in Bangkok were less of a visual surprise as we have all seen people living on the street, under cardboard, under umbrellas, surrounded by piles of rubbish. But this was different – this was so called homes.

This sadly and oddly picturesque view gave way to countryside dense with cultivated fields, but there was a lushness and a comfort to the countryside. The sense of lushness and comfort is not what one feels further on in Cambodia.

The Thai people impressed me greatly – their gentleness, their deep love of their king, easy to understand when one gazes at his face on posters, on placards, on the paper money. It is a gentle and deeply empathetic face. The king is ill, quite ill, confined to hospital now since September. With greatest effort, he attended the changing of the Emerald Buddha’s attire, a ceremony of great importance to his country. But unable to perform his usual duty, his appearance was brief and limited in scope. The country will mourn him like their own father if he leaves them. Two things are regarded with undying respect and devotion in Thailand – Buddha and the King. One points one’s feet at neither when sitting, whether image or statue.

Other impressions of Thailand can wait as I will reenter Thailand from the north in a couple of weeks time and see far more of it than just Bangkok.
So on to Cambodia. Briefly then, as I am to be up at 4 am.

The border crossing from Thailand was hot and tedious; wouldn’t have missed it by flying in for anything. Fascinating ride from the Cambodian border to Siem Reap. People in the fields, on the roads; poverty and beauty. Do I want to accept a ride at 8:30 pm from a guy on a moto driving the wrong…

Driving/walking in Bangkok is wild – a crazy mix of buses, trucks, cars, motos, tuk tuks, and for someone who was trained from the cradle to jaywalk downtown San Francisco, weaving through it all felt completely natural.

Cambodia is wilder yet. The shuttle from border to transport center drove on wrong side of road! braying horn at oncoming motos and cars, moving back to proper lane only when a vehicle as big approached. hilarious!

No surprise to anyone that Angkor is amazing, utterly. Having my own tuk tuk w/ driver, I was able to skip by crowds at the major sites of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, viewing the huge AW from around the periphery, and AT from the road which passes through and by the Bayon. On directly to Ta Prohm, still wrapped in the jungle which hid the 77 square mile complex for centuries.

After a couple of hours, as the heat rises you feel you’ve seen enough for now, but one more, and then one more, and again and again. And each site is so different, you just keep going until finally all the water is gone and dehydration is looming. starting tomorrow morning before dawn.

A whole other aspect of this is the people – gathered in teams to part the tourist from every dollar. Easy to understand that they see us as a resource, with their own resources so tragically thin. At the same time, it recalls for me my feeling toward casinos, that they post a guard at the door who holds you upside down and shakes you as you leave to empty whatever might remain in your pockets. Finally I resorted to just saying ‘no more money’ in response to the endless assaults to buy at extortionist prices things I neither need nor want. I understand, but it all becomes too much.

Terrible epidemic of hemorrhagic dengue fever in the children. they and their families are gathered in hoards on the pavement outside the children’s hospitals here. desperate need for blood. even with the relatively good hospitals here in Siem Reap, you have to wonder about the safety of the needles they use to draw.

Cambodia so often brings you to tears.

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