Sunday, April 18, 2010

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Welcome to Cambodia - land of temples, daytime pajama-wearing, and naked babies!

From Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon if you're old school) we hopped a bus across the border to Cambodia's captial, Phnom Penh.  We arrived bang in the middle of the Buddhist New Year celebrations so a lot of things were closed and overall it was pretty quiet.

First impressions of Cambodia, or at least Phnom Penh, were that it is much more developed than we thought it would be.  There are not as many taller buildings as we saw in Bangkok and Saigon for example, but the city seemed to be spread over quite a large area and there's a pretty strong western influence, particularly in the restaurants and bars.

Another thing that struck us was the incredible number of really young children selling a variety of things from books to bracelets.  It was quite sad really.  There is obviously quite a significant amount of poverty throughout southeast Asia and we've seen children working in each country we've visited, but there seemed to be so many more of them here in Phnom Penh and they were so aggressive.  It becomes clear pretty quickly that the kids receive some training in the art of selling to tourists, each one running through the exact same sales pitch trying to encourage you to part with some cash.  These kids are so smart too.  If the initial sales pitch doesn't go well they ask where you're from.  Once they know they start to rattle off facts about your country - current president/PM, total population, capital city, last year's GDP - they know more about where you live than you probably do!

We would see the same kids over and over again and would try to make them smile and have some fun with them.  Our favorite little guy was called "Pop".  He had a great personality, gregarious and very smart.  He would hang out with us for a bit each day when he would come by selling books.  On our last day in Phnom Penh he gave all the girls hugs, you could literally see Courtney's heart melting.

Lee and Pop
Although the children selling things was pretty sad, we saw some genuinely happy sights.  There seemed to be a lot of young babies all over the place in PP and parents weren't too concerned about putting any clothes on them either!  Not surprised really, it was so hot when we were there.  Everywhere we'd go we'd see little babies without a stitch on, running around with big smiles on their faces, having the time of their lives!  "Oh my God!  That baby is sooooo cute!!" was heard on more than a couple of occasions.

The mystery we never quite got to the bottom of in PP was why a not insignificant number of people were out and about at any given time of the day, fully decked out in flannel pajamas!  Those things are hot even when it's minus 3 outside and you're on top of the covers with the AC on so wearing them while sweeping the sidewalk in 40 degree heat must be murder!

 A particularly fetching set of PJs on the back of a motorbike

1 comment:

  1. i certainly don't know cambodia, but i do know flannel! the world would be a happier place if we all wore flannel pj's! lovely, interesting stories, love the children