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Ute

Cambodia-Thailand

Email #3 Oct 19 ,99, Germany

Hey Folks and welcome to Ute's traveller tales part 3 ! How are you? I hope you are having a time as great as I have! It has been some weeks already since I reached Phnom Penh and I am in the City still, in the capital of Cambodia, the city I still love so much even Though many terrible things are going on here. I dived into the heart of darkness of Phnom Penh which consists of guns, ganja and girls. This is what I have Found there...

One major tourist attraction within the city are the shooting ranges at the Edge of Phnom Penh. There, you can play with all kinds of firearms, feelin' like A real man. You legally can fire an AK-47 (and bigger stuff), throw a hand grenade, shoot with handguns and more. If you bring an animal along, you can shoot this one as well, makes it more real, huh? Many tourist even combine the trip to the shooting range with a trip to the killing fields, where you can see the mass graves and bones of the Khmer Rouge victims. What a combination! They are like very touched by the Killing Fields sight, nearly crying, you know but then- what the hell - they fuck of to have some fun shooting around by themselves. Of course I can see there is some difference between shooting a human and shooting an human-shaped piece of paper but why would anyone possibly like to spend many many dollars to fire guns? Especially in a country which is still suffering from the civil war and where people starve in the streets. I don't think it's very smart to support the weapons industry and I don't think it's a good impression tourists leave when they are having really good fun playing with guns. I asked many of them, why they want to do that. Most of the answers are about power, sex (???) and the only chance to do it all over the world. Sorry, I still can't see the point. The big impression I had, when I was there was FEAR. The only thing I wanted to shoot with was my camera. About the ganja is say that the stuff is so cheap, that people just leave It everywhere, not bothering to take it with them. For example if you check The bookshelf in a guesthouse where you discover a bag of ganja in between the novels, you wouldn't be very surprised. It would be a surprise however, to find proper papers in it. To make it clearly: the paper is the more expensive part of it! Even though ganja is illegal since some month, it's still not difficult to buy, unrolled or readyrolled, how would you like it? Another option in town are several pizza-restaurants. The favorite topping is - guess what -between the cheese and tomato. You can choose between a happy and an extra happypizza...my friend tried the "happy" and has to be driven home by car, not able to sit on a moto-taxi any more...

Girls are another dark side of Phnom Penh. Desperate to make some dollars, many poor young girls offer their body to men - Khmers and Westerners. The more lucky ones work "freelance", waiting to be picked up in a nightclub or disco, the really poor ones work in brothels, having to sell themselves for as cheap as two dollars, which is the average price for a can of beer, too. I am disgusted by the sight of those old fat ugly westerners walking down the street arm-in-arm with the most beautiful teenager girl you can imagine. Please, if you have to do it, stick at least to those over 18 I want to shout. Of course, HIV is widespread amongst them. According to the statistics, between 40 and 50% of the prostitutes are already infected with HIV, in Phnom Penh city the number is even higher, up to 60%. They wont need another Pol Pot for the next Killing field.

This all may sound pretty sad and horrible. It is. But that's one side of This thrilling city, where you also have the most wonderful and beautiful people, great architecture, plenty of sights, pulsing nightlife, delicious food, strange language and freaks from all over the world!

I'm having the best time here!
See you soon! Soum li haey! Big hug!



Email #2 Oct 15 ,99, Germany

Hello friends and welcome to my traveller tales part 2:

I will start at the end of my last mail, the time I spent in Siam Reap. I finally got my power back and started to check the temples. How great to see Angkor again, especially with the university background I gathered last year. In Siam Reap itself I was heavily partying with a wonderful new friend. With him I went to an outdoor boxing event which was very exciting! The place was crowded by Khmer men, good kick-boxing, loud music and a voice going Uh! Ah! Oh! all the time. It was great! We tried some local refreshments: a sort of fruit to suck out, surprisingly filled up with salt! Tasted like the north-sea! The other night we went to an open-air disco where we had to pay for every single dance we wanted to dance. Here we came in touch with the Khmer way of dancing, which is mainly moving your hands gracefully (especially the men), dancing back and forth in circles around an
old woman who watches in the centre. Men and woman dance together but they never look at each other, they even pretend not to see each other. Oh! To stand this, we bought the cheapest and most disgusting bottle of alcohol (Herkules brand!) and drank it completely. Due to this and a blood donation I have been given earlier that day I was knocked out completely and I still had a hangover when it was time for next day's party. Sometimes live is hard.

The last adventure in Siam Reap was being on a very small roofless boat in the middle of a big lake when it started to rain cats and dogs. Time for the next cold to catch! After a good amount of parties and temples and my friend have gone, I left Siam Reap and went on a long (one week) and exhausting journey to my next big destination, Banlung, which is in the north-eastern part of Cambodia.

I travelled on road as well as on the Mekong River, the latter one was great, enjoying the scenery on the roof of the boat together with all those beautiful Khmer guys. Bad thing all the towns on the way were quite shitty places, dirty, loud, unpleasant and full of bed lice. In one town I dated the local policeman and did with him what all the Khmer love to do after sunset: cruising around town slowly slowly on a Honda-Dream for hours! I was so bored that I actually felt asleep on the back of the bike! But theDisco we visited afterwards was really a hot spot: we were the only customers and after some minutes the electricity went of ! So I went to bed early to gather some power for the next days trip: a 250 km 4WD trip through remote parts of Cambodia, which took 10 hours!

Finally I reached my aim Banlung. Here, I met a wonderful new friend from Singapore I started to travel together with for a couple of days. He, me and an Israeli couple were the only tourists in Banlung for one week which was great! It's a wonderful place, a lovely little city with a big market full of hill-tribe women, good walking, waterfalls, and a volcanic lake for swimming which is an awesome spot. One day, I hired a motorbike + driver to visit one of the hill-tribe villages. It was my best day so far. When the hill-tribe people (Khroen Tribe) saw me at first, they were very shy and the bchildren started to cry when they saw me, this strange looking woman. After a while, curiosity wan and the tribe surrounded me. A conversation started via my driver and the chief started to show me around. As well, he let me to some ill and injured persons and asked me for medical advice. The health-situation in the village was very bad. Finally I was shown to an old woman who got a badly infected abscess under her right ear, leaving the right side of her face swollen like a balloon. I really wanted to get her into the hospital (which was 30 km away) and started to discuss the matter. Hill-tribe people are very scared of hospitals. After a long long discussion the woman agreed to come along with us if we also bring her husband to the hospital in order to take care for her. We agreed happily. While my driver went of to search for her husband in the fields, I was having a great time with the tribe, drinking sour homebrewed wine and being showed how crossbows work. I could tell books about that day but to come to an end, we brought her to hospital (three people on a motorbike is very common in Asia), returned, got her husband, brought him to take care of her and threw in some food for both of them as the hospital wouldn't provide anything apart of the medical service, not even a mat for the bed. Poor conditions really but at least they provide treatment free of charge for poor people. By the way, the hospital was sponsored by a German Entwicklungshilfe Program. After "my" woman got surgery,she got better every day and one day I went in and she was able to smile again and gave me the most wonderful big smile ever! So good to see that. When I left her and her husband for good, she only had to stay a couple of more days. The husband told me, now that he knows the hospital, he will tell the other ill people to go there as well and that he was so happy that his wife didn't have to cry anymore. Those two made me really feel good and useful.As wonderful as the place was.

I had to leave Banlung because I was running out of $ and no bank in town! To avoid the exhausting journey I decided to fly out of the place. Good that the airport (a hut) was just a short walk from the Guesthouse. I almost peed in my pants of fear when our little 16-Seater plane took of from the (dirt) runway but I survived and landed gladly in beloved Phnom Penh. I will stay here for a while as I'm learning the Khmer language now and...time for party, gonna run!

Big hug to you!!! ute


Email #1 Aug 09 ,99, Cambodia

I have been in beloved Cambodia since 6 days allready, enjoying it a lot. But the days in Thailand were just wonderful as well, hanging around with local, well-educated, divorced, independent Thai-woman who are found in an increasing number in the north-eastern part of Thailand. They are great! Studying English in their mid-fourties, going out partying a lot. With one of them we visited a Khmer Temple which is reached from Thailand. The temple was covered in fog which had given an unbeatable mystic and romantic atmosphere to it until those Japanese JTB touristbusses arrived... A nearby Thai-military- aircraft which once felt from the sky (it is said to be shot by the Khmer Rouge those days) reminded to the less lucky days and was just being devided into it's very parts by some Khmer guys with small handsaws. Strange sight.

On the 31st July I said good-bye to Andrea and went to the Thai bordertown Aranya Prathet by public bus. There, I hired that strange mixture taxi-thing (something between a Harley-Davidson and a hotel-lounge sitting place...) to bring me to the border. The border is a very busy place, full with stalls, shops, people coming and going, it was raining and walking towards the border I slipperd down and lay there upside down like a fat turtle with my heavy backpack... Anyway, the border appered to be allready closed for this day. Nearby, I saw this Australian woman chatting with a well-dress Thai guy. Walking towards them she gave me that look and screamed: "Oh, there's my friend, can she stay in the room as well?" It turned out that the Thai man has just offered her a free stay in the best Hotel in town for one night. The woman felt a bit unconfortable with the idea and I was happy enough to turn up at the right moment.. The two of us went back to Aranya Prathet and entered that great room with AC, TV, fridge, bathtub and a huge swimmingpool just outside. (In fact we went for a quick swim into the pool, being not able to open the room door again afterwards and thus having to walk around in bikinis through the whole fucking hotel asking the staff to help us - but that's another story...). Our joy with that confortable room was interrupted only once when our big spender turned up, asking for his girl-friend (who was allready sleeping - bad luck for him...). Fortunately he was quite decend and went away satisfied after I had told him how great he was.

Anyway, we managed to get to the border again the next day where they tried their new bribing strategy on us at the Cambodian side: that man approached to us, waving that paper written in Khmer letters and telling us he was send by his government to give us medication against Cholera and we only had to give him $5. He was waving around with those two pills each of us should take according to his government. "Thank you but: no". Well, he insisted, telling us we HAD TO take the tablets and we started argueing with him about Cholera immunizations (which are usually injected but what the hell for details). We asked him to leave the responsibility for our bodies to ourselfs bla bla. I asked him to show me the packet of the tablets and they turned out to be Doxycycline which are of no use for any desease if you take just two of them at one time. Anyway, he refused, the police refused to stamp our passports, the argue went on, he offered us the alternative just to pay $5 without taking the magic pills bla bla. Finally after a lot time of saying "sorry - but no" we got through the border without paying bribe or taking pills but with a stamp in our passports. Across the border, we had to cope with the next thing: The pick-up mafia at Poipet. Those guys are really ridiculous, charching a lot of money and totally controlling the place. Anyway, I was lucky as I only wanted to go as far as Sisophon (about 50 km) so they weren't that interessted in me.

(Andrea! You should put that info on your web-side as well as the Cholera-pill-bullshit. Tell people to go as far as Sisophon from Poipet and just get another truck there. It's easy and about 150 Baht inside the cab, otherwise 380 Baht via the Mafia).

Apart of that bad stuff at the border I felt just wonderful to be back in Cambodia! (And the bad stuff actually is part of the fun, isn't it?). The days here have been great so far, I met many interesting people, heard tragic live-stories, saw awsome temples and remote villages.

On my second day in Cambodia I wanted to see the Temple Bantaey Chmar, which is about 50 km from Sisophon, where I stood. I've wanted to go there since long but I had no information about going there. Fortunately I met that smart guy named Thorng Dy, who took me there on his motorbike. It took us 2.5 hours for the 50 km as the road was very very bad, it rained from about half the distance and we had a minor accident on the way. Apart of that the ride was half the fun of it: remote villages, endless rice-paddies, cutest kids waving at me on the way, great talking with Thorng Dy. Finally we reached Banteay Chmar, the temple in the middle of the forest, which was great! Nobody was around but us and some local kids, the temple is huge and half overgrown by the jungle, still leaving some parts in very good conditions. I spend a long time there before I sat me and my aching bump back on the motorbike for the long trip home. Since then I've got a cold...

After Sisophon I went to Battambang which is the second largest city in Cambodia but still it hardly sees any tourists. It's lovely there, great colonial-archi- tecture, laid back riverside and hospitality people. I met the kids at the station very happy making soap-bubbles for them (Pustefix for the Germans). The hotel I stood in Battambang turned out to be an hour-hotel, a fact which I realized when the female masseur, I hired to ease my aching muscles, tried to relax some other parts of my body as well... I threw her out of my room immediately, both of us quite confused. Strange experience...

I visited some more temples and was let to a horrifying killing field cave by some local kids. The Khmer Rouge used that cave in the 70s, throwing in dead or half-dead bodies through a hole on top of the cave just leaving the corpses there to rot. I have already seen so many Khmer Rouge "sights", heard many stories about that time, read many books but still I can't imagine how the time must have been. People being so cruel to each other is beyond my imagination. Another strange sight were the local kids playing in that cave, having fun next to the many many bones. There's always hope and future with kids.

In a small pagoda, I saw a drawing of the demon Rahu just eating the sun so at least I had a small adventure of the sun-eclipse you guys in Germany are going to see soon.

From Battambang I went by speedboat to Siam Reap which was a beautiful trip. I'm still here in Siam Reap, taking it easy while a wait my flu to go away. The town has got busy since the last time I was here. I'm learning Khmer language and read a lot. I'm ready for the Angkor temples soon!

I saw the news about floods in Thailand an Viet Nam but so far we have not to cope with that in Cambodia.

Hoping you have enjoyed reading, I wish you a great time. You will hear from me again as soon as possible.


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