Reflections from the future in Cambodia
1- After 16 months and one week in 4 countries with traffic on the left side of the road, I’m back to “normality”, which doesn’t seem normal anymore, I was used to it and I even liked to see the “keep left” signs and imagine that they were referring to politics.
2- Cambodia, much poverty and a quite violent history. From being the center of the Funan Kingdom, the oldest in South East Asia, they later became the center of the Khmer Empire, with the world’s biggest pre-industrial city (Angkor), to end up being an insignificant nation, invaded by all its neighbors and buried in civil wars.
3- After the Indochina War came the communist uprisings and the problems of the Vietnam War, to end up in a communist-Maoist regime that killed more than one quarter of Cambodia’s population in only 4 years (3 millions dead between 1975 and 1979). Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, with the support of China, first, of Vietnam, after, and of United States when the Vietnamese invaded the country, assassinated every person that had education, a profession, spoke French, wear glasses and all kind of opponents, intellectuals, foreigners and all their families, including he babies. Some of their mottos were “we must eliminate the problem from the root” (kill the entire the family) and “it’s better to kill a person by mistake than let a traitor alive”. They also closed all the universities and hospitals, because they were a “Western thing”, and burned all the medicines to go back to the traditional herbs-based healing (but of course, when the government people got sick, they went to China for treatment). They forced millions of people to leave the cities for being impure, Western places… and they were sent to work in the countryside without any agricultural education, and the rice they produced was taken away from them to be exported and buy more guns, so hundreds of thousands died from starvation. In short, a bunch of madafakas. We must not forget that this is an action-reaction issue, though, so part of the responsibility for all this lays on the United States and France, for invading and bombing the region in the first place.
4- After going through all this , with a GDP per capita 10 times lower than the Uruguayan, with land-mines scattered all around the country (inheritance from the 70’s civil war, and with more than 40.000 amputees for stepping on them), Cambodians are the nicest, happiest and most generous people I’ve ever met in my life, an attitude from which many of us “Westerns” should learn.
5- Of course that we continue with the useless religions, because even Pol-Pot was a Buddhist who killed 3 million people, besides the fact that Gautama Buddha always said that he didn’t want to be followed or worshiped, and there they are, tons of assholes with their heads shaved bowing beneath the statues.
6- It’s incredible to see the Angkor Wat temple (the biggest religious monument in the world), and the others in the Siem Reap region, I will never forget it. To be where Angelina Jolie was when they were shooting Tomb Raider was a religious experience.
But heads up that Cambodia is emerging anyway, like a diver’s fart (that saying is a lie, the fart gets stuck in the neoprene diving suit, I tried it in Thailand), it keeps growing and we the tourists help them to improve their quality of life. I fell in love with this country, its millenary culture, its joy, and the little children from the English school. I learned a lot. And it was beautiful to share the trip with my friend Rachael, an awesome girl, with my Chilean brother Pancho and with all the people I met there.
I’m already in Turkey! With one foot in Asia and the other foot in Europe, in the mythic Istanbul, and what I’ve seen so far is in-cre-di-ble!
Cheers my friends, until next time!
Originally written on September 2nd, in Istanbul, Turkey.