Schengen Zone Banishment
Quick update – As noted earlier, my Schengen Zone visa for staying in Europe (26 countries….or is that 27?) has expired. There’s not much that we can do about it so it’s time for me to move along elsewhere until I’m eligible to return to Austria to rejoin our ‘Year in Vorarlberg’ adventure with Ursula and the cats. Until then, they’ll stay in our apartment while Ursula’s dedicates what’s left of the winter to try to regain her Ski-Legs and generally try to enjoy life without me for a few months. The cats, we’ll, they’ll do what they do – sleep, eat and poop and demand belly-rubs. In the meantime, I’ll share my experiences further afield with this Cambodia Phenom Phen Blog
These unfortunate turn of events have left me two choices…go home to Alaska and it’s sub zero temperature, or go elsewhere. I think I’ll do both. The first elsewhere, before going home, will be Cambodia. Angkor Wat has always been high on the personal bucket list of places to visit. My parents visited shortly after it was rediscovered and opened up to tourist back in the late 60s, early 70s. Their old stories and photos left an indelible vision about the romance of forgotten civilizations, overgrown ancient temples, and lost ways. Even though it now appears to be an overrun UN Heritage site with all the touristic bells and whistles, I’m really looking forward to completing the trip I started in my mind 30 years ago. Hopefully, the waits been worth it…..we’ll see.
The first stop after 15 hours of airport roulette is Phenom Penh (PP), Cambodia’s Capital. Here I intend to take a few days to acclimatize from the weather of the Austrian Alps where it was a few degrees below freezing, before heading off to the jungles, where it’s few degrees above melting. In the meantime, there’s plenty to see, do and experience. To top the visit off, I’ll get to meet up with Doc S, a colleague when we both worked in Stuttgart. She and her family currently live here working for a NGO helping bring modernity, health and hope to what was once a nation bent on self destruction back in the Killing Fields days. Though much has changed since those terrible day’s a few decades back, it takes time and it takes help. She’s teamed up with a aid society to help.
a few poorly edited observations from PP
– The people could not be more kind and gentle and gracious. The only problem with all this is their humbleness is manifest with a very soft and mild way of speaking. So soft, that I can barely understand what they’re saying without my hearing aid. I’m finding myself acting like the typical idiot tourist asking them to repeat themselves all the times….even though their English is perfectly fine.
– The taxi and tuk-tuk and motorcycle drivers are all magicians. It’s incredible how they manage to safely negotiate their way through the busy streets without road rage and violence attendant to the American personality. Driving along in a tuk-tuk must be what it feels like to be in a school of fish as they narrowly dodge and seemingly meander among each other without touching. There’s a natural ebb and flow to traffic patterns, even though drivers are on the wrong side of the street mixed in with all the pedestrians.
– There’s no place to walk on the voluminous sidewalks. They’re all taken up as parking lots, or strewn with local products waiting for the market….or the sidewalk, in many cases are the markets. Street carts are splay over the sidewalks and curbs selling all sorts of foods and wares. This forces the pedestrians into the streets with the schools of motorcycles and tuk-tuks. In most other places, this would be a recipe for disaster; here, it seems natural. Jaywalking, and crossing the street is an art form. One just picks a spot on the opposite side of the boulevard and walks briskly in that direction. Somehow, it just works!
– Being a tourist here is much like being a US soldier in a foreign land (in times of peace). The anonymity is great. Everybody respectfully ignores you, unless they are a tuk tuk driver or motorcyclist, then they bug the shit out of you for business (more on that later). While you walk up and down the streets you get to be like a fly on the wall and just observe the mayhem and delight of life around you. When your on your own in a strange place, all of your senses fire up and your overwhelmed by the colors and sounds and smells and curios activities.
I enjoy walking the city, rather than zipping from place to place in taxis. Most of the locals find this curious and assume I’m lost, the sun has burnt my brain…or I’m searching for my Tuk-tuk. But they mostly just ignore my as I move out briskly from one unknown place to the next. It’s a wonderful way to consume a new place.
Two towns in one
– The town metamorphasizes into a new place as the sun sets. During the day life teams with people moving to and fro in every sort of device able to carry people and product. You don’t find many pedestrians or people just hanging out – it’s too hot. The back benches of the tuk-tuks are all used as napping beds for their drivers and the parking attendants (one on every street corner) sit under umbrellas observing everyone and everything. The police, on every other corner, sit in their designated spots, captivated by whatever happens to be on their cell-phone’s screen. The air is hot, moist and filled with dust particles and pollution and the mixture of dull and bright colors shimmer in the haze.
However during the night, the benches of the tuk-tuks turn into social gathering points as three or four friends or business associates luxuriate in the back as conclude the day’s activities. I suspect if you asked them for a ride,,,,you’d be ignored. The constant background noise is still pervasive, but somehow seems muted and electrified at the same time. The colors are everywhere. The abundant street trees are covered with tiny electric lights, all enlivened. The neon signs burst with life and the reflections and glows of brilliance from the myriad of restaurants and stores lights alight the streets to invigorate worn souls . The sidewalks come to life as everybody escapes the stored heat of the buildings and lives out in the open. It’s two cities in one.
Off to town
OK, much more to follow, but got to get moving if I’m to actually do anything today. Please excuse the typos and poor grammar of this Cambodia Phenom Phen Blog posting – perhaps I’ll get a chance to return and clean it up later. Cheers – Z
Enjoyed this short Blog? You may enjoy our full series on traveling through Italy
Cambodia and Angkor Park Photo Gallery
Angkor Park theme T-shirt designed by the ‘Cottage’? check out this link
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