We are in Cambodia. The second border crossing with our van lies behind us and now we are on our way. On our way to where? Exactly, we are asking ourselves where we want to go and decide to simply drive to the countryside to see something green which shouldn´t be too hard for a GrassVan.
The first few kilometers of Cambodia are not really catching our interest. One reason might be the border crossing where they asked more money from us than they should have. After a little research of ourselves we find out that Cambodia is one of the world´s leading most corrupt countries. It stands on place 160 of 177 and place number 1 is the less corrupt one… So there are some improvement possibilities...
As visitors of this country we don´t really see too much of the corruption whereas it is a much more important topic amongst the locals. Parents, for example, have to pay extra money to the teachers to ensure that their kids are getting taught. Understanding, that the average salary of a Cambodian teacher is around 60 US Dollars a month it´s no wonder that they are asking for some „extra“ money. In comparison, an average worker in the textile or shoe industry gets a monthly salary of 140 US Dollars which is roughly the amount of 124 Euros. The textile industry is Cambodia´s biggest economic factor. We wonder what happens with all the money from there as well as the income from the tourist attractions like Angkor Wat, the holy center oft he old Khmer culture? We get the idea that nearly nothing of it is spent into the country, its future or the conservation. It seems that the government is too corrupt for it. We have a German saying: A fish rotts from the head down.
Another questions that bothers us is: Why are there two currencies in Cambodia? The Cambodian Riel and the US-Dollar? After a little research we found an article of Gerhard who explains the topic. You can read about it hear, but it´s only in German.
After the customs we continue our ride driving straight, following the road. There is nothing that really catches our eye and so we keep going and going… The song „Geisterstadt“ (ghost town) by the German singer Clueso comes in our mind. He sings about his hometown Erfurt, but in comparison to this lonely area, Erfurt seems to be the rocking city. With the beat in our head we glide over the asphalt. The roads are in good condition and stand in big contrast to the burnt earth left and right to us which is emphasized by empty houses that appear from time to time. In those first kilometers we can definitely feel that we are in one of the poorest countries worldwide. After some hundred kilometers we stop for the day. Our dinner will be a pomelo. We had a look at a few food stalls along the way, but the overcooked and not quite fresh meat and giblets couldn´t convince us. It seems that like for Malaysia and Thailand too, meat is the answer for everything.
The next morning we are still not wiser where we want to go and after a short look on the map we decide to make a short, but effective break next to the sea to work on our homepage before we continue to the capital Phnom Penh. We try to find a bungalow where we can stay with Max for a few days. We end up in Kep. The beach is not fulfilling our dreams, but we find a nice guest house. The beach is a little bit away, but as it is not really clean it doesn´t matter. Thanks to our momentarily drifting attitude we meet interesting people like Henner Gramsch or the owners from the Kep Garden School.
Another welcome sight in Kep are all the bicycle drivers. Especially, Tobi can´t get enough of them. We see school kids driving home, often three or four of them on one bike, ladies going tot he market, older ladies with a divine smile on their lips while balancing huge tree trunks on their bicycle or the tourists who want to stay fit in their holidays. There are so many varieties that it stays interesting. In Thailand they prefer their scooters and make make everything with their clattering machines, even if it´s just to visit their neighbours. For us the bike is our favourite means of choice for distances under 20 kilometers and we like the fact that it is good fort he environment and the body. We know that our Van is not the best example with using 14 liters on 100 kilometers, but whenever we have a chance we swing ourselves on a saddle and use it. That´s why we are very happy to see so many bike lovers around here. Today we cycle around looking for a nice dinner. It seems to be hard finding something really tasty. At first sight it is a little bit disappointing for us regarding that Asia is famous for its culinary delicacies and variety in foods and everyone in Europe loves Thai, Indian or Chinese cuisine. Here in Cambodia the main variety is fish with rice or meat with rice. Although they have all the great ingredients to cook some extraordinary things. Maybe it lies in their nature if we believe the statements of some foreigners living in Cambodia that the Khmer people are quite simple and don´t come up with too many ideas by themselves. In the end we find some really good food: Amok. It´s a dish made out of meat, coconut and rice. Another good food is LOK LAK, which is made with meat, rice and egg and comes in a peppery sauce. We guess they use the famous Kampot Pepper which is a good export resource for Cambodia. At the moment we stay, where the pepper is growing…