As we left the airport I felt slightly overwhelmed at the chaos on the streets and the way everything looked and smelt. Children were playing bare foot on the side of the main road, cows were roaming freely, wild/stray dogs were running around and I saw a couple of monks dressed in bright orange robes walking into a shop. I cant even count how many times someone nearly crashed into us on their scooter! One man was riding his with a bird in a cage balanced on the handles and another was driving a car down the wrong side of the road! Although I see the police about quite a lot – most of the time they are sat down reading a paper ignoring the world or playing cards with friends at the road side.
Despite the lack of law the Khmer people are one of the friendliest I’ve met with strong morals. Respect is deeply rooted in their culture, for example, I’ve noticed how some people take of their shoes when entering some shops as a sign of respect and they greet each other with the sampeah (learn it here: http://www.visit-angkor.org/blog/2013/02/24/how-to-greet-in-cambodia-the-five-version-of-performing-sampeah/).
For our first evening we ventured out to the famous Pub Street on a tuk-tuk, which was, an experience. I would be lying if I said I thought I might die, the driver was whizzing past people and weaving in and out of the traffic erratically. When we got to the area nothing had prepared me for how mental it really is (and cheap – $0.40 for a pint of beer). People were parked up in the road with little makeshift bars blaring music full blast, the general chaos of drunk people milling about, dancing in the street, food stalls selling cooked frog and scorpions and clothes markets everywhere. We found a place to grab some food (I’ve finally mastered the chopsticks) and have a couple of drinks (the food here is GOOD). And then went off to get a foot massage ($3 for half an hour!!). After this we then ventured to a couple of bars before going to a club called Temple where they play the music loud and serve the drinks strong, needless to say we did get quite drunk and I don’t remember much apart from dancing like a loon.
There are a few things I have found quite difficult though; when we were eating dinner a disabled man on all fours with a basket strapped to his chest came up to us begging for money. A little later I saw a group of young children playing in a building site bare footed, and lots of children with babies laying in front of them begging for money. I feel torn when I see them; it makes me sad that they feel they have to do that to make money, but I don’t know who’s being genuine and I don’t like to encourage it, but still want to help. Hopefully one day I can come back and be involved in a charity but for now I will donate to some of the charity boxes at the hotel.