Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Best Dressed Man on Radio

I start with this declaration: I am in love with Cambodia. It's an amazing country packed to the gills with amazing people. The very thought that the Khmer Rouge ever came to power here is unthinkable, and must be the most incredible aberration of Cambodian culture ever...It's a country that infects you with it's easygoing style, its'crazy driving and the crazier drivers
Now on to more serious matters:
I've commented in past journal entries about the kind of self-possessed serenity that seems to infect most Thai people, and the way in which this can be intriguing and even a little disconcerting to outsiders... Let me just say this: Self-possessed serenity is all very well, but it's no substitute for a well developed sense of humor:
Every Cambodian person I have met, without exception (so far), has a great sense of humor, and even when you're the butt of their jokes it fills you with a kind of bouncy, vibrant feeling all day. The people I have met here love to kid around, play practical jokes on one another, and seem to have a remarkably good time of life :)
In other news: By one of those strange confluences of culture, I'm considered a pretty handsome guy in Cambodia. It's often a little disconcerting, but I think that in many ways I could get used to it...
And, whilst it's nice to be remarked upon, and the attention's very flattering, I somehow find myself wishing I'd been a little better briefed on Cambodian relationship customs before I got here, so I could have time to mentally prepare myself for this particular type of exquisite torture....
Some noteworthy facts for the would-be traveller:

1) Cambodians of dating age (Around 18-30) do not sleep together unless married. This is not particularly surprising.

2) Cambodians of dating age do not kiss, either in public or in private, before marriage... This is somewhat more surprising.

3)Cambodians of dating age do not *hold hands*, except by prior agreement with their families (Mum, Dad, if you could write me a note that you're ok with my holding hands with girls, that'd be great... yep, really help me out... yep, email is fine... love you too)

4) Cambodians of dating age DO NOT GO OUT TOGETHER, except in large groups, usually consisting largely of their family members. This is not necessarily the most romantic or easy setting, for reasons that will shortly become clear:

Obviously I'm going through several phases of dementia around here :)
To try and provide an analogy: Being considered a good looking guy in Cambodia is a bit like being the most desirable man in a convent, or the best dressed man on radio....

To provide a conversational example.. After a brief and enjoyable conversation, an interruption something like the following wouldn't be unusual:
Guy 1: "My sister is very pretty, yes?"
Me: "Yes, she is"
Guy 2: "She likes you very much"
(Girl in question, sitting across table, mute)
Me: "Yeah, I kinda like her too"
Guy 1: "She is very pretty, and funny also?"
Me: "Yes, very"
Guy 1: "Then why haven't you asked her out yet?"
Me: "Well, we only met yesterday, and we seem to be getting along
pretty well just as things are"
Guy 1: "Mmm.. Maybe it is perhaps you don't like girls? Maybe you like
Thai ladyboys instead? Yes? around the table>"
Me: "Ahh, looks like the food's here"
Guy 1: "After dinner, maybe we find some Ladyboys"

In any case, I'm loving my time here, and I've done a great mix of touristy and non-touristy things here, and I won't ramble on too much or I'll start to sound like an advertisement for "Travel Cambodia". Suffice to say, the incredible mix of ancient and modern culture, the mixture of ex-colonial and present-day Cambodian, the incredible melange of Architecture and every aspect of the Mighty Mekong is
enough to take your breath away. The Angkor Wat are every bit as spectacular as you imagine, and the number of times I've wished I had a Fedora and a Bullwhip don't bear counting.

So I'll leave you with that, and considering the Internet here costs more than the accomodation, it may be a couple of days before I'm heard from again

Your Intrepid, although slightly puzzled, reporter :)


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