dimanche 11 mai 2008

Crossing Cambodia

What am I doing here? I have been asking myself this questions many times today. First in the gloomy room of a guesthouse in Phsar Thmei in Phnom Penh. The people I like have already left this town. Dave and Owens have left. Julie has left. My two French companions have gone too. No more reasons for me to stay. The mission over, I can leave too. The buses are coming and going in the busy central station, just two blocks away. I can hear them in the darkness of my room. Yes, it is time to go away. A last party has been consumed with the CIST people yesterday night. A pizza, a last funny tektonic dance with Fred and Yacine at Stephanes's, then the moment for the final goodbye had come.
Stuff the permethrine-soaked pijama in the bag. Run for the station. And buy a ticket for the more remore destination in Cambodia: Stung Treng. The trip is long. Eleven hours. The bus is crowded. The weather is inclement. A strong sun to start, then the heavens open. The monsoon season is approaching fast. But the driver doen't seem to to care. And he goes faster and faster on these deserted roads going nowhere. The sun, the heavy rain don't scare him. And do not scare my bus companions neither: it's a young family leaving Phnom Penh for the countryside. They are enjoying the usual Karaoke show on air at any time in Cambodia. And they are craving bugs, all sort of them, like young Americans eat chocolate, cookies and french fries. When I see them smiling at me with debris of tarantulas wedged between the teeth, I once more ask to myself: what the f... I am doing here?

Lonelyness can be bad to your ego.
You start feeling like no one loves you anymore. And lonelyness is what I felt when I finally got off in Stung Treng. You may have understood it. This is really the last outpost in Cambodia before the jungle becomes too thick for the light to penetrate it. A (dirty) market, two roads, one computer (happily enough) and a few fishermen. This is the real Cambodia. And this is why I am here. Because this is my nature. I am a traveller. Not a tourist. I want to see it all. And, hopefully, survive.
The last questions is: what will tomorrow bring to the good man? A ride on a elephant in the Ratanakiri? A face to face with a tiger in the jungle? Maybe I will just go to swim in the Mekong.
The great Mekong.
It's for you I am here, river.
Now I remember.

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