Perhaps the most surreal thing to happen on this trip was when we sat down for lunch at Campucino Pizza, and the waiter showed me a well thumbed and evidently much-read copy of "Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas", after having correctly identified us as Singaporeans. (Well, me at least. K he thought was English, and was very surprised to be told otherwise) I must say that most non-Singaporeans I have met express nothing but admiration for the man and his achievements, recognising that it was no mean feat bringing a nation out of the third world into (for all intents and purposes) the first. Certainly, when I compare what we have in Singapore, to what the Cambodians don't (clean water ... jobs ... an average yearly income higher than US$260) we can only feel fortunate.
Lunch at Campucino's was long, because it started pouring the moment we sat down. The long lunch break allowed us to catch up on the news (our friendly waiter kept us well stocked with newspapers to read), and I took this 14 minute exposure on the pinhole camera (poor K was not allowed to touch the table while this shot was being taken ... such a patient and understanding partner I have = )
There was an amputee begging outside the restaurant, but I had no small change left, having run the gauntlet at Banteay Kdei that morning and had my pockets lightened to the tune of ten US dollars (which bought me
- 1 wooden boat,
- 2 small brass figurines,
- 3 scarves,
- 4 flutes,
- 5 bangles
and 2 sets of postcards)
Looking at the beggar, I began to think that there was an inequality amongst beggars and hawkers - cute little boys and girls are more successful than surly teenagers and adults, children in rags are more likely to get a response than adult landmine amputees (there was a group of amputee musicians outside Ta Prohm, and they seemed to be getting less money, for arguably more honest work, than the kids harassing tourists inside). The more experienced ones even know what to say - all their talk is of "You give me money, I go to school", probably to most effective strategy to use on the younger set of tourists (like us) who tend to justify trampling through someone else's extreme poverty by thinking we're making some difference to the future of their country. I'm not sure that the one US dollar even goes to the child who sells me the scarf - the scarves (and the flutes, and the postcards) are obviously manufactured, and not by the children themselves - who takes the dollar away from the child at the end of the day, and gives the child another lot to sell? I kept imagining some Fagin figure lurking in the shadows.
The rain continued into the afternoon, and we repaired to the guesthouse to make ready for our grand day out to Kbal Spean and Beng Mealea tomorrow.