The shameless tourist

It’s all very well going native – eating in local restaurants, calling yourself a barang, feeling very superior as every new batch of holiday-makers arrives for the obligatory 3-day Angkor Wat pilgrimage – but there are times when you just want to let rip and be a total tourist yourself.  So with that idea in mind, I have been releasing my inner tourist for the last week or so, since I finished my teaching.

When Sam and Alice arrived we visited some more temples – on vespas, of course –


only to find the place swarming with schoolchildren


on an art trip.


It makes a change from sketching courgettes and red peppers, I suppose.

I climbed a holy mountain with a waterfall and pools at the top, and found myself wondering why Cambodians always swim fully clothed – it just seems so bizarre.


An Austrian girl working over here told me that after work you can often see young people going for a swim in the large reservoir outside the town in full work dress – girls in blazers and skirts just plunging straight into the water – presumably the ride home on the motorbike dries them out again.

We went to Battambang, a French Colonial town, and were thrilled to see monkeys.  The local shopkeepers were less thrilled about them, and one furious woman threw a bunch of keys at a particularly anarchic group who had just raided her peanut stand.  Well, they’re not called monkey nuts for nothing, I thought. If it was my shop I would have kept the peanuts inside, possibly under lock and key, rather than outside piled up on a table on the verandah.

This monkey grabbed the palm leaf wrapping from Alice’s sticky rice cake when she put it in the bin.


and got a great deal of pleasure from licking every square inch absolutely clean.

This boy was looking rather forlornly into the undergrowth


trying to locate his bag of food that a monkey had snatched out of his hand.  The monkeys sat a short distance away scoffing his snacks with a defiant expression, but he did manage to retrieve his can of coke – ring pulls are obviously monkey-proof.

Our guide took us to a pagoda which had a series of statues outside serving as a visual reminder of the punishments awaiting us in Hell, should we be foolish enough to commit any of the crimes that Buddha warned against.


The men with chicken heads had been cock-fighting, and I think that the man and woman about to be beheaded are adulterers.


I’m not sure what the two naked people climbing up the cactus have done – but I’m going to find out, and make sure that I never do it myself.


And this punishment – having your tongue ripped out with pliers – is reserved for lawyers and other people ‘who use their tongue for profit’ … at least Sam now knows what lies in store for him.

Our guide took us to a local restaurant, where the cook produced the meal working in very basic conditions


There was fish, chicken, soup, vegetables


but the fish was rather bony, so I surreptitiously slipped a bit of mine to the cat I had seen under the table.  I suddenly felt a furry whoosh around my legs and when I looked –


there was a whole swarm, all waiting for the next bit of fish.

Then we rode on the bamboo train, which is huge fun.  Your ‘train’ is a platform built of bamboo with an engine, and it runs along a single track.


Everyone sits on cushions, and the driver stands at the back.

If you meet someone coming in the opposite direction, whichever platform has more people on it is allowed to proceed.  The people on the other platform have to get off


while the driver dismantles it, moves it off the track, waits for the fuller platform to go past


and then assembles it again.

It’s fun to do for an afternoon, but I can’t see commuters going for it in a big way, so I don’t think it’ll catch on over here.

The Cambodian Circus in Siem Reap is a hugely popular attraction for tourists.  It’s a performance that tells a story, and has acrobats and music, but no animals.

It’s very hot inside the tent, so everyone is given a fan


The performers all come from very poor families and have been given free training and education.  The troupe is so successful now that they have done several tours abroad.



In Phnom Penh everyone goes to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, which has become an institution since the days of the civil war, when foreign correspondents from all over the world flocked here to consume their daily units of alcohol.


It has a very colonial feel, and does a cracking Singapore Sling.  The terrace overlooks the Mekong, and you can sit and watch the boats go by.


It markets itself shamelessly as a quirky, Evelyn Waugh and the British Empire-style club


but even so, I really enjoyed it.

My big worry now is, having released my inner tourist and given it free rein for ten days, I won’t be able to overpower it and beat it back into submission, and I will never again be able to feel superior to the package-holiday masses.

So this is the end – my trip’s over and I have to think about returning to the day job.  Thank you for reading it and following my journey – any feedback will be very welcome – and I’ll let you know when the next big idea strikes and I start blogging again.