I was trying to get to Luang Prabung. Siem Reap with the lure of Angkor Wat was to be a stopover, from which I then flew onwards to Laos. Luang Prabung turned out to not be as straightforward a journey as hoped. Siem Reap was already penciled in, so I thought, why not come?
I began researching Siem Reap. The more I learnt, the more I felt unease. There’s some well-written material out there for female travellers venturing alone. Initially my biggest concerns were the heat- I’m not good with heat, and the dust- I have asthma. Quite quickly, my concerns shifted to include, the reality of safety.
Er, I suggest you latch on to the first gangster you can find, so you won’t be disturbed, Spice teased.
Oh Tammy, Cambodia is my favourite country in Asia! Why wouldn’t you want to go? Said Claire.
You must go!
And there in Chelsea looking at my very blond, very petite and very pretty friend, I became determined.
Is it safe? Jon asked.
Is the hotel safe?
Personally, I don’t find any city, safe. Not even my native, proudly sanitised, first-world economic-miracle, city-state, Singapore. Upon arriving, Immigration gave me pause. It was the one time in my life, I felt grateful for having a Singaporean passport.
Aside from my wits, looking as local as possible, is my preferred way, especially when wandering alone. I don’t want to draw any attention. So minimal make-up, no jewellery, no watch, no overpriced bag- nothing.
Your blouse-skirt colours are most apt for the backdrop! Trace pointed out.
(Well, incognito does not mean, without style!)
There’s also a chorus of opinions about riding the tuk tuk, especially the reality of purse-snatching.
I love riding the tuk tuk! I love the feeling of being so exposed to the elements, the people, the sounds, ah the jungle sailing by.
I keep my purse strapped to me, clutched with my legs. I also believe, that if someone is going to insist on snatching my purse, just let him/her have it.
My tuk tuk driver kept me safe in that he drove carefully and didn’t take any circuitous routes. As with every other Cambodian I’ve encountered, he was polite and patient. He was also resourceful, suggesting Baphuon.
Unfortunately, I decided to terminate his services because by Day 2, he kept asking for more and more money.
Because Cambodia, hypnotic and spell-binding, is also one of the poorest countries in the world. The landscape is harsh. The history, ancient and near past is heart-breaking. The little girl running around without shoes, the older girl in her school uniform, also without shoes, more girls gathered by temple sites crying out, and the woman hunched over a precious pile of empty plastic bottles, a sleeved tucked up to hide an absent limb- in their faces calling, pleading- sisters, all. In another life, born more north of the equator, I would have had, a different fate.