Everybody knows what the Khmer Rouge did - it's documented in film and in the hideous records all such people seem to keep. Everyone knows who the leaders were. Do we really need a big show trial when the money could be used to open free schools or hospitals or clear landmine's? I've noticed a big rise in the number of very young (under 10) children walking around in no shoes, filthy dirty and dressed quite literally in rags, begging. Education is the key. Unless these kids are educated, they'll never break out the cycle, and unless it's free - maybe with the bribe of a meal to encourage them to attend - they won't get educated.
Pol Pot was the Malcolm Mugabe of the 1970's. Unfortunately for the people of Cambodia, just like Zimbabwe today (or Rwanda in the intervening years) there is no oil here. Or truly free elections. And there probably never will be (unless someone finds oil).
One very positive change is that there aren't so many dirty old men here. There has been a huge crackdown on pedophilia and it's working. I'm sure they're still here, they're just not strutting about with their little boys and girls in full view without fear of retribution (meaning Peter doesn't have to keep a close eye on who I was staring or sneering at or making comments to). Someone told me the crackdown was concentrated in Phnom Penh and a lot of it has moved down to Sihanoukville, although we didn't see any evidence of it there. A quandary: what's worse - that it's in your face or going on in secret? Same thing really. Besides, there's a reason we didn't see anything of it in Sihanoukville. I wasn't looking forward to going there - going on something I'd half read a few years ago, I had expected Sihanoukville to be the Cambodian version of Pattaya; all dirty old men, bar girls and lady boys, and I was happily surprised not to see any. On the maps there were several 'Chicken Farms' just out of town. I asked someone why chicken farms were deemed important enough to get onto a map that omitted the bus station, police station and a few other key landmarks. It appears that they had a big crackdown on prostitution a while back, and moved the girlie bars out to area's which were dubbed Chicken Farms. The sleaze is still there, it's just been moved out of town so it isn't in everyone's face and if you want it you have to make the effort to get to it.
Some things in Phnom Penh, however, are just about the same. Instead of being very, very dirty, it's only very dirty now. The police are still to be avoided at all costs. The beggars still wear you down in unimaginable ways, and the rivers and drains smell no better now than they ever did or probably ever will do. That said, being here is giving Peter the opportunity to sort out a bike tour, which he's wanted to do for some time, and has given my poor tum the opportunity to settle down, and given me the opportunity to try and tweak Vista (again) into running a little more the way I want it to rather than the way Microsoft thinks I want it to. I read a leaked report last week which stated Microsoft executives weren't happy with it's performance on their own PC's when it was released. I can only concur.
Now that the rice is staying put, I think we're still going to be here for a couple of days - even though I've been on the 'orange' flavoured re hydration salts for a week, I really don't have any energy at all through not eating or eating then losing it within 5 minutes. Peter's been out most of the days and nights happily talking bikes to people who are real enthusiasts and trying to arrange a tour - the tour bit is easy, every man and his dog will hire a trail bike and take you away for a couple of nights. We want the tour AND the gear. Not just the helmet and gloves, but shoulder, elbow and knee pads and boots. It's 21 years since we had the IT490 in New Zealand - the last time Peter did any real motor cross riding, and I remember very clearly a good pair of boots saving his leg once. Quite literally. Killed the boots though, and in hindsight that was probably the best $200 we ever spent. One lovely local man, who has a bike repair shop but doesn't arrange tours himself, offered Peter a ride on Saturday - a group of locals and expats are going to play for the day, and he can get Peter a really good bike for for a few dollars, but unless he can get some gear I'm afraid it's a no-go. Not worth the risks. Nice offer though. And great to see a young Cambodian with such a successful business. He must be very good at fixing up bikes to be so successful and to be so highly recommended by almost everyone Peter spoke to.
Yesterday, Peter shocked me. We were talking about how long we were going to stay in Cambodia - it cost US$20 for a visa, so we should at least try to get our money's worth - and he asked me if I realised it's the 4th of March. We were going be be back in England around March or April or May at the latest. The way we dawdle about, it's going to take a good couple of months to work our way back to Singapore to pick up a flight to England. I have so many Frequent Flyer points it's not funny, but for some reason you can never get a flight out of Bangkok to Manchester using points. Singapore, no problem. Bangkok - forget it. Besides, we want to catch up with some friends we made in Thailand and Malaysia en-route. I think as soon as we get this motorbike tour out of the way, we're going to have to seriously start heading south.
If he sorts out a motorbike trip, I'll hole up somewhere quiet for a few days until it's over, and if not I think we might get the train to Battambang very soon, stay a few days, then get back onto the train and go straight to Bangkok. I really can't believe we've been on the road this long already. And no real drama. A few bits and pieces, but nothing really serious, and no more than would happen if we were at home. Pretty good going really.