On the road once moreTonight, I'm sharing a twin room with my field assistant (RM60/night) at the Dragon Inn, Sarikei. I could have justified spending up to RM100 to make sure we have two rooms (after all, he is a married man) but sometimes, ... sometimes I like to save some money for our field expenses. Make the ringgit stretch. Even when it's not my money.
Anyhow, we have to get up around 4:30 a.m. to make sure we're on the road before 5 to arrive in Kanowit, just in time to catch the 7:15 boat-taxi to Song. And I need to make sure that he gets up early.
Sometimes I like to keep an eye on him. Married man or not, he's still very much an impetuous kid (they marry so early in the rural areas).
I could have stayed at quiet Kanowit, in a motel facing the Rejang River but it's a little too quiet for me. Especially with many days ahead of more quietness. Sarikei's a little more happening with a cyber-cafe and a giant pineapple.
I've done this route now a couple of times and it's fascinating. The boat taxis can be a little hairy especially when they expect you to jump onto the narrow edge of the moving boat. And they're super fast. Makes one worry. For some reason or another, the boat operators have a love affair with Steven Seagal. They play his movies over and over again.
On my very first time on a boat taxi in Sg. Rejang though, they played 'Planet of the Apes' which made me giggle because of the nature of my work. The last time I was on the boat taxi, they played 'King Kong'. All pirated of course. Once, they played a French movie! Of course, it was an action movie with a very stupid lead character. Channelling Steven Seagal but with much better looks, smoother moves and a cuter accent.
In one scene, he announces to the criminal that he's a cop and proceeds to tell him his plans. The criminal then receives a call from the Mafia-like boss, and informs him that the cop dude is with him.
Dumb lead character: (screaming) Don't you know how to keep a secret?????
I have so many stories just waiting to be told. Stories from the field, from the longhouse, and yes, from Siem Reap. The monk who opened a pagoda (Wat Bo) for me and showed me a century old? (or more?) wall to ceiling mural paintings of French soldiers watching a play, to a Chinese man smoking opium in a Khmer market. He then bought me the best breakfast in Cambodia -- streetfare, of course. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I can't wait to go away on my own again. I want to visit Laos and Burma. The latter though, I'm unsure of because of the ethics but oh, to visit an IndoChina country that is unspoilt by tourism. I enjoyed my trip to Cambodia but Siem Reap itself.. I was taken aback by how touristy it was.
On New Year's Eve, the police barricaded Pub Street so that the street urchins couldn't harrass the happy pub-goers. The contrast between the smiling, happy white tourists and the bedraggled Khmer people on the other side of the barricade made me feel sad. And less celebratory that New Year's Eve. It was just strange for me to see that. Rich white people on one side (if you were to see any Khmer women, they would be under the arm of an old white guy), poor Asian people on the other.. I didn't know where to go. So I left.
But there were more happy memories than sad ones. It was certainly an introspective, fascinating trip for me. Can't wait to go on my next one.
In the meantime, this is an interesting blog written in Cambodia: Travel-itch.