Zoomin’ Around Phnom Penh

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Beep Beep Beep Beep…. no streetlight so my motorcycle driver just noses his way into the intersection in the exact style of every other scooter, SUV, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, and bull-pulled-wagon. I’ve got one hand on my pocket making sure my camera doesn’t come loose, and the other on Mr. Lee’s back, we’re both sweating like crazy in the midday Cambodian sun.

Me: Whats that plume of black smoke coming out of that house Mr. Lee?

Mr. Lee: Oh that house with the smoke, thats, Crematory.. how do you say.. our dead people..

Me: Oh. Crematorium. They’re very busy today.

We zoom past the national museum, where earlier he had brought me to see the many Buddhist statues, I never saw so many arms in my life. To our right are a series of open garages or perhaps storefronts, each spilling out into the street with artwork. They looked like oil paintings.

Mr. Lee: How many languages you speak Mr Mark?

Me: 5. But they are all European. Nothing fun like Thai or Khmer.

Mr. Lee: Wow. I can only do English, Thai, Khmer. Maybe I learn another one.. like Portuguese haha!

I pop out of my evening snack at Friends, the café run by street kids who are taught how to be professional restauranteurs.  Some of the finest service I’ve ever known.  Mr. Lee is laying back on the saddle of the motorbike, hat tipped over his eyes, the motorcycle guy’s nap pose.

Me: Why do you work as a motorcycle driver?

Mr Lee: I used to have airport job. Everyday had to work, always in the office. No freedom. With motorcycle, I’m free, I can go where I want.  But yes.. money is bad.

Me: Freedom, yes, freedom from a job, I look for the same thing.

He drops me off at the lovely guest house I’m staying at.  Doesn’t say a word about money, it is very obviously up to me what I should pay.  I hand over some american dollar bills and he gives me a smile.  Tomorrow, I take you to Killing Fields. Indeed it is what most tourists do in Phnom Penh and it is certainly what I’ve been looking foward to, if one can look foward to walking on the dead.  Mr Lee tells me he’s off to have some beers with his uncle. Make nice dreams, he tells me.

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