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Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

by someone with questions
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

It’s four hours later and my eyes are still stinging, there’s still that catchy taste lingering at the back of my throat, despite having eaten an ice-cream and a plate of rice noodles.
Where’s the sense in that? We turn out backs on lives at the rubbish dump to eat ice-cream. Today’s tasted different to other desserts, and it wasn’t just the bad taste already in my mouth. There was nothing sweet about what we had witnessed.

How do you make sense of the smoking fume-y haze almost obliterating from view a man squatting beside his two sacks atop a mountain of rubbish?

How do you make sense of the flies buzzing around three barefoot boys walking down the “road” sharing a piece of bread, one of them sporting a white bandage on his almost-bald black head?

How do you make sense of a young lad hitching a ride on a rubbish truck when my own children climb trees?


How do you make sense of burnt trees, grass sprouting from rubbish, temporary-natured shacks and the pristine brightly-painted brand new apartments rising behind them?

How do you make sense of an eight-month-old baby in a party dress, dirt and snot mingling on her face?


How do you make sense of rubbish trucks spewing treasure?

How do you make sense of a drink of water being offered to a friend?

How do you make sense of the paths we get to take?

How do you make sense of literacy amongst piles of paper?

How do you make sense of a discarded shoe? Or the slight triumph on one lady’s face at securing a matching laceless pair?

How do you make sense of orderliness in chaos?

How do you make sense of open windows beside the stench?

How do you make sense of burden? 

How do you make sense of a smile? 

How do you make sense of coke?

How do you make sense of filth? 

How do you make sense of irony?

How do you make sense of a business shirt?

How do you make sense of colour?

How do you make sense of contemplation?

How do you make sense of sacks?

How do you make sense of life experience? 


How do you make sense of the beauty above?

How do you make sense of what these eyes see?

You don’t.
You eat ice-cream.
You pray that your six-year-old will never forget saying, “I’m so glad we were born in a rich country” and that a maturing view will accompany the coming years that will be added to his life.
You determine to encourage your eleven-year-old as he sits on his bed “just thinking how to fix poverty.” Today we discovered he now goes to sleep every night pondering this question. He’s grown up a lot in the last two months.
And you hope you made the right decision to take the children to that desolate place, but you’ll never know.
There is no sense.

pictures from Stung Meanchey rubbish dump, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

culture of corruption

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

by someone, who hasn’t quite got over it yet
Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Unfortunately it makes us suspicious and a little cynical.

Way back at the border, the tuktuk drivers tried to tell us that Cambodians are corrupt and we should use their special visa services. We ignored them and went straight to the consulate. Where, we now realise, we got ripped off! To the tune of US$120. Remember those ratbag officials, who insisted we had to pay for the under-12s visas???? Well, yesterday at the hospital I noticed in K9’s passport it said we paid nothing. GRRRRRRRR. We didn’t pick it up at the time, because the tuktuk drivers were hurrying us on – we insisted on checking that the names and dates on each visa were correct, but failed to notice that it said we paid $20 for the adult ones and “gratis” for the kiddies. It had been such an ordeal at the time that I was in the right frame of mind to challenge it – if only we had been more observant.

Then everyone drives such a hard bargain. Throughout Thailand and Laos a gentle conversation brings a fair price rather quickly. Here you almost argue, walk away, threaten, show your guidebook to prove you know your prices……and they still don’t budge below two or three times a fair price.

But today we are sitting at our guesthouse giving the children a quiet day, wondering whether or not they are well, trying to decide if we are looking at heat rash or something more sinister creeping over Tgirl4’s body.
There have been no tuktuk negotiations, no official rip-offs (unless you count the doughnuts we didn’t order at the market this morning, but were overcharged for!!!!), no unfair suspicions, no cynicism.

Just reflection of our Cambodian journey so far:




Monday, December 29th, 2008
By Mama, who was peaceful and prayerful  Phnom Penh, Cambodia

"It was a rather un-fun morning. It felt really weird being able to open my eyes, but not see."                                                                               ~ Kgirl-almost10 Today's plan to visit the Killing ... [Continue reading this entry]

as busy as bangkok

Sunday, December 28th, 2008
by Rob-n-Rach Phnom Penh, Cambodia Even as we drove into Phnom Penh on the bus and then across this capital city in a tuktuk convoy, J14 observed, "It's as busy as Bangkok." There seemed to be just as many motorbikes, just ... [Continue reading this entry]

from a bus window (that we nearly missed)

Saturday, December 27th, 2008
by Rachael, who was actually wondering what the H's were noticing Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, Cambodia It would seem it doesn't matter how many bus/train/boat rides we make, each one is different. Distinctive features of this one from Siem Reap ... [Continue reading this entry]

unexpected cambodia contrast

Friday, December 26th, 2008
by Rachael Siem Reap, Cambodia We had expected to cross the border and come face-to-face with poverty. Isn't it Cambodia we always hear about in the news media? While there were beggars, small dirty children with even smaller babies hanging from ... [Continue reading this entry]

just like, WOW!!

Thursday, December 25th, 2008
by Rach who is still in awe (and Rob composed the title <wink>) Siem Reap, Cambodia Christmas breakfast is usually a light affair for us and this year was no exception; local oranges, baby bananas and ... [Continue reading this entry]

Missing Christmas

Thursday, December 25th, 2008
by Rob Siem Reap, Cambodia We have just spent the last month leading up to Christmas travelling through lands that will all "miss" it. In Laos in particular, there were no Christmas trees in the malls, no piped carols in the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Christmas Eve

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008
by Rach Siem Reap, Cambodia  Our first full day in Cambodia with the H's. Lots of different experiences:


[Continue reading this entry]

adrenaline postcards

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

by the adults who experienced it all Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia Number One: Priced To Take Your Breath Away Up before five in order to board the third-class-only train to the Cambodia border. We shared it with a few other ... [Continue reading this entry]