countin' the days

Friday, June 12, 2009

No No No No No... NO!

Immediately upon our arrival in Cambodia, we were confronted with what would become one of the many themes of the next 2 months: how to say "NO," over and over and over again. This is, of course, thanks to the plentiful touts & other characters, endlessly offering up whatever possible item or service you just might fork over some cash for.

It began, in a bad way, in Poipet. After getting our passports stamped, we found ourselves surrounded by a varitable sh*tstorm of touts. All were wearing suits (madness in this heat!), wielding "official badges" (ha!), and offering insanely overpriced transport (do I LOOK like a moron, or are YOU just one?). After the whole thermometer incident, I'd had it. I looked at Tim with utter despair, at one point covering my ears with my hands and shaking my head. I couldn't do much but walk away. Tim handled things well, laughing at people and joking around, but eventually the only thing either of us wanted to do was walk away. So we did. Amazingly, one tout followed us a half kilometer down the road, first on foot, then on a motorbike, then in a taxi! Fool. By that point, we were resolved not to spend one thin dime with those bastards. Graciously, an honest taxi driver came by and took us on to Battambang for the RIGHT price, we left that little mongrel in our dust, and in a speedy two hours, we were far from Poipet in lovely Battambang.

I purposely came to Battambang to experience a "real" Cambodian city, and it was a good call. We didn't do anything all too exciting in our time there (being burned out on the whole journey), but had a nice time strolling around its streets and getting a real, and much better, feel for Cambodia. What we found were delightful people, full of smiles & cheer & grace, who were nothing but friendly and helpful. Sure, we had to say "no" plenty of times, but it wasn't so bad.

The real "no" game began in Siem Reap. I knew it was coming, Siem Reap being a huge tourist town, and it wasn't even quite as bad as I'm imagined. But more or less every few feet, you had to say no to some tuk-tuk driver, massage parlor lady, or kid selling postcards. I wouldn't have minded so much, except that these people began to come up to our tables, while we were eating, offering us random crap as we chewed away. My "nos" became a tad more firm at these times. Eventually, we did have to say "yes" to a tuk-tuk driver, when it was finally time to go see the legendary Angkor Wat.

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