The boat trip from Siem Reap to Battambang was a real highlight. Battambang wasn’t. Within five minutes of arrival it was clear to us that our only goal here was to get out of Battambang as soon as possible. There was an old woman running a snack shack at the Psar Nat market. Getting dinner proved to be challenging though, as even using all our limbs together didn’t make it clear to her that we just want to eat, and don’t really care what. She just stared at us, politely smiling, ignoring our most basic signs (like actually pointing at food and imitating moving it to your mouth). Fortunately, we were rescued by Hassan. As he explained, he is the sweeper/guard/manager/customer service attendant of Psar Nat. He sat with us for a drink and we’ve had a little chat as the market was closing. As his name suggests, Hassan is a Cham Muslim, which means he probably lost most of his family in the Khmer Rouge genocide. Today, Hassan earns about 50 dollars a month at the market, and his dream in life is to become a motor riksha (tuk tuk) driver – then he’d be able to make perhaps as much as 150 dollars a month. For me (and perhaps for you) it is not much. For Hassan its a world of difference.
Cambodia has a lot to offer, as the pictures clearly show. But it is also the most confronting country I’ve been to. I think that Hassan’s story about his ambitions in life summarizes the feeling you get in Cambodia – it tends to put your cozy Western life back into perspective. I hereby claim the rights for the new slogan for the Cambodian tourism industry. It has a catchy, original sound to it – “Cambodia – putting things into perspective”.