Phnom Penh--January 9-11, 2006
My next stop will be Vietnam but I had to go through Phnom Penh again to get there so I decided to stay a couple of nights as a chance to break up the trip and to see the Royal Palace and Pagoda which I missed on my first trip.
Cambodia is definitely an interesting country. They are caught between two very different places. One is of progress and hope, especially with the draw of Angkor Wat. Siem Reap is a bustling town with everything from small guest houses to 5 star hotels opening every day. The other is a story of massive poverty and you see this every day. There are more beggers here than anywhere else I have been but there is also the heartbreaking story of the street kids... always around looking to sell postcards or guide books or just looking for some food. It is hard to resist the 6 year old boy who comes to your table with a plastic bag and points to your leftovers to be put in the bag so he can eat maybe his first meal of the day. Many of the kids are very street smart and have learned English from the tourists and when you tell them where you are from they will recite facts about the country. One girl knew that Tallahassee is the capital of Florida as well as how many people live in the US and who the president is. Truly amazing.
As a visitor to a country like this I feel the money I spend on food and guest houses and souvenir goes to a good cause but it is hard to ignore the kids that are on the street. I ran across a restaurant called Friends café that takes street kids and teaches them about the hospitality business by having them run a restaurant. I ate there twice when in Phnom Penh and feel that it is a great way to support the community and the kids.
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