I called Jules this morning, “I’m stuck on Cambodia” I told her. She provided a helpful list of possibilities of how to get my memory working but the problem is I did very little there. After a discussion of establishing my inability to spin a fabricated travel account we decided that a short post was the best course of action.
I wish I could tap out a fantastic tale and tell you something amazing happened in Cambodia but in reality I would rate it as a low point in my travels. I wanted to blame Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge for my woes and although they can take credit for a small part of my missing mojo, blaming them outright wouldn’t be a completely truthful act. Immediately after crossing the border from Thailand my cheery state of mind haemorrhaged. Flocks of smudgy children and amputeed beggars surrounded Morgan and I while passing through the passport checks, dirty hands motioning to hungry mouths. The bus trip in a rattly shitbox of metal and tape (the windscreen and roof were held together with sticky tape) and the potholed road conditions from the border to Siem Reap were punishing. The clattering of my window was so disturbingly loud I ripped off the cover of my book and wedged it into silence. I became seriously templed out after only one day touring Angkor Wat, a temple complex where most people spend a week and while the sites were spectacularly magnificent something inside me had withered. In the capital city of Phnom Penh I was confronted with forlorn and pleading children who would conceal themselves behind the restaurant flower pots and whimper while I ate my hot nourishing meals. The city streets echoed with the calls of “killing fields” as tours were promoted to the location where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge. Local newspapers listed felonies far beyond the average city crime calibre. Present day reports were made up of victims being strung up, raped and tortured. These were the fruits from authorities murdering around a quarter of a population or causing them to die from disease and starvation. The aftermath of Cambodia’s horrific war torn history hung in the air.
I didn’t believe I was really being so deeply affected by history, it was significantly upsetting but not a reason for my gloom. In fact I think my gloom had made it all the more upsetting. I could have been feeling a lull after accomplishing so much good. Or possibly I lost my inner drive because I had Morgan beside me, to protect me and buffer me from beggars and touts and to make decisions. Maybe I was just prone to depression and this was likely to happen sooner or later.
Whatever the reason I had lost my appetite for adventure and growth and felt like resting. So I hit the south coast town of Sihanoukville and scored perfect weather for two weeks of lazying on the beach. This seaside break bore only one small tale worthy highlight. This was provided by the wiggly skin trails that carved their way through the soles of my feet. With an itchiness more intense than anything I had ever felt in my life I searched for a cure. It took two badly educated local doctors, anti fungal cream and another useless prescription before I decided to seek out an expensive Western doctor and get the correct diagnosis. Foot worms. Luckily I was restored to perfect health with a simple course of tablets.
While I wallowed in the sun’s bliss, ate everything on the menu and played Scrabble I reflected on my trip so far and contemplated the next step. Bearing the armour of the sick, ripped off and hardened traveller I’d broken through my rookie jitters and accomplished some major achievements in myself. I was proud of my personal gains but really they were only skin deep and I had so much work to do on my flailing personality. I had slid into a comfort zone, I was bored and I wanted more. Unable to continue to rely on my glorious moments of sheer stupidity to keep me entertained I needed to douse myself in that place that frightened me most. To put my inner growth back in action I decided to go where many a traveller returned from with tales of powerful overwhelming and incredible sickness. The place that wore the shitting in my pants crown. I’d been informed I’d love it, I’d been warned I’d hate it and most of all I’d been told I wouldn’t cope. India, the epitome of culture shock. This was a place me and my needy character had to visit.