Sunday, March 25, 2007


Signage dan gambar pemerintah, terletak di kawasan taman di tengah bandar...
tapi sori la aku tok pehe setabuk pung...

Some few months back, I had the good fortune to be included in my office's trade entourage to Cambodia, on invitation from their Minister of Trade. So okay, Cambodia isn't such a big deal, as compared to numerous trips to Japan, Europe and the US of A, that my boss has been on in the last few years. But I say 'good fortune', for two reasons - firstly because this is one of the rare occasions where an 'officer cabuk' from my chained-to-the-desk department ever got any invitation to join a trade entourage overseas, and secondly because being on that trip truly made me realize how fortunate my life has been, as compared to the life on the streets of Cambodia.

My first glimpse of Cambodian road traffic was horrifying! Cars were moving and turning right & left as and when they please, nobody paid attention to the traffic lights. Motorcycles and bicycles and tuk-tuks weave in between the bigger vehicles, and even pedestrians cross the roads indiscriminately. When our vehicle came to a tollbooth, I was mildly surprised that the windows open on both sides. Baru aku perasan yang kereta ada yang right-hand drive dan ada left-hand drive *fenin*. And yet miraculously, road accidents are few, according to our local guide. Gua tabik spring la depa ni, methinks accidents are few because the drivers are skilled and keep alert when driving, dan tiada budaya merempit... ahaks...

The otherwise enjoyable trip, was marred on the second day. We were attending a seminar held at the Interkonti nental Hotel Phnom Penh, and me and the big boss got our purses stolen from right under our noses! We had put our handbag on our chairs and stood up for a while to take pictures not 5 feet away, for about 2 minutes, but apparently that's enough for the thief to open our handbags and steal our purses. We each lost about USD300, and everything else in the purses including NRIC, credit cards and sentimental items like old photos *sigh*. One of our guides said "kak, orang sini tengok duit macam buaya tengok daging, kalau ada peluang mesti 'ngap' punya". Okkayyy.......

Later when I had time to observe the people on the streets, I realized that the buaya ngap daging not for pleasure, but for survival. No disrespects towards the people of Cambodia, but the country has suffered much, their people killed for no reason, their wealth stripped bare. It is just now trying to stand on its own feeble feet. Those who are struggling now to rebuild their country and to catch up with the rest of the world, they are warriors in my eyes.

So many people come to Phnom Penh untuk cari rezeki. At night by the roadside, I see trishaws covered with mosquito netting - pengayuh beca yang takde rumah, jadi mereka tidur dalam beca saja. On the sidestreet of my hotel, someone ikat buaian (hummock) pada tiang signboard, and sleeps there. Ada juga yang tidur atas tembok rendah, beralaskan kotak dan kain. Kanak- berlari tepi jalan, barefoot, and yet we could still hear laughter.

Petang-petang lepas the official events, sempat juga lari ke Central Market dan Russian Market, shopping la apa lagi :-) Aku yang hilang purse ni, dapat gak shopping atas ehsan member yang kasik pinjam duit *hik!hik!* Beli sikit souvenirs, some silk material etc. Ramai gak yang beli semi-precious stones kat sana, memang tempting la tapi aku maleh nak beli sebab aku tak reti nak tengok nilai batu dan takut tertipu. Lagipun takdork pitih :-(

I wish I had the guts to try out these food stalls at Central Market... tapi tak berani sebab takde status halal Jakim... hehehe

Malam kami free, so 3 malam berturut-turut aku pegi urut... hehehe :-) Urut reflexology, dan urut badan sikit2 je. Aku tak biasa sangat urut nih, so tahan aje la sakitnya kan. Tukang urut plak awek muda-muda, dan ada bilik-bilik yang privacy kat sebelah tempat terbuka yang kami ramai2 berurut tu. Tempat urut ni plak bersambung dengan sebuah pub yang happening. Siapa yang pinggang terkehel menari kat pub tu, boleh terus pegi urut, gamaknya. Itulah first time aku kena straddle dengan pompuan, masa dia urut tangan & bahu aku... isk... sib baik ahkak ni pompuan ori, deknon!

Looking for halal food is such a chore, ada dalam 3-4 je restoran yang halal. Satu yang aku terperanjat gak la, ada satu restoran mamak malaysia kat sana! It seems to be a favourite hangout for Malaysians kat sana, eh sama je macam kat sini kan? Ni kena cuba selidik la strategi bisnes mamak ni, dia sorang kat sana pun boleh hidup, bisnes baik punya. Harga toksah cakap la, tapi aku respek kualiti makanannya serupa macam kat sini. Kari kepala ikan... perrghhh... sehingga menjilat jari!

Lepas makan kami rewang kat taman di tengah bandar. Rasa macam ada karnival. Many people including whole families, bentang tikar mengkuang kat atas rumput, pastu lepak sambil berbual, anak-anak main kejar-kejar. Ada banyak gerai jual tidbits, including jagung rebus yang rasanya macam pulut (very glutinuos!) and also siput bakar. Err... yang ni macam fear factor, tapi ada member yang makan, katanya sedap. Okkayyy... I'll take his word for it lah.

Some tidbits - semi-ripe pomelo, masam nak mampus, tapi sungguh sedap dicicah dengan garam yang dicampur cili sikit. Yang hujung tu, udang kering sira pedas.

We had an opportunity to visit a kampung just on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, and also a madrasah not far from town. It's almost like taking a 30 years leap backwards, said the head of delegation. Macam kampung zaman tok nenek kita muda dulu. The madrasah pulak, facilitates muslim students dari all over Cambodia who come to the capital for tertiary education. The madrasah provides a hostel with basic facilities - a roof over their heads, running water and lampu letrik for them to study at night. Selainnya semua sendiri e.g makan, kena masak sendiri. Aku tak terkira banyak mana air mata kami mengalir masa lawatan tu.

In those conditions pun, depa rajin belajar. Most of them work half the time (often missing some classes) to supplement whatever money their parents send, to pay for university fees and their livelihood. And no scholarships or PTPTN either tau! Dalam pada tu, ada beberapa pemuda yang bertanya, bagaimanakah cara mereka boleh membantu orang kampung mereka untuk memasarkan produk kampung mereka ke Malaysia. OMG, begitu tinggi sekali kesedaran dan keinginan mereka untuk membela nasib bangsa dan memajukan kampung mereka! At that age when I was in college, aku cuma perlu belajar dan hujung minggu pegi tengok wayang...

Last day, sempat jugak pegi river cruise, gi tengok kampung nelayan yang penghuninya mostly muslim. They are the poorest sector, according to our guide.

This is a floating house. Can you imagine a livingspace that small?

Yang ni rumah atas darat, not much better than the floating one.

I think some of us came home with a slightly different view of life and all it's dugaan, and a better understanding of the concept of syukur.

I know I did.

Uh oh, I've just related to you some not-so-pleasant experience in Cambodia. I sure hope their Tourism Minister won't come after me now, calling me a lying unemployed female blogger!


Fauziah Ismail said...

Most often than not when I travel to 3rd world countries macam ni, it tend to remind me of Malaysia of old.
I always ask myself "Eh, agaknya Malaysia masa belum merdeka macam ni?"
Give them a few more years and a stable government, I'm sure they can be where we are now.

Formerly known as x-matters

Jie said...

Hi Fauziah,

They are trying very hard to rebuild their country. For those who fled elsewhere during the war, now is the time to return and help their countrymen. Tapi yang sedihnya, their currency is not worth much, as their economy depend heavily on USD.