We weren't too upset to be leaving Phnom Penh today. Being there wasn't easy and our first day was overwhelming and kinda scary.
As we walked along the promenade by the water we were followed by two guys, one a tuk tuk driver and another an American. The tuk tuk driver followed us for blocks asking us if we wanted a drive and eventually got out to talk to us. He came up and asked us where we were going and if he could take us around, like every other tuk tuk driver. But then he started to give a very personal account of the genocide and how it affected his family. This driver's name is Ray and he told us how his father was a pilot and when the Khmer Rouge evacuated Phnom Penh his dad threw away his uniform and when asked said he was a farmer. This pilot and his brother were interrogated and tortured but maintained they were farmers. He didn't say how they managed to live but Ray said they made it out. This was our very first introduction to life in Phnom Penh, and also our first experience as tourists here. It was baking hot and my shirt was already soaked through so we thanked Ray and said no we didn't need a ride.
Just a few steps away another guy comes up and starts chatting us up. Billy. He compliments Tessa on her hair, asks if we are Canadians, and at first we have a pleasant chat. It ends and we are about to go our separate ways when I had the brilliant idea to ask him if he knew where the Independence day celebrations were happening. He doesn't know and then begins to tell us his story. He is American, from San Francisco, without any available money and fresh out of Cambodian prison. He said he was out one day when he was jumped by three guys. He stabbed two of them repeatedly, the other got away, and Billy was sent to prison for three years. In jail he met an Aussie, who is a black belt of a martial art, and who was jumped by a number of guys too and punched one guy once who died. The Aussie was sentenced to 22 years. So Billy is out now but can't access his money for another 5 days, and the American consulate isn't helping at all. He said he's been sleeping on this boat nearby but won't anymore cause it was being loaded up to sail. Tessa and I didn't know what to think. If it's true it's a crazy unfortunate story but we were overwhelmed and needed to get out of there. As an introduction right after the amazing and inviting time we had in Chiang Mai it was a huge shock. We walked away and after a block or two we noticed that Ray, the Tuk tuk driver, was still following us so we got the hell out of there. We didn't go back to the promenade and did manage to find some beautiful areas.
But the moment we stepped off the plane it felt different here in Siem Reap. The air is cleaner, it's quieter, it's humid with a nice breeze, and it's far less cramped. Tonight we have already explored more than we did Phnom Penh and had an amazing dinner. Our first few hours here have been lovely and we are very excited to check out Angkor Wat tomorrow.