Sunday, January 16, 2011


View from our tuk tuk.
As if I hadn't had enough other-worldly experiences, yesterday evening we arrived in the sleepy (read: comatosed) city of Kampot. The basic story of this mini seaside civilization, is that originally the French colonised it, then the French realised that Cambodians weren't gonna have any of that shit, so gave up the idea of making a mini France. Then there were two (almost three) economic 'booms' in the area, which were characteristically followed by two (and a half) 'busts'.

bikes per capita
Now the area is apparently home to almost forty thousand people, although I swear they counted their motorbikes, because the place is empty. A byproduct of all of the rise-and-falls this place has gone through is that on every street there are several old French-style houses which were either abandoned or not even finished. If they were fully built, they are now falling apart. If they were left unfinished, they look even worse. Squatters laws have taken over this town, and it means that most of these empty shells are now utilised. They are surrounded by little laws, with a cow and a pig and a dog with a litter of puppies on each block. It is entirely possible that animals outnumber people here.

And speaking of the dogs - they are not your ordinary dogs. They are specially brought up guard dogs - one for every single household. They are not even, however, your average guard dog. At night time, like the rest of Kampot, they come together and get scary. We have been advised that after nightfall we must walk in the middle of the road and raise our hands as if throwing stones. Perhaps it is not the stones that might scare the dog away, but the action itself makes us look wierd and a bit freaky, and so the dog mistakes us for locals.

We went to get another 'Seeing Hands Massage'. (I know, I know, I'm crazy.) The wierd thing was, there were SO many massage places advertising 'Seeing Hands' massage or 'Blind People' massage, or even 'Lady Who Cannot See' massage that I began building hocus theories of blindness-clusters. Seriously though, blind children from miles away in all of the rural areas must travel to Kampot for employment, because we counted five blind massage parlours (each with about 4 masseurs) in a two-block radius.

The climax of this story occurs about an hour after nightfall, when Liz and I were taking a stroll trying to aquaint ourselves with the city. Wakling about fifteen minutes from out hotel on the river, a big concrete wall topped with barbed wire loomed in front of us. There was a hive of activity near this area and we could hear music pumping from somewhere near. It was then that we saw the lights of the ferris wheels popping up...

Prison-like walls enclosed a carney-fest.
Following the steady stream of piled-upon motorbikes, we found a break in the wall where the neon lights were released to flood out on the street. Squeezing our way inside, what appeared in front of us was a mini ekka (like a country town carnival) with sideshow games and rides, and stalls with food and screaming kids. Appearances were mildly deceiving, however. Second glances revealed that every single 'game' was the same balloon-popping thing, and the three rides were all incredibly rusty and being assaulted by kids way too big for them.

The rides were going about triple the speed than they woudl in Australia.
Just walls and walls of the same, shitty, balloon game.

That blurry figure horizontal in the air, parallel to the top of theride is a boy in his late teens who was making the whole ride buck and topple. Workplace health and safety would have peed themselves.

I liked carnivals before they were rusty.
This one is pretty much underground.
You probably haven't even heard of it.

View from the ferris wheel of death.
As you can see, there is a very high
motorbike-per-capita rate.
The final frontier was us deciding to actually take a ride on the ferris wheel. I convinced Liz to come with me, on the promise that her potential death would be entirely my responsibility. We thought it wa a bit of a joke.
Then it started.
I don't know about you, but where I come from, the ferris wheel is the pleasant ride where you get a nic view of everything.
Apparently Kampot residents think that is a waste of time.
I saw them crank the speed dial up to 'full' as soon as they closed the gate, and the whole wheel was spinning so fast that the inhabitants of almost every carriage were screaming. The tall, thin ride was swaying under the pressure and a glance above your cramped head realised your suspicion that, yes, all of the joints were rusty, and yes, that rusty was crumbling.

Scrambling off the ride to be greeted by a wall of gaggling (read: pissing themselves laughing at you) locals, we made for the exit. Passing by more walls of balloon games, we also noticed that the prizes were pots and pans and detergent and milo. We think perhaps the owners of the local supermarket had also monopolised on this space.

The walk home saw us shaking in our boots, in the middle of the road, flailing our arms madly, pretending to throw stones at dogs.

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