A study of contrasts

Heading off for a swim in Angkor Wat

Cambodia is a country with huge contrasts, as I’ve already said, and our afternoon was a stark example of that. After spending the morning looking around poverty-stricken villages, the girls were invited over to the exclusive hotel for a swim with their new playmates. The hotel tuk-tuk picked them up, and they all took off across town with Sarah, in high spirits.

They spent the afternoon in and around one of the most expensive hotels I think I’ve experienced – $725 a night (no, not a typo) buys you a haven of peace and quiet in the middle of the hustle, bustle and building sites of Siem Reap. If you click on the picture on the left, you’ll see some views of the kind of luxury that money can buy, and the serenity that it’s possible to get even in the harshest of countries. It is all very deliberately low-key – the hotel doesn’t have a name on the outside, and it isn’t on any of the town maps, or the accommodation advertising. Instead it just sits as a silent oasis. Although it took us by surprise at first, it shouldn’t have – after all it is the same the world over. Step outside of the London Savoy in the evening, and you have to walk around the homeless sleeping in shop doorways on The Strand. We still remember the contrasts of luxurious hotels and slums cheek-by-jowl in New Delhi. And I’m sure that the same contrast exists in every city around the world. It is clearer to see, if no less easy to understand, here in Cambodia. I wonder in a year’s time, what the children will remember of it?