Now that our pass for Angkor Wat has expired, we took the opportunity to drive around the countryside a little further, to see some of the sights away from the temples. As long as we’re on roads, Mr Heng’s tuk-tuk is quite comfortable, but off road it’s definitely a bumpy experience. The tuk-tuk is basically a trailer that goes on the back of a normal moped. Sarah and I have a bench seat, while the girls sit on the front rest, holding onto the roof supports. When its moving, there’s plenty of breeze, and its great for sight-seeing because there’s nothing between you and the world.
In Asia, we’ve noticed that people are very creative with their transport – the picture on the left is a typical Asian MPV – 6 members of the same family perched on a single moped whizzing around town. If you click on the picture you’ll see other examples of how people get around – from squatting on the roofs of lorries, to perching on the bonnets of trucks, and the contrast of a vintage Rolls Royce outside one of the grand hotels of Siem Reap, and how a pig is carried to market on a moped.
One of the things that we’ve been seeing this week is evidence of the ‘missing generation’ of Cambodia – during the reign of the Khmer Rouge very few children were born in Cambodia, so it is rare to see 25-29 year old Cambodians. In addition the Khmer Rouge systematically tried to wipe out intellectuals, government officials and monks, and even now the country is suffering from the results of that policy – which killed an estimated 2 million people, about a quarter of the population.
Our trip this morning took us past houses built on stilts alongside the river banks. They are very basic huts, and the toilet consists of a bamboo perch over the river. Unfortunately having a bath means bathing in the same river – downstream of everybody else’s toilets. Yeuch! Poverty is evident around Cambodia, but even those in jobs receive low wages. A trained, experienced ophthalmologist could expect to earn $70 a month, a typical staff member at a 5-star hotel would earn $100 a month, and a tuk-tuk driver would typically earn $3-5 a day (which could go up to $10 a day when they were hired for a full-day by tourists). All in all, it means that in employment, a good salary would be $800-$1,200 a year. Its no surprise that we didn’t see Cambodians drinking Coke, at $1 a can (on a British average salary, that’s the equivalent of 20 Pounds a can!).