As we leave Cambodia, here are some observations we’ve made along the way.
During the civil wars of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge filled the countryside with land mines, particularly near the ancient temples in the outskirts of Siem Reap. They still pose a serious problem for innocent farmers and villagers although many of the dangerous areas have been cleared by international agencies. And, not to worry, but tourists don’t get to visit sites unless they’ve been cleared completely.
The Khmer Rouge was fiendishly clever about this as they used the temples as hospitals as well as command centers, making enemies cautious about bombing those sites or even coming close to them.
Ironically now, the old soldiers of the Khmer Rouge and their enemies during the civil wars live together in the countryside around the old sites, and even run some of the tourist access points for the government.
Western vs. Eastern tourists
Our guide pointed out the different way European/American tourists visit sites compared with Asian tourists. Asians don’t have much interest in the history once they’ve hit the site running, so the guides have to brief them on a site’s background before the group takes off. Westerners like to get the briefing while they move about, hearing about this particular statue or that lintel.
More interestingly, Western tourists take photos of the sites themselves or key features, preferring to keep other visitors out of the frame. In other words, here is what I saw. Asian tourists prefer to take pictures of themselves in front of key places, and not just standing, but posing in different ways like a model in a photo shoot. Even irreverently in some sacred spaces. In other words, here I am at Angkor Wat. Our guide said he once had to carry 20 cameras around during a visit so he could keep taking pictures of the group as it moved about.
So you have choices with your cows, decisions which demand careful sorting. A cow sold for meat takes about 2 – 3 years of care, and yields about $200-300 in the market. On the other hand, a cow that can work hard and plow the fields can be sold for $800 to $1000, or give you 10 years of labor.
Apparently those cows used for labor moreover are rarely eaten by their owners when their useful life is done. The farmers, who still have animist beliefs and apparently quite a fondness for the beast after all those years, either put the animal to pasture for the rest of its life or sell it to someone else who might eat it. – but don’t tell them about it.
(This is the third post of the day, so check out the other ones.)