I struggle to concentrate on the road as small voices call from every direction, "bye bye", "sabaidee" or as I reach into Cambodia "hello, bye bye". I try to wave to each one like the queen on parade (or King maybe). Sometimes I have to strain my eyes to find the little voice coming from a tree, behind a bush or on top of a buffalo. They are anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes only a small hand can be seen above the window sill as the little munchkin peeks through the cracks in the wall boards. Where this enthusiasm comes from, I don't know. The parents of the smallest children hold their hands to make them wave as I whizz past. It sure makes a passing cyclist feel welcome, though for me I have found it hard to get beyond this and really interact with the people, I feel too different or perhaps to alien to them. Some kids run in fright at the sight of such a hairy man on a bicycle, only to wave from a safe distance. Those adults who do speak English are not easy to engage and those that don't quickly give up with the sign language or other means of communication. For me, SE Asia has been an incredibly easy place to be, almost to easy with nicely spaced guest houses and endlessly available food and drinks. I'm happy to have had company for most of my time here as it makes life as an observer more enjoyable. I think years of tourism have meant that all foreigners are seen just as rich people who can afford to pay for whatever. To some extent this is true, though with an interest in the people and places far beyond this, I will leave a little sad that I wasn't able to find a door leading very far into their lives. This certainly is partly my fault as I have not made a huge effort to try to stay with them as I have done elsewhere in the past. But my confidence to do so usually steams from a feeling of mutual interest which I have not felt here. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that travel is not a major part of life and culture, so understanding what I am doing and why I am doing it is very difficult for them to understand.
With just a couple of days to go before I reach Phnom Penh, I start to feel the pinch of the end of an amazing adventure, my thoughts start to gather as I try to put my feelings into words.
Support a great cause: DONATE NOW to The Cambodia Trust