On the coast: Kep


ImageI don’t really see what could possibly make a foreigner, such as that English guy Hugh, decide to settle down in Cambodia. There must certainly be very good reasons, but I can’t find anything really attractive, now that I'm looking at the lower-middle class block buildings in the district where my hotel is located and am transposing the unpleasant humid and sticky sensation caused by the weather - now at its best - to life in general in this country.

I have observed a total lack of taste in would-be posh clothing, furniture and decoration that do not convey a sense of refinement from the people and their culture. I am certainly to blame for not appreciating it, so culturally distant as I am from this ancient civilization whose language is one of Asia's oldest and whose alphabet is derived from an early south Indian one. I am struck by sheer amazement when I learn of these ancient and strong influences between far apart world regions; so remote from where I live that I tend to make an indistinct bunch of them all.

12 December - I return to my first negative assessment thinking back to the way I was coarsely treated as a tourist in several places and lastly here in Kep where I am, at a few dozen kilometres from the Vietnamese border on the south coast. I, usually simple and unassuming, suddenly discover myself to be pretentious, after being often treated with tactlessness and impropriety on behalf of the tourist operators. I don't claim the right to be giving lessons to anyone on how they should behave with tourists - I already hear enough sermons on this topic at the work place to have grown suspicious of whoever always wants to teach without ever having got their fingers dirty in the field in which they pose as pundits.

I wouldn't like either to say I’ve grown into an old arrogant grouch that expects services and reverences. I would only like to focus on the human aspect of courteousness and only in the last place professionalism. There are incidents that upset me and not last yesterday's hotel that was well below the minimum standard for the price I was paying. I showed myself vexed this morning to the guest-house people, but I'm sure they are too down-to-earth to have sensed my discontent.

Kep is not a place that you could define inspiring. There is no beach, it dozes off among the ruins of decrepit houses abandoned during the war, with courtyard animals pecking about on the main street and even some pigs. If you look out at the sea, you heave a relieved sigh and I can in fact say that at least I relaxed in this day that I whiled away reading my book.