This is an article about danger.
I thought a lot about the dangers of this journey before I left. I thought like a soldier, analyzing the possible outcomes of different scenarios, things that could go wrong. I was fed with so much fears from family, friends and coworkers that I have to confess I was scared to death.
Nothing at first. The food had no deceases, the people were kind, I didn't get lost...
But what looked like safety on the surface changed as time went by.
When I came to Siem Reap for the first time the bus arrived late. I had a clear picture of the way to the guest house but I just couldn't find it. I started to ask locals for directions. Everybody was eager to help, with some knowledge of english. So I followed the directions from an old man but no guest house could be found. I started to ask others and I got new directions. This didn't help. Darkness descended on the city. I walked into dark alleys with no other choice than to follow the directions from the locals. Two hours went by and I just had to give up. I found a new guesthouse and finally found safety inside.
Days went by and my suspicion from the night days before was essentially correct: Cambodia is no safe place. Drug addicts, pick-pockets and so forth. The locals I talked to warned me about this especially on one occasion.
So what about it?
You have to put danger in perspective. You have to accept that you can get lost, be robbed, get killed. Overrun by a car or bitten by dogs. But an even greater danger would be to not travel at all, dying inside.
At one occasion I warned a fellow traveler to walk away from guard-dogs, barking aggressively and coming out from under a fence.
You get sharper as time goes by. You shall never walk around with thoughts on your mind, not looking at the traffic and the people. You almost never go out at night, especially when the streets are not crowded. You keep your money and passport closely to your chest, knowing that there are decent people, but appearances fool you all the time.
One guy in Sihaoukville lost his entire backpack getting drugged by a girl he slept with. And this happened just before I came there.
So I still think like a soldier.
The problem though is that you can't grasp the unknown. You take measures but realize that you have to watch out for the unexpected. The unexpected is one of the greatest dangers in my mind.
I could go on...
Going back to Thailand now. The thing is that Cambodia houses wonderful people. Much more friendly than the ones I met in Thailand. And there is a great difference between different cities, almost like different countries inside the country. Phnom Penh was hell, Sihaoukville paradise in comparison but the kindest people of them all was found in Siem Reap. People are so natural and easy to talk to you almost start to believe that there are no dangers at all.
Which leads me to Stanley Kubrick.
I think he was close to the truth.
I've analyzed the films from another perspective.
I think I initially was like the soldiers in Barry Lyndon. Just marching on, almost blindfolded, capable to anything, but not knowing the possible outcome of any scenario. No traveler I ever met on this journey have talked to me seriously about these things, with one exception. I listened but didn't have perspective. It's rather something I've discovered by myself.
It's like being in an desolate forest. Getting lost.
The rules: In the event of disaster you shall not move, just breathe, observe the situation closely and think logically about what is happening.
It's not paranoia. It's necessary.
So that is what I want to say to new travelers talking about the safety of these trips.
Watch out for the unknown.
Perhaps that is why the greatest horrorfilms always build on that fear.
Our greatest fear is the fear of the things we cannot know.