Have you ever wondered what it's like to be famous? Having strangers know who you are. Being approached in the street by people wanting to talk to you. I'm sure most of us have wondered what it would be like at some point. After 9 weeks travelling around Cambodia I feel like I've had a small taste.
Every time we step out the front door we're greeted by cries of “hello! hello! hello!” from people hovering outside. Some accept a greeting and a little small talk as we pass. Others fall into step beside us and attempt to continue the conversation. As we make our way around the streets strangers continue to demand our attention. Shouting, whistling and clapping to get our attention is common. Even while we're sitting in a restaurant it's common to have multiple people wander in and approach us throughout the meal. Of course, these people aren't fans or photographers. They're tuk tuk drivers, beggars and restaurant staff trying to drum up business.
As Australians we are among the richest people in the world. New clothes, a nice home and more food than we could possibly eat are not only attainable but the norm. By comparison most Cambodians live on only a few dollars a day. A great many scrape by, supporting themselves and their families through tourism. Often that means approaching tourists in person and convincing them to hand over a few bucks. Their motivation is understandable.
The downside is that it can make the streets feel a little hostile. It would have been a different story if we had a motorcycle to get around. On foot, its relentless. The constant stream of tuk tuk drivers, sad eyed beggars, and eager waiters have over shadowed the unique charm of this place. Sometimes you just want to eat your lunch then walk home. We're always polite. We always treat people with respect. But I'm not sure I can handle another beggar materialising at my elbow while I'm eating or another tuk tuk driver shouting “Hello! Hello! Where are you going?!” when he just saw me say “no thank you” to four others before him.
After 9 weeks they've ground us down. We're eating in tonight.