Siem Reap: Tourist Guilt    

Monks with umbrellas
I'm suffering from tourist guilt. I'm enjoying the cheap luxury, the cheap food, lounging in cafes with free wireless Internet but the more I question the strangeness of this cheap island of luxury in such a poor country, the more I find out and the more I realize how much I'm contributing to the problem.

According to the UN LDC (least developed countries) list, Cambodia is #8. And Siem Reap is the poorest province in Cambodia. And here we are in the poorest part of one of the poorest countries, lounging in luxury.

I can usually rationalize our tourism because we help small local businesses unlike big package tourists on tours from foreign companies staying in foreign hotel chains. However, here in Cambodia, I'm not sure how many of the businesses are actually owned by locals. Korea and China have a lot of business in the area and. I still haven't found the numbers but I have a feeling all the swank Western looking businesses look Western because they are.

I also found out hotels dump sewage into the river and the water table is in danger of dropping (damaging the Angkor ruins) because there are too many tourists.

I have the uncomfortable feeling the proper thing to do would be flee this area and spend tourist dollars in a less touristy area. But instead we are thinking of getting a week Angkor pass (we still haven't been to the ruins yet). It is a little bit of comfort that there are so many NGO businesses that support education, job training, at risk people, and other projects.

Rowshan and I walked up the river, today. Very quickly the surroundings changed. A row of river shacks popped up beyond a strange net which seemed to be placed to prevent the trash from floating into town-- but maybe these are for another purpose. We saw some kids playing with bricks by the river. A woman was photographing them. Kids playing by the river seem to always have a photographer near them here.

Siem Reap kids

Kid playing

Rowshan's friends by the river

Siem Reap kids
When they saw Rowshan several ran to him and hugged his legs. I watched to see if any pick-pocketing was going on but they just seemed glad to see him. He had met them the previous day when he was out photographing. They posed and Rowshan took some more photos.

Boy greeting Rowshan

Kids building house

Crossing the street can be a challenge

Vegetable seller at one of the markets

Using a cooler for a boat and flipflop for paddle

Mother and child on cart

Girl and balloon

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