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dimanche 15 juin 2014


I am writing this from Joe to Go Cafe in the centre of the tourist area in Siem Reap, in the relative comfort of an early morning air conditioning, while the outside temperature is already in the unbearable range. April and May are hot months here in Siem Reap and you can expect lots of rain in June and July.
I began coming here, of course attracted by the Angkor Archeological complex which is the largest of its kind in the world. On my first visit here in 2001, Siem Reap was a village, with a central market with one or two upscale hotels and a warm and welcoming place. The Khmer friends I made at that time remain my friends to this day.
Last night walking along the street which now is dubbed PUB street, which is a collection of bars and restaurants catering for the budget minded European traveler, I lamented to myself how the mass tourism has completely ruined this village ( I can think of other places in Asia as well). 
Currently the only tourists you see in Paris or Bruxellles are well heeled Asian tourists, where as the young European can no longer afford to see parts of his own country, but with cheap airfares they can find themselves in the midst of exotica: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, the decade long favourites. They are on file to destroy Myanmar.
I am, looking back, happy to have visited and enjoyed simple interactions with people, before the tourist hordes arrived.
Yesterday, walking towards an South Indian restaurant, I was accosted at least one hundred times with offers of prostitutes, drugs, massages, hotels and restaurants and what not. Obviously there must be a demand for these things, brought on by the tourists , otherwise why should it attract such a large number of Jinateros or Jockeys as we call them in Cuba.
Fish cleaning your feet, with a drink thrown in, mediocre euroepan food in its various forms, with the local food taking a distant second in offerings. Which backpacker would like to eat Fish Amok when he can have a Taco? yes? bring on the hamburgers, spaghetti and pizzas, the european civilzations contribution to the world in recent times.
This morning, long before the sleepy hordes begin invading the streets, I went for my morning walk/run, and when I reached the old French Quartier, the peace and the offerings were of another quality. I made up my mind, If I do come to Siem Reap again, the next time I am going to stay in the French Quartier,preferably in a french owned and run establishment with their traditional arrogance and disdain for English speaking people and distaste for the backpackers who cannot afford their prices.There I will escape the various offers for prostitutes and drugs, tuk tuk drivers wanting to take you somewhere.
 Off the beaten path , in the context of South East Asia, means these days, dont go where the backpackers go!