"Nice nails, miss... but keep that passport behind... please?" She pushes her way to the hole in the customs window, on the Thai-Cambodia border. Standing in line is not the national sport here, but the farang (foreigners) still gain some respect, or contempt... enough to keep your position anyway!
This may be one of the many growing contradictions in today's Cambodia: pink fake nails change the look, not the attitude...
Cambodia is changing, yes, but how? The hundreds of NGO, that have been creating for years now a kingdom of privileges inside the kingdom of poverty and desperation, are finally achieving some evident results. Something eventually ended to the Cambodians too. To some Cambodians, at least. Lexus and Hummers are to be seen in the jam of motorcycles and Tuck-Tuck, and elegant villas are visible behind trees, high walls and tons of barbed wire. Elegant malls are appearing, but small shops still prevail. No big names in the windows, yet.
NGO Land has it's own quarter in the capital city: small "boutique" hotels and trendy cafes respond to the young "volunteers workers" need to feel comfortable -like modern colonialists- but not guilty, patronizing large estabilishments.
The Phnom Penh contradictions are on every corner and every street. You don't need to go in the suburbs or in the countryside (that would make an easy target for critics like myself). The fact is I don't really grasp the sense of the place: sitting on the Mekong riverside, in the French-style bistro, I feel comfortable, like in the old-backpack-smart-times. In the Silver Pagoda walls I see the frescos falling and decaying: how nice for pictures. And then there are shops, boutiques, Chinese stands, food... If it was not for the guy walking on his hands, reminding me that we are in a country where arms and legs are an optional, I would wonder... Where am I? In the heart of Asia's transition? Transition?