To experience life as a recluse, I returned back to my home country of Canada. There were several reasons for it:
Canada Is Safe
I’ve been half way across the world and have seen firsthand how little personal safety means in some parts of the planets. It is a popular thing to say that third world countries are not any more dangerous than most metropolitan areas in North America or Western Europe but this is just the most dangerously misleading statement ever.
I remember vividly when I first returned back to Canada after spending a year in South East Asia. I needed a new passport because I’d traveled so much my old one was out of blank pages, but I also used the trip back to meet with my accountant to file income tax returns and have thorough medical check-up done which after a year in countries with unsafe water and no hygiene standards in food preparation, as well as high prevalence of dangerous diseases, including Malaria, Dengue Fever and AIDS, was long overdue.
Photo: Canadian Wilderness, Beautiful and Raw
While in South East Asia, I had to adapt to omnipresent dangers, inherent xenophobia, corrupt police and criminals ready to kill at the drop of a hat. I learned to live cautiously and remain vigilant at all times to avoid becoming a victim. Just as everybody else, I put up with recurrent verbal abuse without as much as turning my head and stayed put in a hotel room every day after dark. Not that taking the abuse and keeping low profile made much difference, for in many South East Asian countries you don’t have to look for crime – crime will find you.
Needless to say, after spending a year in crime ridden countries, I returned back to Canada with a mindframe which dictated me to always remain aware of my surroundings, put up with continuous abuse and never leave home after dark. But… then I realized that I had never been abused, nevermind victimized in this country, that going grocery shopping at 11pm is normal here and done by many, and that after you’re done midnight shopping, you can safely carry your groceries home through empty back alleys and won’t experience as much as someone making inappropriate sound.
Even in my home city of Edmonton, Alberta – generally considered to be one of the most crime prone cities in Canada – you’ll have young girls strolling home alone late at night after having a few drinks in a bar and it won’t even cross their mind that it could be dangerous in any way. The worst thing that could happen to them is that they would stumble upon someone they’d like to have sex with and end up getting Chlamydia which they then merrily pass on (yep, talking from experience).
Whoever spreads the misinformation that a visit to third world countries is not any more dangerous than life in most first world cities is a delusional liar. I lived in, or visited New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Paris, Berlin, and many other western cities and have never experience anything remotely dangerous to every day existence in SE Asia. While living in London, UK at the end of the 20th century, I stayed in Brixton where I socialized every night by going to clubs and returning from them in the middle of the night every night. I also attended many concerts at the Brixton Academy pacing my way through the borough back and forth on foot.
Brixton, for those who don’t know, is what – to be politically correct – is referred to as a vibrant multi-cultural neighborhood. In other words, it’s considered to be a crime ridden area, a ghetto, however crime ridden in the UK is not the same as crime ridden in Thailand or the Philippines. The nearest I got to crime after 6 months of living in Brixton was being offered ecstasy in a club called Panic. Wicked music in that bar – all really heavy house with guest DJs the world over. Wonder if this club still exists. Since I do not do drugs, I just said I didn’t want anything and that was it.
I’m not trying to say that there is no crime in western cities. Crimes do most certainly occur – sometimes serious crimes – however, one must put things into a perspective before making an assumption. A chance of an encounter with a criminal on a mission in New York exists, but is negligent compared to chances of encountering millions upon millions of people going on about their lives, never engaging in criminal behavior. Most back alleys in New York do not have criminals lurking around at night. I wish I could say the same thing about back alleys in Indonesia or Cambodia.
As someone who’s well aware of dangers, I could not possibly consider any third world country for an extended stay in the wilderness. Being generally safe, my homeland of Canada was a solid bet. I would have liked to do it in other safe countries, such as Iceland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Norway, Japan or Ireland, but because of the 21st century world limitations, these options were either impractical or downright impossible.
Lots of Undisturbed Wilderness in Canada
As far as landmass is concerned, Canada is the second largest country in the world (after Russia) but our population is relatively low – only 34 million people, most of whom live within 200km from the border with the USA on the south of the country (which happens to be the longest land border between two countries in the world). With population density at mere 3.4 people per square kilometer, Canada is one of the least densely populated countries in the world.
To put it into a perspective, the population of the United Kingdom is almost twice that of Canada, but their land area is 41 times smaller than that of Canada, which using unrounded figures adds up to 75 times as many people per square kilometer in the UK than in Canada. And since vast majority of Canadians live near the border with the USA, much of the country remains very sparsely populated.
Photo: Population Distribution on the Map of Canada, Image Source: Statistics Canada
According to the 2001 census by Statistics Canada, 79.4% of Canadians live in urban centres. That means 27 Million Canadians live in the cities which account for less than 3% of total Canada’s landmass, leaving mere 7 Million to occupy the rest of the world’s second largest country.
According to the same census, only 0.3% of Canada’s total population lives in the polar territories (the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut), yet they account for 41% of Canada’s total landmass. In mathematical terms, there is on average one person per 50 square kilometers in these territories. With this type of population density, finding undisturbed wilderness should not be a problem.
To offer a better perspective on 1 person per 50 square kilometers population density, consider this: population of United Kingdom is just over 62 Million. If their population density was the same as that of northern Canada, there would be all together 4,872 people in the UK. If Lebanon had the same population density, the country would only have 200 people (population of Lebanon is currently 4.2 Million).
Canada is simply an ideal place for people seeking remote, undisturbed wilderness. What’s better yet – not only is there nature and solitude aplenty, the vast stretches of Canada’s north are still sure to have places where no human foot stepped before. How is that for an adventure?
Canadian Wilderness is Safe
I have considered wilderness recluse in other countries, but since I wanted this to be a positive experience without compromising my personal safety, much of the world was not an option. None of the countries in the tropical regions, for instance, were an option because their jungles are simply as dangerous as their cities (with dangerous wildlife being the least of your concern).
However even if safety could be ensured, unlike Canada, most tropical countries are heavily overpopulated (while people in the first world countries work hard to multiply their wealth, people in the third world countries just multiply) so finding true solitude is difficult with chances of someone walking across you increasingly high.
Canada is also nowhere near as corrupt as many third world countries so should my recluse get noticed, it wouldn’t result in extortion or worse.
Personal safety is a no issue in countries like Iceland, Switzerland or New Zealand as they are both safe (people don’t casually murder those they randomly stumble across) and not overpopulated, but life in a 21st century world makes extended stays in countries you are not a citizen of challenging (more on this in the next section).
I Don’t Need Visa for Canada
A stay in countries other than your own typically involves several restrictions. The length of your stay is usually limited to a couple of months at the most and so are activities in which you are allowed to engage. Self sustaining life in the wild is a perfect excuse for a corrupt police officer to abuse his power and extort money from you so sticking with facilities for tourists is recommended.
Being a citizen of Canada allows me to stay in my own country indefinitely and roam the Crown Land (that’s what we call public land in Canada) freely at my own leisure. I don’t need to apply for visa to stay in Canada for as long as I need nor to explain to anyone what I want to do while I’m here.
I would love to experience life as a recluse in Iceland, as countries don’t get any safer and friendlier than that, plus Iceland is incredibly beautiful, has some of the world’s cleanest and healthiest water and coastline abundant with fish never too far away, but as a non Icelanders I’d have a lot of explaining to do to get through the loopholes and roadblocks that would green-light me for my recluse and I wanted this to be my private, secret mission I could complete without anyone looking over my shoulder. I had to ditch this idea.
Photo: Iceland Is an Incredibly Beautiful and Safe Country
Life in the 21st century world is full of restrictions and bureaucracy. We don’t live in the hunter/gatherer society with people free to move anywhere they want and able to choose how they make their living. It makes all attempts to live the hunter gatherer style exceedingly challenging and difficult. I had to make work-arounds with these restrictions in mind which made my options few.
Survivalism in Canadian Wilderness Is Only for the Tough
I did take my shot at wilderness survivalism in tropical jungles and enjoyed it profusely. I was restricted by the above mentioned reasons, but chose a relatively safe area in Malaysian Borneo and made a deal with natives who call it their home so my presence was known and accepted, minimizing any potential of attacks.
I stayed with a community that makes their living collecting bird’s nests in a complex of caves in eastern Sarawak. To make long story short, while jungle survival had its challenges, I found the fact that coconut grows in jungles year round and takes less than a month to grow to full harvest a cheat that made survival there too easy.
Photo: Having a Well Deserved Drink With Tribal Iban People with Whom I Stayed in Niah Rainforest in Malaysian Borneo
With nourishment for your body taken care of, you’ll have a lot of energy left for everything else. Compared to that, survival in Canada is far more challenging and that makes it more interesting. Canada goes through all four seasons, including harsh winters during which survival becomes a real challenge and a test of manness. And I’m not a girl.
Since I’ve been loudly and proudly referring to the dim-witted imbecile apologists as “sheep“, many contacted me angrily questioning how I came to conclusion that I wasn’t one. Nothing could be easier to prove, so let me get right down to it.
Sheep are dim-witted imbeciles. More than anything else, they lack the ability to see the forest for the trees. With their noses firmly glued to the ground, it’s no wonder they can’t see the plains that stretch far and wide. All they see are stems of grass that fill up their entire field of view. But somehow they believe that being this limited comes with a license to nag. So nag they do. The more limited their field of view, the louder they nag.
The issue of child sex tourism in Cambodia or an outlook on how cheap Cambodia really is are great examples of how lacking their wits are. If you focus on a raindrop that’s right before your face so much you can’t see the ocean that spreads before your feet, and use your limited wits to argue with everyone that your shiny raindrop is the largest body of water in the universe, then there is no better way to address you than by calling you a dim-witted imbecile. But nagging at anyone who dares to tell you that your raindrop is nothing compared to the ocean, just because the majority are as limited in their field of view as you are, makes you a sheep.
Gypsies in Eastern Europe
Another great way to show how limited minds of the dim-witted sheep are, is by talking about Gypsies from Eastern Europe. I spent substantial amount of time in Eastern Europe and had a fair share of experience with them, as well as with people native to those lands. As with pretty much every place I’ve spent a lot of time in, I found reports on Eastern European Gypsies by other travel bloggers not only misleading, but downright dangerous. If someone were to truly believe what other bloggers are saying and adjust their behavior accordingly, they’d be setting themselves up for a walk down a mine field.
Photo: Screenshot from a YouTube Video Posted by the Romanian Police Who Filmed a One Legged Gypsy Beggar
I don’t make a point at being politically correct – I make a point at being truthful. I’ve never downplayed anything and never offered half truths to avoid being called a racist, so let me do the same here. To put it bluntly – Eastern European Gypsies are incredibly dangerous, deceptive and always looking to take advantage of others. These nomadic people settled in Eastern Europe because it provided them with everything they needed to engage in a lifetime of crime and get away with it. Had it not been so, they would have moved on.
Generations of living at an expense of others made them expert whiners. They especially like whining to the sheep because sheep are many (significant majority) and lack the ability to see the forest for the trees so simple whinery is enough to fool them into believing that they are not criminals but victims. And guess what sheep do – I don’t need to tell you. You already know that by now.
Gypsies and Sheep
Sheep believe that presenting themselves as righteous warriors who fight for the rights of the oppressed somehow makes them god-like so they seek out the opportunities to prove themselves to other sheep. It’s sheepish to conform – individualism is frowned upon and usually results in exclusion which is what sheep fear the most. They forsake the ability to think for themselves and become expert brown-nosers, aka arse-kissers without a face who bleep when others bleep and jump in the well when others jump in the well.
There is only one thing that could possibly come out of a meeting between a dim-witted sheep and a professional manipulator. Sheep swallow every single bit of the fabricated story and spread the corrupted tale of it to the world. As a result, the ridiculous untruth about discrimination of Gypsies in Eastern Europe caught on and wrongfully painted Slavs as racist bigots. The very group of people who were the victims and themselves discriminated against became the target of international criticism all because wits-lacking sheep sided with manipulators. It’s the nature of the sheep to ignore the real issue if it lacks shock value (seen really well in the above described child sex tourism article).
There are many instances when I wish I could slap sense into a sheep, but when they take victims and label them racists, I just want to kick them in the nut-sack so hard they can’t bleep no more.
History of Gypsies in Eastern Europe
Would it surprise anyone to learn that history of the Eastern European (Slavic) nations is a history of peace? Slavs have always been non violent, hard working people who would rather sing folk songs and dance to beautiful music than march to war against another nation. This inherently non violent nature presented them with many challenges as other, more power hungry nations took them for an easy target, but it changed nothing on their desire to live in peace and grant the same to the others.
Anyone who’s ever worked with people from Eastern Europe can attest to how hard working they are. This can also be seen from how advanced and economically powerful countries like Czech Republic and Slovakia were before the 20th century world wars swept through their lands. Not even the UK could measure up to them at the time. And that’s despite thousand years of occupation and attempted elimination by the Magyars (Hungarians) who did everything in their might to erase their languages and identity from the pool of the living and turn them into Magyars.
This is the story of many Slavic nations – often attacked and oppressed for centuries, but never rising up to march against another sovereign nation to conquer it. They took to the arms when others tried to conquer them, enslave them or undermine their values, and through bravery and determination, they prevailed (sometimes with help from friends), but this only happened as a response to the outside aggression.
Then in 1968, Soviet armies moved in and instilled communist philosophies upon them. Private properties were turned public and everyone was guaranteed a house to live in and a job to earn a living with – unless of course they were found unable to work, in which case they would get monthly monetary support from the government. The government would also assist parents by awarding them child benefits for each child up to the age of 18 years old.
This worked reasonably well since Slavs are naturally honest and very hard working so everyone rolled up their sleeves and got down to work to help recover from the devastation caused by two major wars. Everyone except from Gypsies. These nomadic people saw the opportunity to get something for nothing so instead of moving from place to place like they’d done for centuries, they stopped where they were and started exploiting the system for their own benefit.
Since government paid so much money a month for each child a woman had, Gypsies started breeding in out of control numbers to get as much in child benefits as possible. And since government also paid for the disabled who were deemed unable to earn their own living even if job for them was guaranteed, they all started pretending they were mentally insane in order to avoid going to work but still have monthly income coming their way.
They would not entertain an idea of leaving Eastern Europe after it became apparent that they could get unlimited amounts of money if they just kept breeding and pretending they couldn’t work. So breed and pretend they couldn’t work they did and money kept coming. If they needed more dough, they just made more kids and voila – their monthly allowance increased.
As a result, Gypsies who didn’t spend one day working earned more money each month than Slavs who worked hard every day. You’d think these well funded Gypsies’d live in poshy palaces and wear finest clothes, given the money they got for nothing, but exact opposite was true. They took this money most Slavs who worked couldn’t even fathom and wasted it all within days on booze and drugs, leaving nothing for food or clothes for children.
Aside from looking slightly different owing to their ethnic background, Gypsies are also easily distinguishable from the Slavs by the fact that they always wear old and dirty clothes and their kids suffer from malnutrition. It’s not surprising that to the sheep, Gypsies would look poor, oppressed and neglected. Except that sheep never look below the surface because if they did, they’d see that Slavs, who always look clean, healthy and presentable earn less money than Gypsies get for nothing each month.
Most of the time, the real reason why kids of Eastern European Gypsies look so sick and dirty, and why they wear what looks like pre-war clothes with tears and holes on every fold, is because their parents never try to manage money properly and waste it as quickly as they get it. The use of the “Easy come, easy go” phrase has never been more appropriate. If Slavs can make it through the month with less money than Gypsies get and still look well taken care of, then there really is no excuse for Gypsies not to. But then again, unlike Gypsies, Slavs don’t own 20kg worth of golden chains and rings each.
Needless to say, what follows after all the monthly allowance was wasted is stealing. Both parents and their kids go out to look for supplemental income by robbing people who have to work for their money. Stolen money not only gets them through the weeks after their monthly allowance was wasted, it’s also a way to kill time. Since they don’t need to go to work, they have whole long days to look for something to kill boredom with and a little excitement victimizing natives has proven to go a long way. It also, at the same time satisfies their inbred itch to commit crime.
Gypsies are natural born criminals. They’ve stolen, pillaged, raped and murdered as part of their normal development for centuries, polishing the art of theft to perfection. And since Slavs are by nature non violent and hold a very negative stance on crime, they make for perfect victims. Faced with these professional criminals, the law abiding natives stand no chance.
Days of boredom on end allowed the Gypsies to form gangs and organize their attacks for maximum heist. Kids are often used as lures or agent provocateurs while whole mobs wait nearby to struck at the opportune moment. Heavily outnumbered, robbed victims are often beaten, or in the case of girls – raped. Not even children or seniors are spared. There is simply no line Gypsies wouldn’t cross.
Gypsies did not value anything they were given because it cost them absolutely nothing to get it. Government gave them houses for free so Gypsies destroyed them. Government gave them child support for breeding like rabbits so they wasted it all on booze and golden trinkets. And if anyone dared to stand up to them, Gypsies attacked every member of his/her family and threatened further violence should this be repeated.
The police were the once with the least leverage against Gypsies. It would be very rare for a crime to take place which was not committed by a Gypsy, but trying to bring any of the Gypsy perpetrators in resulted in whole gang of them coming together to complain to the international court that the arrest of their criminal friend was an act of racism and discrimination. They portrayed themselves as victims each and every single time making bringing them to justice virtually impossible.
Matters were further complicated by the fact that these huge Gypsy gangs would unleash unspeakable violence upon the family of anyone who would stand in their way. You lock one of them up and end up with five hundred of them setting your house on fire and beating your kids up to the brink of death.
However the biggest joke in all this are the sheep. All the while Gypsies oppress the majority and exploit their good will, they also take each and every opportunity to show off buildings they got new, but destroyed to let the sheep see what conditions they live in, they’d show their sickened, malnutritioned kids whom they haven’t fed because they wasted all their monthly allowance on drugs, but tell the sheep that their kids starve because nobody wants to employ them, and add a number of made up tales about someone attacking them because they were Gypsies and the sheep swallow it whole with cherry on top, get outraged and instantly label Slavs “racist bigots”. Could you believe the dumbness of those sheep?
Slavic nations opened themselves up to these people from afar, gracefully welcomed them among themselves but all they got in return was exploitation, abuse and crime. While the Slavs worked hard to keep the economy going, Gypsies beat little boys, raped little girls and robbed anyone they laid eyes on. 10% of population accounted for 90% of all crime committed but when anyone tried to point it out, they complained to the international court and the victims took the blame.
Gypsies utterly painted Slavs – some of the most peaceful people in the world – racist just to satisfy their ever growing greed and lust for criminal behavior. And how did the sheep respond? Unsurprisingly… by nagging and crying on behalf of those “oppressed Gypsies” whose life must surely be so incredibly hard in Eastern Europe. I mean, can you imagine never needing to spend a day at work and still get more money than any working man? And how about complete freedom to commit countless crimes and always get away with it because if they tried throwing you in jail, you’d scream “Bloody Racists” until the sheep trampled the system till you were freed?
Cause and Effect
It goes without saying that even the most peaceful nation, when pushed to the limit, would eventually stand up and say “enough is enough”. For 20 years of communist rule, Gypsies exploited peaceful, hardworking Eastern Europeans and never as little as said “Thank you”. Instead, they labelled them “racists” and framed them with lies of discrimination all the while their peers robed, raped and murdered the very people whose money they lived off of. Someone was bound to slam their fist on the table and attempt to put a stop to it.
When the police has their hands tied because each time they try to arrest a Gypsy, whole Gypsy community gangs up on them, threatens them with murder and violence against their children, and complains to the international court that they are racially targeted, then perhaps it’s time to look for solution outside of official ways.
The natural response was the spark of the Skinhead movement. Skins didn’t just come to exist because someone thought it was cool. They were a response of a nation to the exploitation by abusive invaders. Unwillingness of Gypsies to live lawful lives and respect others like others respected them forced oppressed individuals into retaliation.
It made sense – I mean, you can only rape someone’s sister, bully his brother and rob his parent’s so many times before he snaps and tells to himself: “That’s enough!”. Gypsies kept raping innocent girls, bullying innocent boys and murdering innocent workers for so long, something was bound to happen. And so the Skinheads came to be.
My Encounters with Gypsies in Eastern Europe
I visited High Tatras in Slovakia with an Australian girl I met in London, England. While we were there, minding our own business, we were abducted by a Gypsy looking to rob someone and draw blood. My companion was like all other sheep at first – she complained about racism towards Gypsies based on reports by fellow sheep, but when knife wielding Gypsy attacked us and threatened to kill us if we didn’t give him our possessions, she was forced to sober up and realize that the opposite was true.
There were people around, but since it was a Gypsy who attacked us, nobody dared to intervene. After decades of exploitation, people feared these criminals who operate in gangs and because they don’t go to school or work, they have whole days to improve on their gangster tactics. We were attacked within the train station in Poprad. There were people inside and we had hoped someone would come to our aid – but no one did. It was clear why.
We got off without being stabbed in just the last moment after the attacker ripped our bags we were trying to hold on to off. It was a terrifying experience and it wasn’t the only one. A few days later, in a public transport bus, a group of Gypsy kids boarded a packed bus and started pulling stuff out of people’s pockets. When confronted, the kids ganged up on the victim, spat on her, kicked her and threatened with violence. They always have bigger, stronger accomplices accompanying them so if anyone dared to not cooperate, they would get beat up.
Things like that kept happening absolutely everywhere and all the time. We saw groups of those Gypsies wandering the streets, always looking for trouble. During the day – when all locals were at work, Gypsies provoked lone, out of place individuals to pick fight with them. While all Slavic people were incredibly welcoming, peaceful and friendly, the feeling of safety was always gone when Gypsies were around.
And then we visited Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Without realizing why, the tensions we used to experience before were suddenly gone and entirely replaced by feelings of complete safety. A few days later we realized that since we came to Bratislava, we have not seen a single Gypsy. We no longer had to always look around us to make sure no Gypsy was after us, or to be aware where they are so we don’t look that way because they could consider it a challenge and respond to it by taking their whole gang that’s been sitting around whole day waiting for something exciting to spark it up and jumping us to see what “our problem” was.
After traveling through places populated with Gypsies, by whom we were threatened, attacked, robbed and several times near killed, a visit to a Gypsy free place was an incredible relief. Turned out that Skinhead movement was so strong in Bratislava, they cleaned their city off Gypsies and no new ones dare to come. The citizens had enough of being pushed around and victimized and stood up for themselves, forcing crime away from their city. The police couldn’t do it, so the citizens took their own safety into their own hands. That allowed us to embrace that notorious Eastern European hospitality and friendliness to the fullest.
After we’d left Bratislava, the danger returned. Never from the ranks of locals. Always from Gypsies. They had whole areas donated to them by the Communist governments in which they built them houses and parks but Gypsies destroyed them all. We passed by several Gypsy communities and could not believe our eyes. Buildings literally ripped to shreds, surrounded with up to a meter of garbage, all windows smashed, doors burnt with burn marks staining the walls, horrible smell everywhere, disease literally crawling all over – it was plain and simple disgusting and they turned it into this mess themselves, after it was donated to them new and free.
We could often see Gypsy areas built next to areas occupied by the Slavs. Same buildings, same size and style, clearly built at the same time, just one occupied by the locals, whilst the other by Gypsies. Buildings in which Slavs lived were clean and well maintained, buildings of Gypsies were ravaged, stripped to bare walls. There was this saying that what was not welded against something unmovable, it would have been stolen by the Gypsies.
Everything the government gave them was ripped into pieces. Showing zero respect for property, Gypsies stole or destroyed anything that could be stolen or destroyed. Then once completely destroyed and looking as if a nuke was dropped on the area, Gypsies would show it to the sheep while forcing fake tears out of their eyes with a claim that that’s how they are forced to live here. The fact that the building was provided to them in brand new condition and that it was them who destroyed it is somehow never mentioned and the sheep don’t ask. They just see a whiny Gypsy living in a disgusting house so it must be the result of discrimination of Gypsies by racist Slavs.
Occupation of Europe
Through criminal behavior and deception, Eastern European Gypsies are often incredibly rich. They promenade themselves in old, smelly, dirty clothes when sheep are around, but we got a chance to see a Gypsy wedding and I couldn’t believe how rich they really are. I was surprised they were able to walk with all these golden chains all over them. Must be a tough life for a Gypsy in Eastern Europe when all they own is $10 Million worth of gold jewelry each.
Another close look behind the veil of poor, discriminated faces of Eastern European Gypsies revealed an even more shocking surprise. Despite the fact that they never spent a day working for their money, many lived in incredibly poshy multi million dollar homes. Shortly after Velvet Revolution (end of Communism in Eastern Europe), they found out that Denmark and other Scandinavian countries had welcoming asylum policies and provided people who take advantage of it with more freebies than even communist governments did in Eastern Europe, so they rearranged their gang structures and spread the activities to other parts of Europe.
In order to be granted an asylum, they presented authorities with fabricated stories of discrimination in Eastern Europe and it worked. Foreign governments provided them with new accommodation, more money for nothing and daily rations so they could enjoy work free lives and focus on exploiting people beyond borders of Eastern Europe.
And so Gypsy gangs with international ties were formed and exploitation on much broader scale began. Seeing that deceiving people with begging tricks worked well, Gypsies from Eastern Europe whose numbers grew through out of control breeding (remember that they got so much money per child – the more children, the more free money) spread into every corner of the old continent pretending they were poor, sick, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged to get money from sympathetic citizen.
One Legged Gypsy Beggar
The video below was filmed by the Romanian police after they’d arrested a one legged Gypsy beggar. It’s Gypsies like this one legged beggar that cause sheep to cry “bloody racists” at Slavic people. Sheep simply can’t see past the tip of their noses so their response is to turn victims into bigots.
I call this beggar a “lying piece of shit” because that’s what he is but apparently, according to the sheep, calling a liar and liar is being a racist bigot myself, so that’s what they call me too. A liar Gypsy uses his race as tool of deception and sheep would jump down the throat of anyone who calls him out.
Good thing is – I know darn well how dim witted sheep are so being called a racist bigot by the lot of them is actually a flattery and a proof that I’m doing the right thing:
The devastation unleashed by this massive earthquake was only a beginning. The tsunami tidal wave that followed was easily the most ferocious in our lifetime. There is a lot of water in the Earth’s oceans and a good chunk of it has swept across the Pacific coast of Japan, destroying everything in its path. There is no way the force of such scale could have been contained.
The tsunami water made it as far as 10km in land in some parts of Japan. Yet as if that weren’t enough, the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami was not the end of it. The earthquake disabled the mechanisms powering the cooling tower of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and subsequent tsunami then knocked out the backup power generators, removing the possibility to cool down the reactor, resulting in overheating and explosions which could lead to the leakage of radioactive materials (how much has been leaked has not been confirmed at the time of this post).
So within a span of a couple of days, Japan suffered from the fifth most powerful earthquake since the recordkeeping started, quite possibly the largest tsunami experienced on this planet in centuries and a realistic possibility of a nuclear catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of people live in make-shift shelters, tens of thousands are unaccounted for, parts of towns have been entirely wiped out, transportation options are either limited or completely paralyzed, there is a shortage of food and a shortage of food in some areas yet there still have been no reports of any looting going on in Japan.
Natural Disasters and Looting
There are several interesting points to consider here:
Almost all natural disasters that happened in recent history were followed by out of control looting. Whether we look at Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 tsunami in IndoChina, or recent earthquakes in Haiti or Chile – the looting seemed to have been a natural part of the aftermath.
No mainstream media reports on the fact that there has been no looting in Japan despite it suffering from one of the largest scale natural disasters in modern history.
If you do a search on looting after natural disasters, you’ll find countless experts talking about and justifying the “psychology of looting”. I can’t help but ask – why do these experts ignore the fact that Japan is not experiencing any looting and how would they explain the inconsistencies in their theories?
Since I’m the first to bring this up, I’ll be also the one who’s gonna say it like it is. I take a lot of heat from internet tough guys for not holding back and speaking the truth even if it’s not entirely politically correct. But rather than toning it down for fear of offending someone – which as a travel writer I seem to be the only one to NOT do – let me get right down to it and say that there is no excuse for looting.
Japan vs Other Countries
Internet tough guys like to excuse inexcusable behavior of uncivilized people using the “necessity argument”. When a Cambodian thief robbed me, I called him a thief, but got bashed for talking badly about a person whose struggle to survive forced him to do it. Forced him to do it my arse. When someone is a rapist, perhaps it’s time to call them a rapist and when someone is a murderer, perhaps it’s time to call them a murderer. Instead of looking for the ways to excuse their unlawful behavior (and encouraging it from re-occurring), it’s time to call a spade and spade even if it may sound seemingly bigoted or racist.
Lack of looting in Japan is a proof of that. If you listen to what the prime minister of Japan tells his fellow Japanese, you will notice that he talks about rebuilding a new Japan. He asks his fellow Japanese to support him in this huge task and doesn’t hide the fact that it will require a lot of hard work, but it won’t be the first time when a Japan will have to rebuild itself from the ashes.
This rhetoric is entirely different from that coming from places like Indonesia, Thailand or Haiti after they’d suffered from similar, even though smaller scale natural disasters. Instead of appealing to their citizens to roll up their sleeves and get to work to rebuild their countries, people of those nations focused on whining about how poor they are and made their recovery a responsibility of others. Utilizing the “oh, we’re so poor” excuse, they sat with their feet up on the items they stole during looting, waiting for the people from the west to send money and workforce to rebuild their country.
While it goes without saying that Japan will receive assistance rebuilding, the Japanese will not sit with their feet up whining about being poor and needing others to fix their country up. They will be in the front line, they will be the first ones and the most hard working to see their country back up and running. Japan was the only country that had cities wiped out with the nuclear weapons. There were parts of it that were literally levelled after the World War II. Yet if you look where it got within a few decades from this total destruction, you’ll see that if you swap whining with hard work, anything can be achieved.
After the WWII, Japan was in a far more desperate state than many other countries. Yet they bounced back and turned into an economic powerhouse. If Japan could do it, then countries that had never been brought this low should find it even easier to recover. Taking that into an account – if Cambodia is still poor 30 years after the rule of Khmer Rouge, then there is nobody else to blame but Cambodians themselves. They can continue blaming Khmer Rouge for additional 30 years and then additional 30 years and so on and on and on and they will still be poor. Because complaining about the past long gone will not fix the problem.
The fix to the problem is in the willingness to roll up the sleeves and get to work. As is seen from Japan’s example (as well as an example of many European countries), hard work can turn a country from being completely depleted into being economically strong. On the other hand, there is yet to be one example of a country becoming economically strong after decades of waiting around and complaining about being poor. It only proves that you cannot help someone who cannot help themselves. No matter how much international aid is sent to Cambodia, it’ll end up being nothing but wasted resources. Supporting this culture of handouts is anti humanitarian and should be avoided. If you do want to donate, then support Japan where your graceful donation will not go to waste or to support the laziness.
Yes, it may sound bigoted, but we can either beat around the bush and look for excuses to justify their laziness, or we can say it like it is, and address the real issue. The Japanese people are not freeloaders. They are hard workers and through this approach they were able to resurrect their country from the ashes after WWII devastation. People with this type of respect for themselves and their homeland will not stoop to the level of a looter. If people of Cambodia, Indonesia, Haiti or other similar freeloading countries turned their whining into hard work, they would have as strong economies as Japan has. And this is the fact, as it is the way to explain why there has been no looting in the wake of the earthquake in Japan.
Preah Khan is a large temple. After visiting Pre Rup, East Mebon, Ta Som and Neak Pean temple ruins, I was a bit spoiled because each of them was relatively small (not that small, but compared to most temples along the Petit Circuit, these were smaller) and didn’t take all that much time to explore. Coming to a temple that counted as one of the largest I have visited anywhere in Angkor yet, I had to mobilize much of my strength to still pull it off after 4 stops full of thorough explorations in this heat. It was already mid afternoon so the temperature were soaring, but the realization that I’m doing pretty good keeping up with schedule, and this is the last big task of the day, I was very eager to get right down to it.
Preah Khan was built during reign of Khmer king Jayavarman VII as a Buddhist monastery which also housed a centre of Buddhist studies. Finalized in 1191, Jayavarman VII dedicated the temple which was built on the site of his victory over the invading Chams to his father Dharanindra. Temple’s central sanctuary originally housed the statue of Lokesvara, the savior god of Mahayana Buddhism which was carved in the image of the king’s father. Unfortunately, this image, as well as all other images representing Buddhism were vandalized during the reign of king destroyer Jayavarman VIII who initiated the reform of Angkor’s religion in favor of Hinduism.
Photo: Garudas Along Outer Wall Were Crowned with Buddha Images But These Were Vandalized During Jayavarman VIII
Being similar in layout and style to Ta Prohm (which Jayavarman VII dedicated to his mother), Preah Khan bears further similarities to the former in the many trees which grow among and over the ruins. I found Preah Khan to be the second most jungle overgrown in a huge-trees-intertwined-with-ancient-rock way temple – after Ta Prohm. That just about made it the second most photogenic temple as spots with those monster roots running down the crumbling walls like spilled honey were the most visually appealing feature of Angkor Archaeological Park that drew me to Cambodia in the first place.
Preah Khan, whose name means ‘sacred sword’ (derived from its original name of Nagara Jayasri – meaning holy city of victory) was built on an area covering 56 hectares (138 acres). Including the moat (now dry) which surrounds the outer enclosure, Preah Khan measures 800 x 700 meters. The Jayatataka Baray (huge artificial, rectangular shaped pond) which had the unusually round Neak Pean temple in its middle, was right to the east of Preah Khan. The temple is oriented to the east (as are all Buddhist temples) with eastern wall bearing the main gopura (entrance gate). Each of the exterior walls (each cardinal point) has its own gopura and each has its own causeway over the moat lined on both sides with (now headless) asuras and devatas carrying a body of a naga serpent – similar to what can be found at each entrance to Angkor Thom (best seen at the South Gate).
Photo: Headless Asuras Carrying a Body of a Naga Serpent Stand Defaced by Looting Cambodians
Preah Khan’s central sanctuary (now housing a Buddhist Stupa) is surrounded with four rectangular enclosures. Coming from the east (that’s where you will most likely come from), when you reach the second wall (third enclosure), you will have come to its, rather large gopura which has two huge silk trees growing over its southern side. One of the trees was leaning too much and threatened to take the entire structure down and had to be cut down. Its roots, which hold the coridor together, were however left in place (along with the other tree) and offer a fantastic opportunity for photography. Except that if you come in the afternoon, like I did, you will have the sun creating strong backlight, pretty much ruining what could have been an otherwise awesome picture. You can also take a picture from the opposite side of the wall and have a sun nicely illuminate it, but it doesn’t look nowhere as impressive from there.
Needless to say, the corridor over which the two giant trees grow is crumbled up and very unstable, presenting a very realistic danger of crushing down hence there are signs warning the visitors not to enter that spot. I had to be the one with the death wish and climbed over rubble to get in there for a picture from within the roots and even though nothing happened to me, I must strongly discourage anyone considering doing the same. If you decide to copy my reckless behavior and the weight of the trees delivers the wall its final blow, there will be no saving you. I could think of better ways to die than by being crushed by giant stones. Don’t do it!
Photo: Huge Silk Tree Growing Over the Enclosing Wall of Preah Khan, Angkor
Further into the temple you would find another photogenic spot with what was once a huge tree growing over an ancient wall however the wall below that tree already did crumble down and only parts of it still stand supported by the roots and a wooden frame made by the restorers. The tree was too big and threatened further damage to the structure which sealed its demise. Only a stump is left of this once monster, however the stump is atop a big set of roots still encompassing much of the former wall in a composition that is sure to leave the viewer in awe.
Unfortunately, I only got a chance to go across the temple all the way to its western gopura (via the south which is flanked on both sides with cool stone guardians) and back before I started feeling uneasy about leaving my bike out of my sight while only locked against itself and went to repark it only to catch a group of greedy Cambodians attempting to steal it. This unpleasant experience had me abandon further exploration of Preah Khan and even though rather shaken, I moved on to the last few ruins on the Grand Circle.
Photo: Part of This Tree Had to Be Removed to Prevent Further Damage to the Structure, Roots Left to Support It
There is an exceptionally unique two storey high, stand alone building just north of the Hall of Dancers which is on the west side of the third gopura (second wall from the east to cross, aka the one with two trees growing over it). This unique building features round columns – something that’s not found anywhere else in Angkor. Because of the bicycle stealing episode, I did not go back to Preah Khan and as such, didn’t get a chance to take a picture of this unique building (and a bunch of others).
Overall, I did enjoy my time exploring Preah Khan – too bad a bunch of self righteous locals had to totally ruin the experience for me. Its location on the Grand Circuit makes Preah Khan a less attractive target which results in incomparably fewer visitors crossing its gates. If you’re an enthusiast, I’d say the temple is definitely worth the time and would reward the you with great photo opportunities. If you can time your visit for the morning, you’d also get good light for more captivating shots which would make the whole experience so much better.
By the time I got to explore Angkor temples on the Grand Circuit, I have been in Cambodia for one and a half weeks. I adopted to the local way of thinking quickly and took all the precautions to minimize chances of being a subject of crime. The local way of thinking – as it exists in Cambodia – revolves around personal enrichment that involves anything other than working for money. Theft, robberies, assaults and various forms of violent crime (including murder and rape) are a daily happening.
Photo: East Face of Preah Khan Where Fake Orphanage Kids Attempted to Steal My Bike
As an observant person, I kept my eyes wide open while I was making my way around the country I have temporarily become a part of. The number of people I securely observed checking my pockets and bags to estimate whether they bore content worth a move was frightening. Frustration I observed in their eyes as I let them know that I am aware of what they are thinking and will be keeping a keen eye on their every move so they can’t make me a victim was noteworthy. I did stand my ground firmly and faced the dangers even though it continuously jeopardize my personal safety.
I did good though. By the time I reached Preah Khan temple, almost two weeks into my stay in Cambodia, I still have not had anything stolen from me. Few people who visited Cambodia can say that. With majority of the local population being constantly, round the clock on the lookout for a foreigner who would drop their guard for a second, it’s always a mere question of time before one succeeds with their pull. And after years of doing nothing but perfecting their art of crime, they’ve become masters of theft capable of getting almost anything from anyone. It’s unfortunate, but no matter how careful and vigilant you are, you cannot be 100% alert 100% of the time. There is bound to be a moment during your visit to Cambodia when you have had a long day and as you blink your eye to sooth your mind, your possessions will be gone. There will always be a local in your vicinity checking out whether an opportune moment to rob you has come. And when it comes – which is something that comes upon each and every one of us – you can bet your Scooby Doo Panties that Cambodians will be there to take advantage of you.
Cambodians are well aware of the above mentioned fact and rely on it for their daily thieving missions to be successful. They are ridiculously skilled in thievery and often work in teams to keep you distracted while the one with the most skilled fingers makes the pull. They are so skilled as thieves, many foreigners who were deprived of their possessions would actually believe that they must have forgotten their wallet, camera, laptop, or whatever the thieves attempted to steal in the restaurant where they dined earlier.
It only gets better in the fact that the restaurant staff, the police and virtually everyone else you encounter as a tourist in Cambodia would also never pass on an opportunity to steal from a foreigner so even if they don’t happen to be around skilled thieves themselves, locals you are around will be well connected with groups who are skilled thieves and will tip them off. You visit a restaurant and the server notices that you are a potentially easy target because you left your camera on the table while you were reading the menu, thus neither holding the camera securely in your hand nor keeping your eyes firmly locked on it, or they would notice that you keep your wallet loosely in your pocket and don’t have it on a chain fastened against yourself, or would simply notice that you carry on yourself something that seems of good value (laptop, jewelry, SLR camera, etc.) and you are a marked man. Cambodia is both a breeding ground for thieves as well as a well connected network of commission seekers. Nobody does anything in Cambodia unless there is a kick back in it for them. And since they are also inherently lazy and always looking for personal enrichment that doesn’t require working for money, vast majority of your day to day encounters will be with locals who will either try to steal from you themselves or will set somebody who is better at it than themselves on you.
Taking all that into an account, there are hardly few people who visited Cambodia and lasted for a week and a half without having something stolen off them by the locals. Being a rare one of the few, I knew that my “luck” if you can call it so was not because thieves never stumbled across me – that is impossible in Cambodia where there are more thieves per cubic meter than there are mosquitoes. It was only and solely because I always made sure that stealing from me would be impossible. I always made everyone visually checking my pockets know that I am aware that they are checking my pockets. I always made it clear that my camera or bag never leaves my grip and are always zipped up and across my shoulders. When I sat in a restaurant to do some work on the laptop, I got the laptop chained against an unmovable bar and laptop bag locked against the chain. When someone came within an arm’s reach of me, I increased my mental alertness to 100% and watched every move of the person closely while at the same time periodically checking my surroundings to make sure nobody else is getting close enough from behind to take advantage of me while the other fellow/lady is keeping me preoccupied.
The reason why virtually everybody who comes to Cambodia ends up having had something of their stolen, is that they do not do it the way I did. It has absolutely nothing to do with being paranoid and everything to do with reading people who surround you well and not fooling yourself they are nice when they are not. Being extra cautious when your environment warrants it is smart, not paranoid. But that’s why I lasted for a whole week and a half without having anything stolen, unlike vast majority of other people who visit Cambodia.
It was only thanks to that utmost vigilance that those suspicious individuals who kept checking my pockets and trying to take a peek inside my bag, started to back off instead of crawling nearer and took their stare away instead of systematically continuing to assess the contents of my pockets. And after whole week and a half, I still had everything that was rightfully mine under my control. And then I came to Preah Khan.
At the Preah Khan Temple
When I was at Angkor, I only carried my camera with me and always made sure I could physically feel it. The only other possessions I had with me while exploring Angkor temples were the cell phone in my pocket and my mountain bike. Cheap and beat up as it was, the bike was still mine and I wanted to keep it for future use as my transportation means to avoid having to deal with the aggressive tuk tuk drivers. However in order to ensure that Angkor touts can successfully bother foreigners out of their money, it is not possible for the visitors to Angkor to take bicycles inside the temples. You will see the locals entering temples with both bicycles and motorcycles, but if they allowed for tourists to do that, it would be much more difficult to for touts to pester them, hence ban.
As a result, if you come to a temple on a bicycle, you have to leave it outside of the entrance gate. This is usually not much of an issue on the Petit Circuit, as there is always a busy flow of tourists coming in and out at all times and some have small structural fences around parking areas you can use as unmovable bike racks. However it’s a whole different story in temples that are less popular. Cambodians are always on the lookout for something to steal from tourists. They won’t hesitate stealing if they have to pull it out of your pocket so when you make it easy on them and leave your possession in a stealable form don’t keep a keen eye on it, you will have created an opportunity for which they would hate themselves if they passed up on. It’s a way of personal enrichment without work, which fits their profile to the dot.
Fake Orphanage Kids
When I came to Preah Khan, I did just that. It was incredibly hot and all I could see in the vicinity were trees too big to wrap my chain around. So I merely leaned my bike against one of them and locked the wheel against the frame. This would make it impossible to ride the bike, but if someone were to come with a truck, they could easily load the bike up and ride off. Then once safely in their home, they would deploy whatever tools they had (or borrowed) to remove the chain and voila – they would have just become the new owners of a mountain bike.
I sort of suspected that something like this could happen, but fooled myself for a second that since Preah Khan is on the Grand Circuit and it doesn’t see that many visitors, local traffic in and out of it is not as heavy either so perhaps no truck would come while I’m inside. To further secure my position and have the locals who saw me leave the bike there be on my side and watch it for me, I responded to a swarm of kids who jumped me as soon as I was done locking my bike and insisted that I donate to their orphanage cause they are oh so poor orphans and will starve to death unless I give them money.
Cambodians, in their divine greediness will not hesitate to pull off lies that will stop your brain just to get money off of gullible tourists. They play with visitor’s feelings and try various things until a certain something proves to work. In less visited temples, such as those along the Grand Circuit, they really have to get creative in order to succeed because these temple simply don’t receive traffic comparable to the traffic popular temples along the Small Tour get. So they set up booths, print out a sign and pose as people from an orphanage to make their efforts more fruitful. Knowing darn well that they are fake orphans only using the sob story because it works better in getting money off tourists, I was reluctant to contribute. However since there was nowhere to securely lock my bicycle, I thought that if I gave them money, they would feel grateful and would in return ensure that if someone did try to steal my bike, they would prevent them from doing it. What foolish thinking on my behalf!
Exploring Preah Khan While Bicycle Easily Movable
Feeling slightly better about leaving my bike out of my sight while not properly secured, I walked into the Preah Khan temple and started exploring. The temple looked pretty good – overgrown with jungle intertwined with collapsing walls kind of like Ta Prohm, it offered many great opportunities for photography. It was early afternoon, though, so face of the temple and all of its important elements which were built to face the east had sun behind them, creating a mighty strong backlight which spoilt most of the pictures, but the impressive size of the trees growing over the structure left me in awe never the less.
Still, while I was exploring Preah Khan and taking pictures, I started feeling uneasy about my bike being out of sight and not fastened to anything unmovable. It was extremely hot so any extra steps to take would lead to extra wastage of energy of which you never have enough in this sun, but I decided to backtrack anyway, take my bike down to the paved road and look for a thin enough tree there to lock the bike against. Granted, a dedicated thief could saw the tree down to gain possession of the bike, but the likelihood of one armed with a saw walking around just after I locked my bike there seemed minimal. Plus the effort needed to mow the tree down would take some time which could serve as a deterrent because if it takes an extra time, then chances of the bike’s owner returning to get it increase dramatically. Plus it takes quite a bit of work to take a tree down and Cambodians don’t like to work hard. Locking the bike against a tree simply seemed like the only way to get a more realistic peace of mind, even if it meant extra walking in this unbearable heat. So I interrupted the exploration of Preah Khan to move my bike somewhere where I could lock it against a tree.
Thieving Fake Orphanage Kids
As I come out of the temple unexpectedly early, I see the group of kids and their supervising adults to whom I previously donated money all packed up, leaving with their table used for donations and my bicycle lifted up on their shoulders because they couldn’t roll it due to a locked up wheel and dashing off. The group, after I donated money to them even though they were no orphans, saw the bike was stealable and as I got out of sight, they quickly started packing to be gone the hell out of there along with my stealable bicycle by the time I was done exploring the temple. Somehow early on, I had my guardian angel watching over me and the feeling of uneasiness because I left my bike out of my sight while improperly secured continued to grow until it reached the level of being unbearable so despite the heat, I invested extra energy to return and have my bike reparked somewhere where I could lock it up securely.
I just spotted the thieving kids in the last moment, let out the deadliest shout I could summon and charged full speed towards the group. Scared by my yell of doom, the thieves dropped my biked and took off for their lives. Happy to know that in this, furthest from home point on the Grand Circuit I am still left with my transportation so I’m not at the mercy of greedy tuk tuk drivers who would only see it as an opportunity in itself and would take advantage of me for being out of options, I did not return back to Preah Khan and abandoned this temple never to return. Quite shaken and distressed, I rode on to my next destination. Not only was I shocked to have just nearly had my bike stolen, I was also disgusted by the fact that it was done by the kids to whom I previously donated money. Greed of Cambodians knows no limits whatsoever. You can simply never trust one as giving them a finger merely translates into an opportunity to snatch an entire hand.
The First Mistake
I guess all you can do is give them the finger the right way – by giving them the right one and nicely upright. For one and a half weeks I was able to keep relentless Cambodian thieves at bay only to make my first mistake by fooling myself into believing that by giving Cambodians money, they would respect me and in turn watch out for my property while I am exploring the temple. It was a ridiculously foolish thing of me to think and a valuable lesson to learn. Cambodians are not only greedy beyond words, they are also a bunch of backstabbers without a back bone of their own. There is no low to which a Cambodian would not stoop. And to no surprise of mine, I had it later confirmed by my friends from the Sras Srang village that none of these kids were orphans, none of the adults who were with them were orphanage owners and there was no such orphanage under any such name anywhere in the Angkor Archeological Park.
A trip to the Preah Khan Temple is one of those I will never forget. This is where I had fake orphanage kids attempt to steal my bicycle and had it not been for an intervention by the divine providence, … Continue reading →
This was my second day at Angkor Archaeological Park, but I have already noticed several people with disposable cameras. I could not help but wonder what in the mighty heavens they were thinking – flying all the way to Cambodia to see Angkor temples and bringing only a measly disposable camera with them? It made no sense. But then while I was at Ta Prohm, I was approached by a couple of girls who asked me if I would take a picture of them in front of that picturesque spot with blind door where massive tree roots grow over the structure and a brief conversation with them made it all clear. They handed me a disposable camera so I got an opportunity to strike a conversation and ask why they would come all the way to Angkor without bringing some kind of decent device to capture their memories on.
Photo: Spot at Ta Prohm Where Danish Girls Asked Me to Take a Picture of Them with a Disposable Camera
Given that at this time I have already been in Cambodia for a little over a week, I should really have known without asking. I already had a thief attempt to steal my bicycle but I had my guardian angel on duty that night so he only got away with stolen keys from the bicycle chain lock. I had to carry the bike on my shoulder to the shop to have the lock cut and get a new one, but at least I still had the bike. Theft problem is very prominent in Cambodia (as are other forms of crime) so the real reason why I saw so many people with disposable cameras at Angkor should have really been clear to me straight of the bat but for some reason I needed a heads up from those girls as a slap on the forehead. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Where are you guys from? Girls: Denmark. Me: Beautiful country, continuously ranking as #1 country with the highest standard of living in the world. But why would you come all the way to Angkor, from Denmark and bring nothing but a disposable camera with you? Girls: We had nice cameras, but they were stolen along with our money and passports in Phnom Penh.
Oops! How could I have possibly not figured that out without asking? While Cambodia is not the only country in the world with theft problem, the number of Cambodian thieves on the loose looking for a foreigner who’s had a long day and is too tired to stay fully alert is staggering. After the experience with the Danish girls, each time I saw a person or a group of people with a disposable camera at Angkor, I didn’t go to ask why, I went straight to have the suspicion of theft confirmed.
Photo: Danish Girls Took This Picture of Me After I Took One of Them with Their Disposable Camera
Since I spent virtually every day of the rest of my stay in Cambodia at the Banteay Kdei temple and the Sras Srang moat, I had a chance to meet and speak with hundreds of Angkor visiting foreigners every day. The numbers of those who were victims of theft were alarming. You could see the sadness and horror in their eyes. You could see they only came to Angkor because they already had the ticket, but they could not wait to get the hell out of Cambodia before something more serious happens.
The stories of how it all went down varied, but the outcome was the same. Devastated individuals, couples and families who will definitely never consider coming to Cambodia again and I don’t blame them. Out of hundreds of people who had their cameras and other effects stolen, there was only one couple who didn’t think they were victims of theft. They told me they’d forgotten their camera on the table of the restaurant where they had eaten that day.
The couple realized they were missing the camera shortly after leaving the restaurant. Being new to Cambodia, they didn’t suspect any foul play and simply thought they must have left it on the table. They returned to the restaurant hastily, but the camera was not there. I asked them if they glanced over the table the way people do before leaving the restaurant and they both said they did but thought that the camera just didn’t stand out among the plates and silverware scattered across so they missed the sight of it and left without picking it up.
What really happened to them is hard to know for sure at this point. The only person who would know for sure is the one who took it. While dining, the couple was approached and bothered by several pestering touts who approached them in an attempt to sell them postcards, bracelets and other stuff Cambodian touts sell. Whether somebody saw a camera on the table and stole it while they were still there, or whether it was taken by someone after they’d left leaving the camera on the table is truly irrelevant, though. Honesty and will to help another are not traits commonly found among Cambodians. Greed and malice, on the other hand are omnipresent.
Well here is a question – Is Cambodia Barrier Free? Cambodia, the country of world’s worst drivers and some of the world’s most severe personal safety issues – is it barrier free? This is without doubt a legitimate question as many travellers who like to visit foreign countries either suffer from disabilities themselves, or have someone with them who is disabled. So is Cambodia barrier free enough for them to safely move around? The short answer is simple – “No”. But let me elaborate with the long answer a little.
Photo: Cambodia - Not Barrier Free
When talking about barrier free countries, one could divide them into several groups:
Barrier Free Countries – many western countries, such as my homeland of Canada strive excessively to be completely barrier free and most people with disabilities truly can make their way around without major issues
Tricky Countries – moving around if you are a person with disabilities can be tricky, but can be done with some planning or little assistance
Not Barrier Free Countries – some countries, such as Cuba have narrow, cobblestone streets that are tricky to navigate through, however locals are more than happy to help without being asked for it. When they see someone in need of assistance, they will be right there to assist
Barrier Full Countries – those would be the countries that are very difficult, or impossible to effortlessly enjoy by the people with disabilities
Forget It Countries – barriers exist in all walks of life making an enjoyable stay for people with disabilities an impossibility
Cambodia – you take the most advanced barriers that prevent people with disabilities to navigate through, combine them into an impenetrable maze, enhance the level of difficulty by infinity and then add some extra barriers on top of it and you get Cambodia. If you find yourself in need of assistance, instead of being helped, you will be laughed at and mocked straight in your face. Cambodians don’t help others, only themselves. If there is something in it for them, then you will suddenly have more than enough of them willing to assist. Unconditional help doesn’t exist
Cambodia is not, by any stretch of imagination a barrier free country. People with disabilities will find it impossible to exist in Cambodia however Cambodia is also full of barriers and danger even for fully able bodied people. You do not have to be disabled to find it impossible to move around or otherwise exist in Cambodia. To add insult to injury, though – if you come to Cambodia as a fully able bodied, healthy and fit person, Cambodia will put you through some unfathomable dangers so if you leave the country in the same condition you have entered in, you can congratulate yourself for achieving the unimaginable.
In other words, Cambodia is not barrier free for people with disabilities, yet it’s not barrier free for people without either. And if you come to the country without any disabilities, you got to be extremely alert and careful at all times or else you could soon earn yourself some.
Road traffic is so dangerous in Cambodia, that no matter what means of transportation you choose to use during your stay, you will be constantly in danger of getting involved in a deadly accident. However the smaller the vehicle, the bigger a danger. Riding a motorcycle or a bicycle are particularly dangerous activities and one has to be more than careful and have their eyes affixed on the road with peripheral vision checking out the situation in all angles at all times. Yet the biggest danger faces you each time set out for a walk.
Photo: Motorcycles Blocking the Sidewalk in Siem Reap
Cambodians are extremely rude and self important people who need to repeatedly boost their egos (some say it’s the genitals they need to compensate for, but you will find both males and females behaving that way). You will be shown no respect from other traffic participants and if you’re a foreigner, the respect will be that much lower. Because sidewalks are unavailable for use by pedestrians because they serve as parking spots for cars, motorcycles and tuk-tuks, each time you go for a walk, you will be forced to walk on the road directly in the way of disrespectful drivers. Even though Cambodians should drive on the right, you will have traffic coming at you from both sides. It will be topped up by people pushing food carts around forcing you to go to the middle of the road to get by them and that’s where it starts getting super dangerous.
Yet the gravest danger lurks out from the side, where you would least expect it. Cars and bikes parked on the sidewalks – on those sidewalks you cannot use because they are parked there – will reverse into the traffic without any regard for pedestrians who are forced to walk on the road. They will back right into you unless you jump off their way and that’s where any form of being “barrier free” ends. You will have to be extremely vigilant and alert at all times to avoid getting disabled by a rude driver entering the road from a sidewalk and this will happen to you a hundred times a day.
The fact that you will be pressured, stared down and laughed at each time you get blocked off so you have nowhere to go makes safe decision making extremely challenging. Verbal abuse will be evident and you will know you are a subject to mockery but you will have no option but to take it right where they serve it to you. Many Cambodians carry guns and they are fully aware of the fact that law is not enforced in their country (none exists to begin with). There is nothing preventing them from blowing your brains off if you stand up for yourself. They are used to killing and raping so just take the humiliation and abuse and keep your eyes wide open because another out of control motorcycle is riding down the wrong side of the street and there’s no way he’s stirring away from a pedestrian.
Below is the video that briefly shows how “barrier free” Cambodia is. It’s one of those countless cases where I was walking down the street and because of piled up motorcycles, tuk tuks and cars I had to get on the road facing bikers swishing by me from both sides. Soon after I had a car that was parked on the sidewalk start reversing onto the road, completely disregarding the fact that a pedestrian was coming and had I not responded swiftly by slowing down when I noticed the reverse lights come on, I would have been struck by it. This is by no means an isolated incident. This happens all the time and then some. Motorcyclists don’t even seem to shoulder check at all. They are particularly happy to hit you with their two wheelers.
When speaking about whether Cambodia is a dangerous country or not, one should not miss out on valuable pointers provided by the travel advisory of each of the western governments. If you read through the Cambodia Travel Advisories, you will find repeated statements warning you about Cambodia, off the hook muggings and violent crime, including rape and murder against foreigners, but somehow this message gets lost in the translation. The following are extracts from the travel advisories posted on government websites of a few (English speaking) western countries:
Cambodia Travel Advisory by the Government of Canada
Violence in Phnom Penh and other cities occurs occasionally.
Street crime, targeting foreigners, has been occurring with increasing frequency in urban areas, including Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, even during daylight hours. There are reports of armed assaults along the riverfront in Phnom Penh and on isolated beaches in Sihanoukville. Canadians have been injured in the course of assaults and armed robberies. Thieves, sometimes on motorcycles, grab bags and other valuables from pedestrians, motorcycle drivers and their passengers. Banditry continues, largely at night, in rural areas and on routes between Snoul, Kratie and Stung Treng in the northeastern provinces. Sexual assaults have been reported. There have been reports that foreigners have encountered difficulties with ill-disciplined police or military personnel. Canadians are advised to exercise a high degree of caution at all times, avoid travelling alone, especially at night, and ensure personal belongings, passports, and other travel documents are secure at all times.
Cambodia Travel Advisory by the Government of the USA
Cambodia has a high crime rate, including street crime. Military weapons and explosives are readily available to criminals despite authorities’ efforts to collect and destroy such weapons. Armed robberies occur frequently in Phnom Penh. Foreign residents and visitors are among the victims. Victims of armed robberies are reminded not to resist their attackers and to surrender their valuables, since any perceived resistance may be met with physical violence, including lethal force.
Local police rarely investigate reports of crime against tourists, and travelers should not expect to recover stolen items.
The U.S. Embassy advises its personnel who travel to the provinces to exercise extreme caution outside the provincial towns at all times. Many rural parts of the country remain without effective policing. Individuals should avoid walking alone after dusk anywhere in Sihanoukville, especially along the waterfront. Some of the beaches are secluded, and the Embassy has received reports that women have been attacked along the Sihanoukville waterfront during the evening hours. Take security precautions when visiting the Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) area. Travelers should be particularly vigilant during annual festivals and at tourist sites in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville, where there have been marked increases in motorcycle “snatch and grab” thefts of bags and purses. In August 2008, the Embassy received reports of unaccompanied U.S. citizen females being robbed at knifepoint during daylight hours in Sihanoukville. Another U.S. citizen female was sexually assaulted in October 2009 while walking alone at night in Kompong Thom province.
Particular areas where crime levels have been relatively high in recent months have been the riverfront and BKK areas of Phnom Penh, and the beaches and tourist areas of Sihanoukville, although incidents are not confined to these areas. You should be particularly vigilant at night, and in deserted areas, although incidents have occurred at all times of day.
There have also been a small number of rapes and sexual assaults in various locations.
Cambodia Travel Advisory by the Government of Australia
Opportunistic crime is common in Cambodia and the frequency of incidents is increasing. Thieves frequently snatch foreigners’ bags and pick-pocketing is a problem in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap. Several foreigners have been injured in the course of these incidents, in particular when bags are pulled from passengers on moving motorbike taxis. Bag-snatching, other robberies and assaults often occur during daylight hours.
There have been reports of assaults and armed robberies against foreigners, especially in areas frequented by tourists and expatriate residents, including the Riverfront in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville (particularly at isolated beaches). You should exercise vigilance when travelling through these areas at all times, but especially after dark.
You should limit night time travel around Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap to well-lit public areas and travel in groups. At night, travel by car is safer than motorcycle, moto-scooter or cyclo (cycle-rickshaw).
Foreigners have been the target of sexual assault in Cambodia. Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.
Levels of firearm ownership in Cambodia are high and guns are sometimes used to resolve disputes. There have been reports of traffic disputes resulting in violence involving weapons. Bystanders can get caught up in these disputes. Foreigners have been threatened with handguns for perceived rudeness to local patrons in popular Phnom Penh nightclubs and elsewhere.
Banditry and extortion, including by military and police personnel, continue in some rural areas, particularly at night in areas between Snoul, Kratie and Stung Treng in the north-eastern provinces.
Cambodia Travel Advisory by the Government of New Zealand
There has been an increase in violent crime against foreign travellers, particularly in areas frequented by tourists and expatriates including the river front area of Phnom Penh, and at isolated beaches in Sihanoukville. New Zealanders are advised to be vigilant and maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times.
So there you have it. It’s all between the lines of each travel advisory. Some of the most repeated statements include warnings that there have been an increasing number of violent attacks in Cambodia, including sexual attacks (rapes) against foreign nationals and they are urged to exercise an increased degree of caution. Don’t take these warnings lightly unless you intend to stick with visiting the tourist Cambodia, not the real one!
There is no law in Cambodia, there is no justice in Cambodia. So what is there to stop anyone from killing you? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! If the person you encounter feels like drawing blood, they will because there is nothing to hold them back. And once you’re lying dead in the ditch, life for everyone in Cambodia, including your killer will go without change, without remorse. Unhindered, undeterred and unpunished, the killer will wait around for another opportunity that offers itself.
Being a lawless country, killing someone in Cambodia carries virtually no punishment and since all of the guns used by Khmer Rouge are still in the country, distributed amongst the populace without any control or regulations, why would anyone hold back? Afterall, even those who killed an estimated 2.5 million people escaped the punishment, so what is a couple of murders compared to the genocide?
But than… how is it possible that some people claim that Cambodia is not dangerous?
It’s simple – if you look at it closely, you will notice that nobody has the balls to go as far as claiming straight up that Cambodia is not dangerous. If anyone does, they always include countless “buts” in each sentence that carries the “not dangerous” statement. One must read between the lines to better understand what they mean when they say that “Cambodia is not dangerous, one just needs to exercise common sense”. So let’s take a closer look at what it means:
Cambodia is not dangerous, but don’t wander the streets alone after dusk
Translation: Being a country that’s close to the equator, daylight hours are identical to the nighttime hours virtually year round. By saying that you shouldn’t wander the streets of Cambodia alone after dark means that you should lock yourself up after 6pm because Cambodia is too dangerous during the 50% of the time you spend there.
Cambodia is not dangerous, but don’t carry more than $15 on you at any given time
Translation: It is almost certain that if you stay in Cambodia long enough, sooner or later you will get mugged, but because of incapable police force, muggings are never reported so people just chalk it up as a terrible experience because that’s about all they can do about it in Cambodia. And since you stand such a high chance of getting mugged with zero chance of recovering your possessions, don’t carry anything expensive on you so that the loss is as minimal as possible.
Cambodia is not dangerous, just avoid confrontations with locals at all costs
Translation: Locals carry guns and are not afraid to use them. They will stare you down, laugh straight into your face and otherwise try to provoke you into a self defense mode so they can enjoy taking another foreigner down. The richer a kid, the more provocative they get.
Cambodia is not any more dangerous than, say… New York
Trust me, getting mugged in Cambodia is different from getting robbed in New York. First of all, unlike in Cambodia, 90% of New York residents don’t spend their time looking out for easy victims of crime they could mug. Likewise unlike in New York, 90% of Cambodians are too lazy to go to work to try to help themselves. They rely on someone else to help them which leaves them with too much time on their hands to kill.
If you do get unlucky and get jumped by a robber who tries to move your valuables from your pockets to his in New York, you stand a good chance that he would take the stuff and run away. Muggings in Cambodia are nothing like that. During the course of an ordeal you will be subjected to an endless violence and even if you manage to diplomatically give them all of your possessions without getting hit, before they leave to move on to the next foreigner, they will either shoot you, or in a better case just hit you with the handle of their gun. This is if you do not try to resist in any way.
If you do try to resist, their natural aggression will come out in all of its glory and you will understand why they refer to Cambodia as the culture of violence. Cambodians are accustomed to violence and live being violent every day. Cambodians seek confrontations and will keep provoking you at all times to give themselves a reason to come at you with violence. If they have nothing else to say, they will tell you that you look too white to be in their country and that it offends them. If you respond to it in any way, you will see them come at you with their naturally violent selves. That is what they want.
Cambodia is not dangerous, but…
So here is the answer to all the riddles. 90% of all visitors to Cambodia will do exactly as stated in the points above. They will get picked up by their hotel at the airport, take taxi everywhere they go to minimize contact with and exposure to the locals, have a guide by them at all times or travel as part of an organized group, etc. As such, the chances of encountering a violent crime Cambodia is drenched with is next to zero. It’s not surprising all of those people will say that they have never felt threatened in Cambodia.
Sticking with popular tourist spots that are always full of foreigners and avoiding self reliant transportation options, such as a bicycle, without ever wandering off the beaten track drops chances of a violent attack to near zero even in a country full of criminals like Cambodia. So if all you care about is an artificial experience, then chances are you will not find Cambodia dangerous. That’s what majority of people do and they come and leave without any major problems. And that’s why you hear so many people say that Cambodia is not dangerous. That’s simply because they were smart and didn’t attempt to meet the real Cambodia which is nothing like what they say. The real Cambodia is without doubt, one of the most dangerous countries in the world.