|The party of premier Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge cadre, has effectively ruled Cambodia since 1979|
It's been a lot of information to take in, even though much of that was self-inflicted. And as always while travelling, full of impressions that go beyond the immediate subjects of the trip. You can't help to notice that both Thailand and Cambodia have shed much of the essence of democracy despite still maintaining the trappings. Thailand is ruled by a military junta (that isn't very good at listening to the people) and the Cambodian government has just had the major opposition party banned.
|Police booth in Kanchanaburi, Thailand|
Yet life seems to be going on anyway. Military and police presence are light. In Bangkok and Siem Reap the Christmas season has started. Around the royal palace in downtown Bangkok we experienced the perfect storm of tourists, graduation day at university and the last opportunity to visit the ashes of revered former king Bhumibol (the exhibition has since been extended).
|Tourist entrance to the inner sanctum of the royal palace, Bangkok|
The poverty gap in these countries is still huge between those in the airconditioned zone (including us tourists) and those outside. Yes, I caught a cold.
|Christmas decorations are prepared before the luxury mall in Siem Reap (opened in 2016)|
|Flyover roads under construction, Bangkok|
It was also intense to make this trip. I'm not a group travel person and when you are around 35-40 co travellers, that takes some energy out of me. Most of these people had a direct personal relation to the railway, which for them made it an emotional experience that I could only relate to from a distance. I wouldn't have survived if it had not been for my travel companion Michael. We never ran out of topics to discuss and events to comment on, however silly.
I will be posting a few bits from the Angkor part over the next week, but the Thailand-Burma railway story will arrive after that and in a different format as I have a distant personal stake in it.