Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mobbed in Angkor - It all started with an Apple (and a melted Snickers bar)

The one thing that seems to be common in Siem Reap these days are the street touts. They basically consist of very young children of around 7 to 12 years and they can be very persistent as they surround you and break into their chorus of "You buy one for one dollar, ten for one dollar, very nice you see, one two three four five six seven eight nine ten, you buy ten for one dollar, you give your wife you give your girlfriend"...well you get the idea.

As Heisham and I emerged from Preah Khan (I think), we like every other tourist there would naturally be surrounded by these touts and the only reprieve we could look forward to would be to get into our waiting car and drive off. But no, it was not to be. Our driver Sok Pee had decided to play good samaritan to a fellow driver in getting said driver's car jump started... so all Heisham and I could do was sit it out in the car and the kiddie street touts seeing how we weren't going anywhere surrounded the car and began their chorus with renewed vigour! One big mistake we did before getting into the car was giving away our goodies, an apple in Heisham's case and a melted Snicker's bar in mine. I mean hey it wouldnt hurt we'd be far far away before the kids let on to their mates on their good fortune but as mentioned it was not to be.

Our driver Sok Pee at right..

In other words, we became sitting ducks. Some other kids learnt that some goon tourist were giving away their goodies and all wanted in on the action. So hence the chorus surrounding us in the car changed to something like "Apple! Give me Apple! Apple Give me Apple! Apple! Apple!"

Being Mobbed while taking refuge in the car.

At this point I wanted to throttle Sok Pee by the neck. Gosh who would have thought that these kids would be so enthused by a simple apple and it then hit me how underpriviledge these kids must be. After a while I started to feel bad that these kids were still giving it their best shot at getting a sale or an apple out of us and decided to come out of the car to try and chat with them. I found that chatting with them and asking about their lives breaks away their persistent tout personae to reveal them for what they really are - kids with hopes and aspirations like kids everywhere. I think one wanted to be a teacher and like most other kids there, they get pulled in to help out with sales after their schooling in the mornings. Gosh it made me wish I had a sack of apples with me then (Probably not wise as we'd really be swamped then). However before I got the chance to get melancholy about this, the kids sensing that chat time was over launched into their chorus of "You buy one for one dollar, you buy ten for one dollar...etc" all over again. They just don't give up do they? Thankfully by this time, Sok Pee sensibly agreed that said driver's car was a lost cause and we got out of there.


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