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JOURNAL OF MY TOUR BY JEEP OF THAILAND, CAMBODJA AND VIETNAM

NOVEMBER, 1956 , page 7


So, on Armistice Day, November 11, I woke up very early in Nomansland. I took a bath in a buffalo pond, and washed my clothes. Felt refreshed and while my tent lost its morning dew and my clothes dried in the early morning sun, I wrote my journal, in English, at the request of someone in Bangkok. [ironically, I am now, in 2001, re-translating it from a handwritten score of foolscap of Dutch version dating back to 1957 which I sent to my father in Holland] . I breakfasted filling my stomach with cornflakes and a can of milk, and was ready to depart at 09:00. Not so the jeep, which took another fifteen minutes of massaging and tickling to wake up before the engine roared alive.
Cambodja looked different., starting right at the border post. People more or less refused to understand Thai, so I was forced to speak French and shake hands with everyone. Since they did not display any more speed in their ways than did the Thai, I had plenty of opportunity while waiting to pick up the Cambodjan way of counting, based on the number 5, thus:
1 = moei, 2= pie, 3=paai, 4=boeun, 5= prahm, then 6= prahm-moei, 7= prahm-pie, etc.,
10=dob, 11= dob=moei, 100=moei-roi, 200=song roi ; strange, now I did not know if it went on in Thai, Cambodjan or Khmer, but since I did not think it would be necessary to spend more than 100 riels at a time, this was enough counting for me…
When I had finally been admitted into Cambodja, I had been warned that traffic here kept to the right, in contrast with Thailand. The first 30 kms passed through a savannah-like scenery consisting of high elephant grass with scattered trees. Even though you'd expect to see them any moment, giraffes remained missing. The sun baked everything yellow and black and I shuddered at the prospect of risks when I'd get stuck here with a broken car. Of course, these negative thoughts became realized, because the engine started to go slower and slower, but fortunately only ran out exactly in the shade of a solitary tree! I tried to find the problem, but no luck. So I retrieved the engine repair manual I had bought the week before and started studying. For an hour, I read all kind of interesting details, then I took a break to take a swim in a ditch, and finally, after some four hours, I noticed a dust cloud in the distance. It proved to be a military jeep in such a great hurry that they could not wait for the two mechanics they dropped off to help me… what fun, the two of them looked at the engine for two minutes and their X ray eyes detected a loose wire of fundamental importance. So I could drive along with them as passengers, once more rather ashamed. I pondered whether I should not go back home and learn about engines first, but the prospect of Bangkok's reaction to my early defeat withheld me.
In Sisophon, a small garrison town, the helpful mechanics got off, but I drove on for another 100 kms even though I was very hungry, because I hoped to reach Angkor before nightfall. The road was abominable and the scenery flat and monotonous, so I wondered whence came the tales of dense jungles and wild beasts.


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