Sunday, December 21, 2008

Last Sleeps

We are now back in Saigon for a last sleep and a half before heading home. Cambodia is a fresh and treasured memory. The bustle of Saigon has reminded us of the differences between the two countries. Buddhism is much more present in Cambodia and greetings are always punctuated by pressing hands together, something that has never happened in Vietnam and something I had a hard time breaking myself of after returning here this evening.

The first impulse is to compare the two places and there are sharp differences between the two. Apart from the religious differences - Vietnam having more Christians - there are also significant economic differences. Vietnam seems to be much better off. Both countries are developing quickly but it is hard to tell which is faster.

Cambodia is getting a bigger helping hand from foreign aid agencies, who have not only lined up their larger institutions to help around the ruins, but also in the form of smaller donations to build wells for people who are barely getting by. Throughout the trip, especially in Cambodia, there were thoughts tumbling through my head about the economic differences I was witness to and the centuries that you could freeze in your thoughts with each blink of your eye.

As the weeks have turned to days and then to hours I can't help but feel an affection for these places and cheer them on in their quest for prosperity and a better life. I have a feeling though that the Vietnamese are looking for something that may be measured with numbers and that Cambodia, with its honoured and treasured cultural assets can move forward a bit more confidently, despite its more horrific past, and achieve much more on a lifestyle level rather than merely economically. I ask myself how dare I say such things after just three weeks of glimpses, but it is merely an observation to float out there for consideration. My time here is almost over but there will be plenty of time for the experience to ferment in my thoughts and give me a chance at understanding it all or investigating it a little further.