laughs at me. Didn't the French like leave here, like centuries ago? No, in 1953 a year before Dien Bien Phu and losing Viet Nam. But there must be a lot of traces left. Doubt it, Mom. We're in Cambodia, there's been Pol Pot, the Killing Fields. Forget the French angle for awhile, nothing here anyway. We're here to visit Angkor Wat and temples in the jungle on our motorbikes.
But of course, I became determined to find things French, any traces of colonialism, les Française. In Francois Bizot's haunting novel, The Gate, he describes being held prisoner by the Khmer Rouge for months until he was released amazingly by his captor who spoke French. Later as translator (he spoke French and Khmer) he was one of the last to leave the French Embassy in Phnom Pen in 1974 when the Khmer Rouge expelled all foreigners.
Here's a roadside 'bar' it serves drinks for thirsty motorbikes.
I found further Frenchness. Kids and men playing petanque/boules down the mountain from the pagoda.
We were riding through the countryside north of Angkor Wat with Bune, our motorcycle guide from Battambang. Bune's father and uncle narrowly escaped the Khmer Rouge's genocide. He had stories to tell and how the areas - even Siam Rep - were still full of mines until 1995-96. Bune's grandparents spoke French he remembers, they'd learned it as school. Twice as we passed villages I saw a stucco building labelled 'Poste de la Police'. We zipped past so fast my son didn't see. Bune, in his thirties, remembered French being taught in school when he was young and then it wasn't.
We spent time at Angkor and at Bong Mealea, a temple complex 75 miles to the northeast. These temples had few tourists and felt like tomb raider. We also sampled local cuisine at every stall and especially liked going 'Amok with fish'.
And the night crepe stands - don't get me started on the rice crepes with Nutella!
On the back bumpfilled roads, many like sandtraps, which had been built by the UN after the areas were de-mined I came across the graveyard of distance markers. Like in France! French, I yelled to my son and got off his motorbike.This needed documentation.
They were eerie and haunting.
Then there were the arbitrary driving rules like Paris - the same thrill of feeling your life going out of your control at Place de la Bastille - as a pirouette of tuk tuk’s - the motorcycle jitneys, miss sideswipes and collisions by a centimeter. So Parisian. Ride along in a tuk-tuk with me below. Note - the exciting bits happened before, this part is tame.
Later on I found baguettes in Siam Rep's central market. Croissants, baguettes don't tell me there's no French connections in la Cambodge.
Cara - Tuesday who didn't get to Phnom Pen and reputed French Colonial quartier