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14 Jan 2002
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In Hong Kong we used to walk across the road and stroll onto Tong Fuk beach. Here the sea is 240 km away, so a trip to Kampong Som is something of an event. We had arranged to go with a group of friends from the factory and this morning Mony picked us up at 4.30 - early, even by Cambodian standards - and we met the rest of the gang in the centre of Phnom Penh. Our little convoy of three cars edged out of the city in darkness, and we were surprised to see quite large numbers of joggers on the main roads - sometimes whole families with toddlers in tow - amongst the farmers making their way to the markets loaded with fresh produce. After leaving the city it was wonderful to see the countryside coming to life as the sun came up, though we sped through the villages strung along the (suprisingly good) Highway No.4 at frightening speed, horn blaring. Cars seem to assume a God-given priority here. We still have our fascination with the country life that the West left behind long ago, so we gaped in delight at the buffaloes pulling carts and ploughing fields, conveniently forgetting that most people in the countryside are desperately poor.