Journal of my Tour by jeep of Thailand, Cambodja and Vietnam, November, 1956, p.30

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

NOVEMBER, 1956 , page 30

Suddenly I was in Phnom Penh. It was completely different from what I had imagined. I had expected a small village with red-roofed houses spread between hills. Instead, there were busy streets with large buildings, sea ships moored along a quay, a dancing hall and parks and so on making it more like a city than Bangkok. I guided myself to the Police Headquarters to ask for the address of the Dutch consul. They searched for an hour without results, but then a samlor driver showed up who knew his address, A consul who also represented an International Airline? "Yes", I thought, "That's right! Because the consul is also the agent for KLM..." So -full of confidence - I followed the samlor who took me to ...the Belgian consul!
Notwithstanding his hurry to attend a dinner, this gentleman was very cordial , and promised to report me to my own -Dutch- consul. Speaking Flemish, he directed me to the "Hotel Royal" and gave me a letter to the manager. It appeared that this beautiful hotel had been claimed for exclusive diplomatic use in view of the lack of living space. I was assigned a decent room at a very reasonable price, going by Bangkok standards, and for the first time on this journey I ended up under a good shower. Since the room price included either dinner or breakfast, I decided unanimously to select the former. After that, I took an evening walk.
The next morning, I met the Belgian consul again when he gave me the address of the KLM office, which happened to be close to the hotel. The first person I met there was Margareth Steel, the English secretary of the agent, who had been in Bangkok for a week some months ago, at which time I had been introduced to her. We were both equally surprised. Of course, I had arrived at some inconvenient time: the building had not yet been completed and they were busy fixing up the furniture, but had just received a telegram from Bangkok announcing that two VIPs were on their way whofirst had to be collected from the airport, then ... etc. In this atmosphere of stress I felt like the fifth wheel on a wagon and decided to help clean up and offer my services as chauffeur to the consul's wife, a charming British lady who spoke fluent Dutch but was so afraid of the traffic that I barely managed to get the jeep in second gear.
Later that morning, I found a way to trade my few dollars at the rate of 60 riels per dollar, instead of the official rate of 34 which I would have to accept at the hotel. Next, I plowed along a gruesome road to a forgery/smithery chap , who turned a new bolt for my windshield. It was interesting to see him at work on a primitive turntable, but already on the way back - in a hurry on this bad road to collect Margareth in time - the bolt rapidly came loose again. I made a jury repair with a nail and a piece of string which lasted the remainder of my tour.


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