NELLIE FRIEDRICHS OUR VISIT TO BANGKOK AND CAMBODIA, 1966
Our Trip Around the World, July 28 to October 2, 1966
(Translated from the original German)
This trip took Nellie and Frieder to Germany, Russia, India, Nepal, back to India and then to Hong Kong and
Japan. On the way from Calcutta to Hong Kong they had brief stopovers in Thailand and Cambodia.
Our first impression of Bangkok was a very cheerful one. Our spotless new bus brought us swiftly along a
highly modern highway to the city. To the left and right of us were rice fields in which men and women in
large picturesque hats were working. The canals which ran alongside the streets were covered with water-
lilies and lotuses. Bangkok itself seems much like a large European or American city–so much so that if you
half-close your eyes and don’t look very closely at the people or the street signs or the huge billboards, you
could imagine that you were anywhere in the world. But of course this only applies to the city center. The
beautiful temples with the gracefully ascending bright green and orange tiled roofs and their almost too rich
decorations are much more “Siamese” than one might have expected.
But the most beautiful thing of all was the Floating Market. Early in the morning we rode in a little oriental
boat along the wide river past the temples and the golden royal barge to one of the many canals. And
suddenly the modern world just disappeared. What we saw here was the way life must have been lived
unchanged for hundreds of years. The sides of the canal were a wall of coconut palms, banana trees,
vines, bamboo groves and blossoming bushes and trees. Colorful birds and monkeys swung along the
branches, and in between all this luxuriant vegetation were the inhabitants’ houses and cabins, built on stilts.
From the houses steps led down to the water and there the housewives fed their babies, washed their
children, did the laundry, scrubbed the vegetables and took care of a hundred other things that women and
mothers have to do all over the world. The men went to work in little boats which crowded the canal.
Occasionally we came across a larger boat full of schoolchildren in their smart blue and white school
uniforms. Then suddenly from all the side canals heading towards the main waterway there came the
market boats, which were filled to the top with an endless variety of products–it was all the most colorful and
enchanting view I have ever seen. Everything, truly everything, was available for sale. There were fruits and
vegetables of every sort, including many varieties that I had never heard of. There were small sweet
bananas, melons, gourds and flowers, presumably from the gardens of the market women. But there were
also coal boats, whole shipments of bamboo stalks and banana leaves, balls of yarn, sewing and writing
materials, tempting heapings of bread and other baked goods and also meats. The owners of the boats
bought things from each other or moored their boats along the stilt houses to sell bring their goods to the
doors or, more exactly, to the steps. At one point there was such a traffic jam that we were stuck and had to
wait until a sort of police boat came to regulate the traffic. It was more than strange after this unique
experience to return to the city with its highly elegant shops and super-modern forms of transit.
From Bangkok we flew further south to Cambodia, where we had only 24 hours–just enough time to see the
famous temple in the jungle. The particularly pretty hotel in Siem Reap has a very French character, and in
fact Cambodia was the first country on this trip where in addition to the local language not English but
French was spoken. The place made a very well-maintained and almost prosperous impression. It had
broad boulevards shaded by huge trees. There were hardly any cars but lots of rickshaws and the coolies
simply could not understand that we preferred to walk than to be driven. After a very French and
accordingly refined supper we were taken with the other hotel guests into the jungle. It was a hot, humid,
tropical starry night. Suddenly the thick woods lit up and before us stretched out, brightly illuminated, the
huge temple of Angkor Wat–a breathtaking, astonishing view. With the temple as a backdrop and
accompanied by the strange sounds of the jungle we saw a wonderful dance performance, like a fairy tale
brought to life in glittering costumes. The next morning we saw the same temple and the ruins of Angkor
Tom in the glaring daylight. This too made a fantastic impression. It is hard to grasp that for hundreds of
years these huge impressive buildings were quite forgotten and hidden by the jungle and were only
rediscovered, excavated and restored in relatively recent times.
On the flight from Phnom Penh to Hong Kong it looked as if the Great Flood had broken out over
Cambodia. Far and wide the country was covered by water and looked like an enormous lake from which an
occasional tree or roof stuck out. But the pilot explained that this was simply the normal annual flood, on
which in fact the success of the rice harvest always depends.....