When I was heading over to cross the border from Thailand to Cambodia years ago, everyone I met told me: Just remember, Poipet rhymes with Toilet.
For good reason. Last time, the streets of Poipet were crowded with renegade teenagers. Sulky youth with beat-up cars, who spoke no English but would drive you into Cambodia for $30 and a possible mugging: The local version of public transport. I got sick in a shanty town, waited several stubborn hours at immigration refusing to pay a bribe and wandered through a town strewn with naked children, limbless Cambodians, sewage and casinos.
But as we’ve remarked over and over on this trip, a sweet, easy air of peace and good humor seems to be contagious now. The foreboding we felt last time is entirely absent. So entirely, impossibly erased that I can’t shake the feeling it must be hiding…must still be here somewhere just beneath the smiles and calm, waiting like a rebellion.
We’re heading out for the border this morning; making the reverse commute back to Bangkok this time. And I feel certain - if this safety and happiness translates to Poipet, it really is a new era in Cambodia.