I experienced the abyss of the Siem Reap Post Office.
I am awaiting some important documents which must only travel by post and were so far sent twice, but never received.
For those who are not familiar with the postal “system” in Cambodia here are some essential points to enrich your knowledge:
- Siem Reap and Cambodia in general have no postmen
- Siem Reap has no official street names bar a few main communications, the rest is identified by landmarks
- Phnom Penh street names are in fact numbers which, for a country dweller like me, makes it just as confusing as if streets had no names
- By far the most reliable mail is e-mail, however if materials of 3D substance have to travel to Cambodia, DHL is the way to go
- When (or more likely IF) the posted materials reach their destination it is time to celebrate!
The fairly attractive building of the Siem Reap Post Office is rather spacious with a large counter taking up majority of the width of the main hall. The central part of the desk is occupied by middle aged women who have developed a great skill to insert collectable stamps into small plastic bags and their abilities to hammer the stamp on the postcard to your mum with today’s date are admirable. The hammer in question flies through the air and hits the card with sunrise at Angkor Wat with such ferocity that I am sure it leaves an imprint in the hard-wood desk underneath.
The right hand side of the counter is mainly reserved for younger staff watching YouTube videos and updating their Facebook status.
I know all this because I spent two hours looking for my mail.
I now know it’s possible to venture into the left hand side of the abyss and ask to have a PO Box opened with as little ID as a business card of my previous employer and a little nudge or persuasion. No luck there so I move on to the Registers. These are resting on the far right side of the counter and there are five of them, all bearing 2014 on the front, different colours signifying different style of delivery – from EMS, signed for to ordinary mail.
I start the mammoth task of flicking through the thousands of pages from today’s date steadily continuing all the way to the 1st of January 2014 and repeating this five times over. My fingers are numb and eyes watering from the overload of names. At times I am unsure what I am looking for and wonder what my name is. I recognize some names, I wonder what the delivery was- it’s starting to be fun! At times I see photocopies of people’s passports randomly appearing between pages, I see names and know that these people will never sign for their mail as they have either moved on or passed away.
Failing to find my name in the registers I try my luck one more time. I move through the abyss again to the left hand side and tackle The Shelf. It is a dusty, sweaty, mosquito ridden affair; I am on my knees digging through the bottom shelf, coming across countless Tripadvisor stamped envelopes, familiar names of friends who still live here and of those long gone, important mails with the flap torn and contents spilling out, magazines specializing in cattle, science, religion and politics, postcards from Italy, New Zealand and Morocco with variable dates, sizable envelopes with promising contents and I giggle at one envelope in particular addressed to Angkor Wat, Cambodia. I hope it wasn't important.
The three tiered shelf has no good news for me either but at least the next desperate post seeker will have a slightly easier job as I have tidied up the contents according to size on all levels. I have an unbeatable urge to wash my hands and am able to do so in the Post Office restroom.
Elsewhere in the world mail gets delivered by a hardy man on a bicycle wearing shorts all year round, drones are also a possibility these days but here in Cambodia I suggest that we catch all those pigeons outside the Royal Palace and put them to good use, it will certainly beat the current system.
anna bella betts
Never still, always on the move, looking for the perfect capture... Cambodia is currently my home, presenting endless opportunities....
In this blog you will find no profound wisdom.
Just accounts of daily life, sometimes about photography, often about wine, occasionally about travel adventures and sometimes about nothing at all.