21st Century Monks

Trip Start Nov 28, 2005
1
8
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Trip End Aug 12, 2006


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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, January 11, 2006

We moved on from Siem Reap on 6th January, with a boat trip to Battambang - a smallish, 'non-touristy' colonial city about 100 miles from Siem Reap. The boat had 2 benches along the side with enough space for about 15 people, but the boat owners manage to squeeze about 40 on the boat, with 20 on the roof and 5 on plastic patio seats inbetween the 2 benches!

After leaving the dock, we quickly moved on to the Tonle Sap Lake - which turns out to be more like the open sea, including 3-4 foot swell. The boat sat pretty low with all the weight and a few times a wave crashed in through the door of the boat and soaked a few people. Just as everyone was anxious enough, the one local on the boat - a Cambodian lady with a young baby, fainted. After some slapping around the face by one tourist and a slightly more standard medical approach by a few others, she came around but spent the rest of the time on the lake pretty much out of it, with the baby dumped on a young french couple!!! Eventually, we got on to a calmer river and started to enjoy things a bit more, as we saw endless fishing communities living on house-boats at the edge of the river. The local kids tended to all scream 'hello' as we approached, so we were kept busy waving back! In the end the 5 hour trip took 9 hours and our bums felt the pain!

Battambang provided a relatively quiet few days for us, as there was not loads to do here. However, it was nice just to live in a normal Cambodian town for a while, where we were not constantly being sold to or spending all of our time in places full of tourists. We did spend one day driving to a few sites - a mountain-top temple, caves where the Khmer Rouge killed many people and a large dam-created lake which we took a boat trip on.

During our stay, Andy was approached by a Buddhist monk, Buntheout, in an internet shop, who asked for some help in setting up a yahoo email account. Andy (ever the consultant!) helped set up the account for him and his friend and ended up giving a quick training course in how to use yahoo. As thanks, we were invited to Buntheout's temple to be shown around and meet his friends. It was an opportunity too good to miss and so for a couple of nights in a row, we spent an hour at the temple with about 6-7 monks eager to practice their english, ask us about our lives and get their photos taken! The monks were all young - in their 20's and spend their time studying at school and learning about Buddhism as well. We've since kept in touch with Buntheout by email, who in time was going to set up accounts for the rest of the monks and pass on our training! I think we may have created the first monk IT consultant!

Finally, we've been amazed at the chaos that is the Cambodian roads - our tuk-tuk rides in Siem Reap were pretty seat-of-the-pants stuff - so we thought we'd let everyone know what the road rules seem to be, from our observations:

- You must beep at all times even when there is nothing to beep at;
- A 1-way street is a 2-way street;
- A 2-way street is a 3-way or even 4-way street;
- The biggest vehicle gets right of way: Bus -> truck -> tuk tuk-> motorbike -> pedistrian;
- When emerging from a minor road onto a major road, it is not necessary to look; it is up to the speeding traffic to avoid you;
- When trying to turn left, it is ok to take the turn and drive directly into the incoming traffic until a gap opens up to enable to get into the correct side of the road;
- It is ok to drive in the middle of two lanes of traffic until beeped at; and
- Whilst beeping is whole-heartdly encouraged, no verbal road-rage is allowed!
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