Trip Start Mar 12, 2008
24Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Our hotel, the Mekong Hotel, was literally on the banks of the River, with fabulous views of the banks and the newly built friendship bridge, which 6 people had died during construction. The water marks on the bridge shows that the water rises as much as 8 meters during the wet season, so you can imagine what a task building it might have been!
We were straight out for a trip in the back of some amazingly Decorated Tuk Tuk's to village a local village, completely reliant on the weaving trade for income and a local temple, complete with its own monkey population
The weaving village was very basic, straw or bamboo huts, rice fields plowed by at best buffalo or in some cases by hand and very few toddlers with clothing, although I notices they did still have a football pitch. Watching the women weave scarves was art in itself. I cant pretend to understand how this complicated procedure worked, all I do know is that it takes approximately a day for them to make a scarf that is sold for around $3.
We visited the local school, and again I can not believe that standard of English these children have at ages of 7 and 8. Their are 7 year olds in England who would struggle to compete. I showed them the pictures on my phone of my family and the places I'd been and played some games with them.......trying to teach them 'incy wincy spider' was good fun.
As we were on our way back to the Tuk Tuk's for our trip to the temple I happened to mention to Jen that I'd seen nothing in the way of sanitation facilities, the village had a well for drinking, and a lake/river for washing, as if it had been planned we turned the next corner to find a naked child of maybe 3 or 4 squatting down while looking back at us with a cheeky grin, in the middle of curling out what was quite possible the yellowiest poo I have ever seen.
While normally I think this would have disgusted us all, Jen and I had a sly little laugh, while the rest of the group looked on horrified. Hah, what did they expect really?
The Temple was, well, a Temple I guess although quite spectacular with some of the statues
Later that night we enjoyed a meal provided and cooked for us by one of the Tuk Tuk drivers and his wife at their home, delicious is the only word I can use to describe it. While outside afterwards having a smoke, I was chatting with the guy and hearing that over a year he averages $100 a month, and has a family of 5 to support, has to pay $20 a month to send his boys to a school that was 6 kilometers away that they cycle to. Hearing of his worries that they might get hurt on the roads, that he might not be able to afford to send them to university in the Capital City. Finding out that his wife was I'll and that local doctors told him there was nothing he could do, when by chance a western doctor he drove around prescribed a course of anti-biotics that completely cured her really left me wondering what any of these people had to smile about.
But, he owned his own land, had built a good strong concrete house that could withstand the rising waters of the Mekong river knew that his property was worth double what it had cost
What he wanted more than anything, was for his children not to face the hardships he had, that they would have better more rewarding lives. Who could fail to come away from that encounter not feeling blessed and lucky in their own lives? It was a positively energising evening, and I went away feeling that if his attitude was typical of other Cambodians then no wonder they where such a happy bunch.
The next day we headed off on another bus ride, to a Cambodian Homestay. I was looking forward to this but not looking forward to the sleeping arrangements. As it was I felt a bit let down, we stayed in what I can only describe as a mixed dorm. Not exactly authentic. We didn't eat with the families that lived here, but instead where ferried to a sort of restaurant to eat a very poor meal (a theme that followed with breakfast), and where brought back to have a talk with one of the family's using our guide as an interpreter.
His was a very hard story to hear, a family of 10 brothers and sisters in 1970, only 2 were left at the end of the war
Sleep was ok, assisted by probably the biggest Shithead session I have head since Valencia - with 6 plyers at one point, a decent breeze meant that aircon was a sacrifice not too hard to make and a good mosquito net done its job well. And we left early in the morning for the short (yeah right) journey to Sihanoukville, the beach party town of the Country. Was I looking forward to that!