Into the Heart of Cambodia
Trip Start Oct 20, 2008
93Trip End Jan 31, 2009
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Where I stayed
During the entire journey the scenery was the same as what i had seen on the way to Beng Melea. Extreme, Sub-Saharan Africa level poverty everywhere..
On the bus I met a tour group from Australia. Their Cambodian leader suggested that the best value in town would be the Mekong Hotel. So I followed them into the Mekong. Found a clean room with a fan for $6 a night.
As I was getting ready to leave the hotel, the Cambodian tour leader suggested that I rent a bicycle from the hotel and ride to a close by island. Ķ had been meaning to do this for a while. Got a bicycle for $2 a day.
First, I cycled around the neighborhood. Although Kompong Cham was one of the larger Cambodian cities and a regional capital, the scenery still wasn't too different from the nearly tribal life lived around Beng Melea. The only differences were that there was a wider paved road and a few more concrete buildings.
I saw a temple complex. Couldn't resist the urge to go in. This was a graveyard, a temple and a monastery all at the same time. The graves weren't as simple as Muslim or Christian ones. Most of them were crypts that had lotus bud shaped towers on them. The temples were strikingly different from any other temple that I had previously seen too
Their English was quite good. I saw that one of them had a grammar textbook in his hand. Another one told me that they tried teaching their students English so that they would have a higher chance of employment. Their students weren't only the apprentice monks, but the poor kids of the neighborhood also.
They kept asking me about traveling costs. I always gave them half of the actual figure, but it still turned out to be an inconceivable amount of money for them. The $2 bicycle that I had rented was the ultimate proof that I was the richest men that they had ever encountered
The monks told me that they burn their dead. Honestly, I didn't know...
Later, I took a tiny old ferry that could fit at most 3 cars to Koh Paen. The locals of this rural island made a living by fishing and growing tobacco and sesame. The government didn't supply electricity for the island. So the local families had to purchase their own generators. Of course, these were the few who were fortunate enough to afford them.
Had chicken fried rice and sprite at a restaurant called Mekong Crossing. The quality was poor. $3.45.
I couldn't fall asleep that quickly, because it was really hot and humid. The fan at its highest speed didn't cut it. As I was trying to fall asleep, I found myself thinking about my unworldly or perhaps too-worldly day. Cycling through tobacco plantations and wooden huts; naked local kids shouting out "Helo! What's yo nam?" without having a clue about what they were saying...