Celebrations in Kompong Thom
Trip Start Oct 14, 2005
25Trip End Ongoing
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Christmas in Cambodia was pretty strange, in that is was as good as a non-event, particularly in Kompong Thom. A few Cambodians buy each other presents and you can buy nylon Father Christmas hats, but I'm not sure anyone really understands it all!
We had a good time as there were 6 of us in Kompong Thom: Rachel, me and Alison, and then three other volunteers who came to stay. We found a few decorations and the house has something of a Christmas feel to it, albeit with temperatures in the high 20s.
We had a good meal on Christmas Eve: bruschetta, aubergine parmagianna and banoffee pie
Christmas day was a mixture of some pangs of homesickness mixed with more food and wine. A breakfast of banana and pineapple pancakes in our garden was certainly appropriate for Christmas in the tropics. We then opened presents, and as we had presents from friends and family back home and also from other friends here we all got a good haul. This was great as it made the day feel a bit like Christmas. Christmas dinner was stirred fried veg and meat at our local restaurant. We all wore Christmas hats and so at least the staff and other customers got the idea! Not quite the turkey and Christmas pudding I would have liked though. A traditional Christmas afternoon followed with sleeping, a walk in the countryside and phonecalls to family. In the evening another tradition - the Christmas film. We watched the new Harry Potter, which although it has just been released at the cinema in the UK is readily available on DVD in Phnom Penh for the standard $2.
Boxing Day was back to work and the end of the most surreal Christmas I have experienced
New Year was more normal - a house party with friends in Phnom Penh. Not much to say, other than getting a New Year text at midnight our time but 5pm UK time really did remind me how far from home we are!
End of the War and a New Restaurant
The Pol Pot regime ended on the 7th January 1979. This day is imprinted on the minds of Cambodians who lived through the atrocities. This day is now an important public holiday. For once the streets of Kompong Thom were really busy in the evening. A cultural display was put on in the grounds of the Department of Culture, just off the main street. To be honest the music and dancing was bloody awful, particularly as all events in Cambodia have to be accompanied by music or speeches that are played so loudly through massive speaker systems that the sound is totally distorted. It was good fun though and great to see people out of their house after 7pm. There were some fairground type stalls on the streets, although these were more like the sort of thing you would find at a school fete in England. Really quaint and with a very friendly and happy atmosphere.
The 7th also happened to be the opening party for the newly refurbished Arunras Hotel restaurant. We eat dinner at the restaurant about 3 or 4 times per week and so are well known. Since we arrived the main restaurant has been shut and was moved to outside on the street. The hotel put on a party for the staff to celebrate the completion of the renovations and shut the restaurant for the night. We were invited by a couple of the waiters and the restaurant manager.
By the time we arrived the party was in full swing. It very much had the air of a wedding disco towards the end of the evening. There was a lot of dancing and some karaoke to Khmer pop music. Of course we got dragged onto the dance floor and joined with some sort of line dancing. Anyone who has ever seen me dance will know I can't, particularly if it involves any sort of set routine! But I was still told I was a good dancer the next day - Khmer people are too polite for their own good. There was the remains of a big cake in the middle of the dance floor - I guess like a wedding cake. Everyone enjoyed smearing the cake onto people's faces! Rachel and I both got covered in icing. Very strange! It was fantastic to go to the party and made us all feel like we are becoming part of the community. The best part though was not having to do any karaoke, although I'm not sure I will get through 2 years here and totally avoid it.