The Lone Barang.

Kompong Chhnang Travel Blog

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Awoke to start one of the finest days so far. Said my goodbyes to the the Dutch girl. Chatted to one of the blokes working at the guesthouse until my bus arrived. He told me how most boys/men become tuktuk/moto drivers because University is firstly too expensive and secondly it is unlikely that you would find a job even after completing a degree. Uni costs between $300-400 a year, and that's purely for the course. There are no student loans there so they have to come up with the funds on their own or try and borrow from friends or family members. The divide between the rich and poor is large. If you come from a poor family, there is no further education for you. Hopped on the bus which was purely filled with locals. I read and watched the early morning life in the towns and villages we past. At one stop a lady walked up the bus trying to sell mango and pineapple to the passengers. Seeing as I had no breakfast earlier, I paid $0.25 for a mango. Just as i handed the money over, a police man grabbed her by the arm and dragged her off the bus. Apparently she wasn't supposed to be there. It was sour mango as opposed to my preferred choice of sweet mango. But the sugars gave me much needed energy. 4hours later I arrived in Kompong Chhnang, a quiet town. I took a moto to the cheapest accommodation i could find - $5. A nice relaxing place and the room had two large practically double beds (as there are no single rooms) with a private bathroom. I took the moto into the town's center and it became apparent that not many foreigners visited here. I spotted not one and struggled to order lunch or speak with anyone as their English was extremely basic. Good stuff. This is what i look for. I went past the school where children were returning too after their two hour break at midday. I was turning everyone's head. Kids shouted "barang barang"(foreigner foreigner) and waved, giggling in delight when i returned the wave. Others stared at me with wide eyes while a few looked away shyly. I took a moto out for the afternoon and early evening. $5 for the arranged 4hours. The moto driver drove me through the town and into a quiet temple area where a group of monks lived. They wondered around; lighting incense & praying to buddah, educating themselves, washing clothes and resting. My driver informed me that different villages and parts of the town took turn in preparing the monks foods for the week. Monks earn no money obviously so their living costs are kindly covered through the aid of the Cambodian people. Any boy can become a monk and it is his choice. It bestows great honor on the family if they choose to follow a life of religion. I climbed the hill by the temple and clambered up a set of rocks to see the view of the surrounding countryside which was very pretty. Boys climbed trees, shaking the branches to loosen the fruit so that it would fall. We then followed a dusty red road to Ondong Rossey, a quaint village where the residents make pottery. The mud is collected and transported by oxen from the nearby mountains. I watched a women spin and mold the mud into bowls, and she averted her eyes shyly as i took a picture. Girls wondered nearby, leading the cattle by rope. We stopped by a friendly, constantly smiling woman's house where she made the pottery by hand, using no machinery whatsoever. My moto driver spoke relatively good English and through him the women asked me questions. She was very interested and asked me if I had a wife. I replied no but there's a girl I very much like in England. She asked why I was here if i liked her. I said because i want to see the world. She asked why the girl wasn't with me here. I said because she is studying at university. She asked why i hadn't married her yet. I said because i haven't known her long and I am young. She asked how young. I said 18 years old. She said nonsense, you are old enough. Girls get married as soon as 16 here in Cambodia. Apparently the sooner the better, otherwise it becomes harder as they grow older. We passed rice fields, coconut trees and palm trees. We stopped at a family's home where they made pottery as well. Children played out the front, having fun using just marbles and their flipflops. They place two marbles a distance from them and then take turns at kicking their flipflops at the marbles across the ground. The one who hits the marbles with the least hits, wins. The father was a strong man. Very muscular. An amazing physique and he was about 45years old. He breaks down the mud into a fine dust using a heavy hammer which he lifts above his head and crashes down on the mud. He carries heavy quantities of mud around and works hard on his rice fields. He was pleased when i told him (via the moto driver) that i worked on a farm during the summer to partly fund my travels. I told him that in England, they grow lots of potatoes. He said that is good but they should grow more rice. Rice is better. He was astonished when he learnt i was 18years old, thinking i was mid twenties to thirty due to my size. I am big in comparison to Cambodian people. His one son is 18years old, but i would have guessed 14 at most. Cattle are everywhere and are used on the rice fields. When they get old and weak, they are eaten. Big ones can fetch between $500 and $800. People were up palm trees cutting down parts of the tree to fetch the juice which they use to make palm sugar, which i tried. It is nice, sweet of course. He told me about palm beer which they make from the same juice. I want to try, but he says he thinks not good for my stomach. Especially as i am "Barang". Back down the dusty red road to town. On the way his moto friends call us over. We sit as the sun sets, on a raised wooden shelter. One of the five speaks Okay English, but he is enthusiastic and asks me many questions, happy to have my company. They share their highly unfiltered palm beer (called Tit na chu) with me, regularly chinking their cups with mine and watching for me to down the cup. It is sour and alright tasting. And it is strong. They cut off a bit of extremely chewy but delicious beef. Hard to chew so i just suck it. The marinade, the spices used to flavour it gives an incredible flavour. My moto driver drives off and returns with chicken and a vegetable mix with ginger, lemon grass and other flavours. The one guy asks me desperately to come back to his home for more palm beer. He squeezes my shoulder affectionately. Friendly eyes. Wanting to speak more to this Barang as they do not often stop by for a drink with them. But his village lies far away and it has become dark, I decline politely but thank him. The moto driver drives me to his home, stopping for a bag of palm beer, filtered. In a village close by to the town. A basic wooden house by the river. His wife washes by the well and his children smile happily and greet me. His parents-in-law greet me happily as well. We ate noodles with vegetables, sticky rice, crunchy fried fish with soya bean sauce and drank palm beer. Amazing. Amazed by just how nice these people are. He earns little money each day, sometimes finding no work. He needs at the minimum $5 per day to take care of his family and barely makes this. He says that the government and police are very corrupt which makes it even more difficult to live in Cambodia. His father and his younger of 7 brothers died of starvation during the Pol Pet Regime and he had to during that time find refuge in the forests near the Thai border until it was safe to emerge. He had to take his fathers body away secretly to prevent him being buried in a mass grave, so that he could have a proper burial. He took me back to my guesthouse. I gave him $7.
divadownunder says:
best day so far!
Posted on: Oct 26, 2009
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Kompong Chhnang