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Published: January 13th 2008
On www.travelfish.org I'd read about a homestay experience that sounded interesting. A couple, Don and Kheang offered an experience to see what rural life is like in Cambodia and the reviews of the experience had been great, so when I arrived in Phnom Penh I rang Don and organised a visit.
Don is an American that's settled down in Cambodia, with his Cambodian wife and two children Ra and Na. They are a really interesting couple that have both had fascinating lives and it was just so interesting hearing their stories!! Kheang had actually been alive while PolPot was in charge, so had seen a lot of hardship and a lot of change in Cambodia.
When I arrived, so I could see a bit of typical Cambodian scenery and also get a bit of an insight into what rural life is like around Kampong Cham Kheang went on a bike ride with me and bought her daughter Na with her. It was a really fun afternoon!! I hadn't been on a bike for a while, but you know what they say....you definitely never forget how! We started at a few farms, where I learnt how palm sugar is made.
Its really fascinating - they collect the juice from the palm trees, then it all gets boiled up and then left to dry. They have to put bits of wood in the container, which apparently stop it turning into syrup. I watched a guy climb up the tree like a monkey collecting the containers full of juice and he made it look so easy, although I'm sure if I tried I'd just fall out the tree!!!
We also visited a local wat, which was cool. Na looked really happy running around and climbing all over the wat. Apparently they got donations from all the surrounding villagers to build the wat and the names of everyone that contributed, along with what money they gave is written on the inside walls of the wat, which I think is quite nice. Along the way Na kept taking turns on whose bike she rode on the back of, which made it more of a challenge for me biking both myself and a young girl up big hills. Ahhh, I'm definitely getting fitter on this trip!
When we arrived back at the farmhouse, another couple had arrived and I spent the rest of
the afternoon getting to know them and drinking beer. In the evening Kheang's mum came over to answer any questions we had about what is was like when PolPot was in power as she had been alive and working in the rice fields at the time. It was so fascinating, although it sounded like such a difficult time. One family member actually died from lack of food, which is sad, but I guess most people in those parts have similar stories. Once she left we all got an early night as in the countryside everyone gets up early - especially those roosters!!!
It was really fascinating feeling part of a real Cambodian family and seeing what their life is like, so I'm really glad I did the homestay. Plus Kheang's food is amazing!! The best I'd had in Cambodia!!
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