Village People - Kompong Cham

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February 23rd 2009
Published: February 24th 2009
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Bamboo BridgeBamboo BridgeBamboo Bridge

This bridge is built every year by hand during the dry season. There are gaps where you just see the water.
Day 40/41/42/43/44/45- Kompong Cham

We made our third trip back to Phnom Penh from Kampot. It was an uninteresting day. We picked up our passports from Myanmar Embassy, stocked up on food at the grocery store (they had Cheetos's - so we were in heaven), watched "Knocked Up" and went to bed.

The next day (Wednesday - Feb. 18th), we hopefully said our last goodbye's to Phnom Penh and headed to Kompong Cham, which is about 3 hours north east. We had the usual rest stop along the way but instead of kids in our face trying to sell us fruit there was a huge pile of fried black spiders. This one Western guy got off the bus, went straight for the spiders and popped one right in his mouth. The two of us just stood there watching in complete disbelief. We know we should be more open-minded while traveling, but really, spiders????

We got into Kompang Cham around mid-afternoon and checked into "The Mekong Hotel", which is aptly named due to it being a hotel on the Mekong River. The inside of the hotel had these huge sterile tiled hallways, kind of giving off an eerie psychiatric
Our HutOur HutOur Hut

Our beautiful hut was built with recycled wood from Don and Kheang's previous house in Phnom Penh.
ward "Äwakening" feeling.
We stopped and had lunch and rented bikes to go Koh Paen (island in the Mekong) and check out the bamboo bridge. Again, the Cambodians don't sugar coat anything, it was literally a bridge made from bamboo - nothing more nothing less. It was rickety and looked a bit cumbersome for us to tackle in the steaming weather. So instead of turning back, we decided to walk our bikes over the bridge till we had crossed the river. However, G fell (well she actually fell twice) and was left with a severely scrapped knee, a huge bruise on he foot and a sprained ankle. The day ended on a not so positive note with G's injury.

However, the next day we were heading to the countryside for a home stay. It is run by an American - Don and his lovely wife, Seng, and their two children - Na and Ra. And the best part was they had a little 3 week old puppy dog. See photo and if your heart doesn't melt, it must be made of stone. He was perhaps the most flea infested animal, you've ever seen, but come on look at that

Our adorable homestay family. Ra was a bundle of energy, just starting school at age 6.
face!!! From the minute we saw him, he never left either one of our laps, the only time we gave him up was to use the bathroom or sleep. Anyway, moving on from the puppy......

This was no joke either, we were in a proper home stay, living like the other villagers in town - no electricity, no hot water, and for the first day no running water. In the late afternoon on the first day, we walked along the country side, taking in the sights, passing thru rice fields and stopped to talk to a local farmer. We got to ask him questions about this daily life and farming in Cambodia and he asked us in return about farming, the poor and the government in America. Unlike, the US there is no substance farming, so if his crop fails - he gets no support from the government. His legacy rice (that he can grow and re-plant efficiently) failed just recently, so he had to buy sub-par seeds from a company. The crop this year is bringing him enough yield, so he once again will have to re buy seeds for next season .Basically, the seed companies know that

Na was more reserved, she sat back and checked out the newbies.
farmers don't have internet access to check on seeds or current rice prices (as most can't read or write), so they are being overworked and underpaid. After about an hour or so talking the sun was beginning to set so we moved to see some more of the area. We came across a 68 year old man that was climbing a palm tree via a makeshift bamboo latter, collecting sugar palm. Not only was he 68 but he was in better shape then either of us. It was really un-real. He does this twice a day 5AM and 5PM. They reduce the liquid into a opaque consistency of toffee or caramel. After an exhausting day, we were treated to the most delicious meal we have eaten in Asia yet. Kheang made us beef curry that was to die for - if we weren't so tired we might have licked the bowl clean. After dinner, he mom sat and talked to us about her memories of Polpot and the Khmer Rouge. We chatted for a bit - thanks to Kheang translating for us and called it a night. Unfortunately, the neighbors were having a wake (100 day celebration) which in the
Homestay PuppyHomestay PuppyHomestay Puppy

Only 3 weeks old and sucha flea bag . . . but we loved him anyway!
afternoon consisted of chants and songs over and loud speaker, but at night turned into a karaoke party. Needless to say it was a tough night for us, with blaring music, no a/c or fan and the wilderness of spiders, frogs and lizards lurking outside our bungalow. It was for nights like this why God invented Valium.

The next morning - Feb.20th - Steph woke up to G singing "happy birthday" with a makeshift cake (handful of Hersey Kissess in a circle) and candles. S was reluctant to get out of bed but the sheer heat and sweat gave her no choice. Her past 5 birthdays in Brooklyn always included the words "snow" and "absurdly freezing", so it was quite weird to spending it in harsh heat of Eastern Cambodia. If you told her 10 years ago she would be spending her 28th birthday in Cambodia, she would have given you her famous smirk and rolled her eyes at you, but low and behold here she was. After a yummy breakfast, consisting of waffles, banana and monk bean fritters and these sugary balls (G loved them and yes go ahead and insert your own joke here), we hopped on
Dirt road trekDirt road trekDirt road trek

Kheang, S & G on our day 1 trek.
bikes to take a further look around the countryside. G was a bit hesitant as her last experience on a bike was not too good. But she braved it any ways and we headed off with Kheang and the two kids. We past thru her village where she grew up, where we were greeted by "hellos"and waves from the local. We got see the real rural life of Cambodia, not a censored view that is put on for tourist. We saw a family cooking palm sugar to sell at the market, kids cattle cows and women cooking along side the road. Next, we made our way up to a monastery at the top of a hill. We both struggled a bit with G having an injury and S having Ra on the back of her bike, but with only a few stops for water breaks, we made it up to the top. We first talked to a group of monks about Buddhism and religion in the US then checked out the Wat. It was built to resemble Angkor Wat and contained a plethora of Buddha statues.

We returned home with beat red faces and cooled off with a shower.
Rana FarmerRana FarmerRana Farmer

Kheang told us some think farmers are 'dumb'- but we found the opposite. He was curious, strong, and happy to have us.
Kheang then made yet another incredible dish - Fried noodles with beef and vegetables. The two us this time did end up scrapping the bowl clean. And it wasn't that there was a small portion made for us, it was just that we each had 3 helping, which is by all means excessive even in the west. But we justified our gluttony since it was Steph's birthday after all. After stuffing ourselves silly we laid down for a bit of a read. But S just ended up reading a page and a half of her book and then passed out for the next 3 hours. G actually did read for a bit and then sat outside to get some breeze and chatted with Don. New guest were arriving so G finally woke up S, so we could greet them. They were a lovely couple from Louisham, UK -Debbie & Allen. We chatted with them for a bit and then once again were treated to one of the greatest meals in months. This time she made this great fish dish over rice. We really not sure how to describe it or even what the ingredient were but trust us it was divine. Just think of putting little bite size pieces of heaven in your mouth and that was what it tasted like. This time we had competition from the Brits, so we restrained ourselves from looking like the overindulgent Americans we truly are. After dinner, Kheng younger sister, stopped by to talk to us about her experience of being a teacher in rural Cambodia. It was quite funny that she had the same complaints, many Western teachers have - horrible pay (she doesn't make enough to live on and must farm during school breaks), lack of school supplies and the class size was too big (she has btw 50 - 55 students in each class). They are short staffed at her school, so she teaches 3rd grade from 7AM to 11AM & 4th grade from 1PM to 5PM.

After a long day, we head to bed rather early but this time with no blaring karaoke in the background. However, we did spend the majority of the night killing spiders (well S whacking them with her shoe while Genny hid in her bed frightened to death) and brushing out bugs that had come in through our mosquito net. The next morning we had another delicious breakfast of waffles, fritters and scrambled eggs with toast. We said our goodbyes and got on the bus to Ban Lung in Ratanakiri Province with a stopover in Strung Treng for the night. We thought we would treat ourselves with the money Steph's mom gave he for her bday, but weren't able to find anywhere that nice in Strung Treng. We settled on a $15 night room with A/C and TV. Lonely Planet guide only listed two restaurants in town but both must have closed down since the book was published. So it was simple night of $.50 ramen noodles, an apple with peanut butter and the TV.

The next morning we gladly said goodbye to String Treng and made the bumpy hellish ride to Ban Lung. But our time in Ban Lung more then made up for our 4 hour ride of misery.

Till then.....loves

G & S

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15


Yummy Rice BallsYummy Rice Balls
Yummy Rice Balls

They were made of rice flour, palm sugar & fresh coconut shredded on top.
Bikes Round 2Bikes Round 2
Bikes Round 2

G didn't let the bike win!
Cambodian HomeCambodian Home
Cambodian Home

This style is typical of the area we stayed - the animals would stay under the house.
S and RaS and Ra
S and Ra

On our day 2 bike ride
Palm Sugar CandyPalm Sugar Candy
Palm Sugar Candy

They would cool it in these banana leaf rings, then sell at the market.
Road side BBQRoad side BBQ
Road side BBQ

Sticky Rice in banana leaf.

25th February 2009

heart warming
Your adventure in Kampong Cham sounded so enchanting ... felt like I was right there with you. Great pixs
26th February 2009

Hi Steph - Just asking about you and Kathy passed this on to me. The trip looks really amazing! So glad you are doing well. Happy Birthday ! Be Safe and take care - talk to you soon

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