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Published: January 6th 2020
This was always one of the highlights of my trip - seeing local communities and their everyday lives.
While in Kampong Cham - my vegan options were incredibly limited. I found a place on Happy Cow and spent most of the morning trying to find it. By the time I got there, the place either didn't exist, the map location was wrong or it was closed. Given there were only two places in the city that offered Vege/Vegan options, this was a tad stressful. I googled "Vegetarian Restaurant" and a bunch of places came up, but none of them looked Vege from their menu's. Found a place when walking back, gave them my "I'm one of those VEGANS" bit of paper and they told me they could do fried noodles with vege's. I asked them to add some Tofu and she said it was possible. She ushered me to a table, where I sat in front of a total stranger - both of us feeling awkward, but a quick dart of the eyes around the restaurant and there really wasn't anywhere else to sit. Looks like me and mah boy were going to have to remain staring into each others eyes while we ate.
During our trip to the Chambok Community, we stop at a local market. As soon as our doors open, this kid comes up holding a tarantula and asks if anyone wants to hold it. Fuck that. Yuck. A few people from the group reluctantly do so, turns out the spider is a lot more chill than you expect and it just hangs out, occasionally moving its feet. All the stalls in the market are basically selling the same thing. The reason we stopped there was because Vanny wanted to show us all the weird bugs and things people ate. Some of the group tried spiders, bugs etc. It wasn't like there was one or two, there were large pots of them. Yuck.
I buy some Mango's & Banana's instead.
We then break for lunch at a place that's just utter bollocks. There's literally nothing for me to eat - which I'm a bit fucked off at Vanny about given he was advised by the tour in advance. I gave the people my bit of paper, they read it, looked confused, then proceeded to pass it from person to person. No-one really knowing what to do. I ended up ordering fries, which even then, were appallingly bad.
We start arriving into the Community. You can tell things are going to be different as the tar-seal road we've been driving on now changes into a dirt road. The mini-van we're in proceeds to bang constantly as we try to avoid potholes. It's better than the gravel roads we have in New Zealand in the respect that we don't slide around, but sometimes there's literally no way of avoiding the holes in the road. Call me crazy, but this actually made me more excited.
People in the community are staring and waving at us as we drive passed. Intrepid are really the only non-Cambodians who come into this area, although a Canadian company called G Adventures has just started as well.
We get to our homestay, the house is elevated and there's an area to hangout underneath. This has become a common thing in Cambodia, because not only does it give you somewhere to have more storage/space to utilise when it's raining, it also provides you with shade when it's hot. We go up to our room, there's 5 beds which are covered in mosquito nets and have fans going. Even with the fans, the room is stinking hot, so I'm a lil nervous how the night's going to pan out. We wonder across to the second house, although this looks aesthetically more pleasing on the outside, it's actually the same on the inside - with worse fans. I make a mental note to throw my stuff into the first place as quickly as I can when we get back.
We then go to the Chambok Community Center close by. The Chamobok Community has around 3000 people, a school, medical center and a few local shops. The majority of people are farmers, but as a community they're quite close. If anyone needs help with something, they can ask people in the village - who will help out when they're available. They've started to boost the economy more by doing Eco-Tourism, changing farmers houses to incorporate Home-Stays and educating their children so they can obtain other jobs other than farming.
Before the next part of our trip starts, we play hacky sack - with well, a non-hacky sack. It's a fucking ridiculous thing. Sadly I didn't get a photo, but it looks like a shuttle cock (for badminton - not a space penis you fruitloop) with a spring and feather. It's the most impossible thing to try and kick, yet there's about 8 of us guys throwing our legs around trying to make contact with it.
I'm wearing my jandals, to which one of the Aussie guys announces "Be careful you don't bust a plugger."
"I'm sorry my good fellow, what the fuck is a plugger!?"
"It's when ya fackin have the plug fall out of your thongs and they break."
You learn things every day.
The next part of our trip is a "tractor" ride to see where some mass erosion has happened. Honestly, you can't call it a tractor. It's a fucking ride on lawn mower engine attached to some long handle bars dragging a small wagon behind it. It's the most ridiculous creation ever, but they're scattered throughout Cambodia. It looks almost like you're grabbing antlers or large Harley Davidson handle bars.
12 of us jump on board this slow moving death trap and make our way. Charging along at our max speed of probably 15kmph, the locals see these white people cruising passed and all wave and say "Hello". It's a really nice feeling. Felt somewhat like a celebrity - "HEY EVERYONE, THAT'S THE BLOG GUY!".
We stop off at a dam that was built by the Khmer Rouge - well, they didn't, they forced local people to build it. Anyone that refused or wasn't working, was executed.
We go to this place that has been eroded during the wet season. The land is just falling away. The Khmer Rouge would kill people here. I think the number was about 500/600 people.
We go back to the community centre and have dinner. They employ local under-privlaged females from the village to cook. It's very basic, but decent enough. I've only eaten chips for lunch, so by this point I'm ravenous - anything will do.
The local children then put on three dances for us which was adorable. Then everyone had a dance with them afterwards.
We head to our home stay for the night. Our host Sri Su was part of the Khmer Rouge, so we get the opportunity to ask him question - with Vanny translating because his English is literally "Hello."
I decide to go get some drinks for people in the group and our hosts so go across the road to the local shop (which is actually just a bamboo table with a cooler). They're closed, so I go to another 10 metres away. Turns out it's not a shop and they don't speak a lick of English.
I wave my arms around like your generic English only speaking person does, feeling superior to these heathens who don't speak the same language as me because I'm a foreigner in their country. Eventually they understand what I'm getting at, (waving my hand towards my mouth trying to indicate drinking - either that or I was offering them a blow job) and point me in the direction about 50m down the rd.
I get down there and proceed with my blowjob action and saying "beer." A few more people gather, probably thinking I'm gunna turn this into a full blown bukakake session (Don't Google that mum) and then, my hero arrives.
He's 53, dark complexion, large teeth, skin looking as wrinkly as a ball sack, riding a 50cc motorbike. What a man.
It was Sri Su. He must've heard the pale honky across the road trying to communicate and rushed to his aide. They all stand round speaking Khmer, then start laughing. Probably said something along the lines of 'Look at this stupid fuck.' "Yeah, we thought he wanted to suck us off."
We get the drinks, then jump on his bike back to the house. I'm amazed that thing took both our weight.
We all hang out, drink some beer and Vanny translates between Sri Su, his wife and the foreigners. We ask him about his time in the Khmer Rouge - you can tell it's a bit of a difficult topic, but he's happy to answer our questions.
It gets a bit tense a few times and I got the impression Vanny (who was a kid when everything was happening) and Sri Su disagreed on a lot of what was discussed.
It's hard to know whether we properly got his version of events or just Vannys interpretation.
We ask him if he knew about what they were doing. He said he didn't, it was a really complex period of time. They were just told to kill, they thought what they were doing was right - for Cambodia. For example, they would be told people in the village were spies for the Viet Cong, anyone who mentioned anything bad about the government was killed, school kids would mention something their parents said at home harmlessly and their parents would be dead when they got home, etc. Basically there was just a mass paranoia, which contributed to millions of people dying. The mood started to change, so we made it more light hearted and let them ask us questions. They told me NZ was incredibly privlaged to have had civil war (in recent times).
I slept fine - everyone else struggled.
The next day we go for breakfast, then go on a walk to a waterfall. A kid from the village named Kakakada (July), takes leads the way and I help him practice his English by talking to him on the way.
We take a couple of the community dogs with us, just in case there are any Cobras along the way. Jop is one of them. His ears don't stand up like the rest, hence his name. He's also only got half a tail as he was fighting a Cobra one day and his owner tried to help and cut his tail off by accident.
We get to the waterfall and I charge forward, climbing all the rocks, going through the streams etc, get up there and have a shower in the water. Everyone else is really slow and careful but we were very privlaged growing up we got to go across this kinda terrain, so it's second nature to me.
That's enough for today. Next stop: Kampot
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