22 January 2013
I woke refreshed at 5.30am and after reading my book for an hour I went for a walk in the village. The road was surprisingly busy at that time in the morning with trucks roaring past sending the red dust swirling. It will certainly make a huge difference once the road has been sealed. Children were all on the move as well with primary children walking to the nearby school and secondary students biking further away. I had lots of delightful conversations as they all wanted to say hello and practise their English. The party was in full swing still but I discovered it was a funeral and would be going on for several days. There also seemed to be a makeshift truck depot where the drivers were all cleaning polishing and shining. One truck appeared to have been deliberately tipped over on its side to facilitate repairs.
After breakfast with some delicious rice batter fried bananas to finish we boarded our bus again for another dusty bumpy trip through to Siem Reap. At a break Kom introduces us to the ultimate food to go; bamboo sticky rice. This very slightly sweet mix of sticky rice and black beans is put inside green bamboo lengths and cooked drying out the bamboo leaving a light skin on the rice mix. A plug of leaves is put in the top and it will last several days. To eat it you remove the plug and pull back the bamboo in strips to reveal a cylinder of tasty filling rice.
We drive past vast plains of rice fields that pre Pol Pot were all jungle filled with elephants and tigers that are now all gone. The various colonizers of this country: French, Thai and Vietnamese have plundered all its natural resources. In the Siem Reap area the soil is now very poor from centuries of farming back to the days of Angkor Wat. If it wasn’t for Angkor Wat as a tourist attraction the town would just be a backwater town going downhill rapidly. Many of the people we meet over the next few days from tuk-tuk drivers to waiters and masseuses have come to Siem Reap from provincial areas in search of jobs to support their families. Some have left young families behind and are staying with monks here only getting to go home occasionally.
We reach our hotel around midday, check in and then some of us go with Kom to a nearby restaurant that provides good local food and a welcome respite from the 38C outside.
Seven of us are keen for a massage and our guidebook tells us of Seeing Hands, a massage organisation set up to provide work for the blind and we see it is important for us to support this cause. I talk to one of the guys at hotel reception and he phones to book it for us. We can’t all have massage at the same time so we settle for 3 then 4 in consecutive sessions. Two helpful tuk tuk drivers are enlisted to take us to the massage place which we eventually find on the 3rd attempt as there are several Seeing Hands places.
Once we drop the first group off the rest of us go to Angkor Artisans which has a great display of a whole range of different crafts and the process of making them and of course a shop but it is very pricey. Our tuk tuk drivers wait to do the exchange of massagees and Artisan visitors.
Four of us then find ourselves lined up in a row with our blind masseurs. This is a very interesting experience that takes a while to get ourselves sorted out. I have a great experience with mine seeming to know exactly which points to focus on but the others experiences varied: some finding it agonising and others managing to fall asleep.
In the evening we have a dinner in a restaurant that also provides a show of traditional Cambodian music and dance. Siem Reap is Kom’s home town and we have been asking him if we will get to meet his wife and family. He surprises us when they are there to meet us at the restaurant. We immediately insist that we will pay for their meals. His wife is just gorgeous and smiles as much as Kom does. She doesn’t speak English but seems to have a good time with us. Valerie got Kom to translate and thanked her for sharing him with us as he is a lovely man and has taught us so much.
It must be really hard on the family having him away for up to a month at a time. He has said he will do it for 5 years to get the family set up. It is not just his immediate family: they live with her parents and have adopted a 7yr old niece as well as their own son who is 4 and daughter who is 11 months (and wins all our hearts at dinner). Kom is paying for his younger sister’s education and helping to support his parents who sold their house to pay for his medical treatment for 3 years when he got dengue fever and resulting oedema as a boy and nearly died. He comes from a family of 7 children but 2 of his brothers died (of starvation I understand). Kom also was bone thin – he has gained 20kg in the last 4 years and is now only a slender man. Right now he is focusing on getting the siblings from both families educated and set up with careers. His wife is training to be a tailor.
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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