Sambour Prei Kuk & rural Cambodia
Nov 12, 2013
|'My country, My Road' says our local tour guide as we depart PP, once known as the 'Pearl of the Orient'!
Picturesque drive to Kampong Thom, through rural Cambodia is promised! It is interesting to reflect on the day! It is 6.30 pm & we are sipping a G&T in our basic hotel in KT! Cicadas are deafening, lizards all over the walls, 32 deg C, covered in Deet, insects dropping onto us & dripping from the humidity!
Once we had cleared the poorer suburbs of PP the countryside was fascinating. However, rural poverty & subsistence farming is what we mostly see. Houses on stilts to avoid being flooded & to give a cooler area to eat in or swing in your hammock underneath. Men & women out working in the paddy fields, children of all ages walking or cyclng to school in their crisp white shirts. How do their mothers do it??
Our first stop is Kompong Leung Village, beside the Tonle Sap River. This inauspicious hamlet was a royal landing port when nearby Oudong was the capital of Cambodia. Silver, copper and brass artefacts are made here to support the whole village. It seems to be mostly girls doing the intricate silver work and we have to barter if we want to purchase - not easy for us Brits! It is off the beaten track so not many tourists ae taken here.
The road becomes even more rural & we will not complain about potholes in the UK for a while anyway! Our minibus has to use all the road to avoid the bumps & lumps as well as oncoming traffic. Certainly difficult to snooze on this journey!!!
Skuon Town has a very busy market It is renowned for sautéed taratula spiders legs! Also, crickets, grasshoppers, cockroaches etc to choose from as a snack!!! There is a 10/11 year old girl wandering around with a tarantula on her shoulder. Stuart is persuaded to try just the tip of a spider leg as, apparently, the bodies are not too tasty, & has survived so far!!! His verdict - crunchy & garlicky!
More potholes later we arrive at Santuk Silk Farm. This has been set up by a US Vietnam veteran, Bud Griffin. Young girls from the local village work here to weave scarves from silk, very expertly, & get paid a decent wage. His (2nd) wife is Khmer & serves up a delicious lunch. He goes through the silk process & we see the girls weaving & finishing off with the delicate tassels. He now employs 19 girls, some who have moved from garment factories in nearby towns who supply Primark etc!!!! Say no more.
As we are about to leave there is a localised 'shower' which becomes a bit like a mini monsoon so we are trapped with these beatiful scarves. Stuart nearly has apoplexy!!!
Last stop Sambor Pre Kuk - ruins of one of the oldest temple cities in SE Asia (built between 616-635 AD) & dedicated to Shiva. It was the pre-Angkorian capital of the Chenia civilisation. In latter times it became a Khmer Rouge stronghold & was the target of heavy American bombing & we see some of the bomb craters. Sadly only half the temples of the estimated original 200 remain.
As we step down from our transport about 10 local village children descend on us & follow us round trying to sell us a scarf (not silk!) for a dollar. They are very experienced & pick you off so I have a boy & girl, both about 9, attached to me. In stereo we all get 'Mind the tree roots, Watch your step, Buy scarf only one dollar - cheap for you, Big tree over there is Fig Tree, Old temple over there!!! Eventually I teach them to say 'Mind the Gap' just to ring the changes. They are delightful children but it is difficult to know what to do. In the end Stuart relents & gives his pair the equivalent of less than 50p in local money, but no scarf thank you! Our local guide is very good in controlling them generally. I wish I had put some pens or pencils in my pocket as they all have to pay for schooling here.
About to eat before turning in to our mosquito netted bed as our hotel is near the river! Room is great but the shower is pretty cool, so refreshing!! There is air condtioning, but you have to stand under the unit to feel it. Just one night here but great experiences.
What will tomorrow bring?