Today we left early for a 30 kilometer bike tour of the Cambodia countryside. We started from the hotel which meant traveling among the tuk Tula, scooters, an motor vehicles! A bIt scary as there are no type of stop signs or lights, everyone just makes there way through!
We finally reached the country where we traveled on rough paved roads, dirt roads and sand paths. Needless to say it was not a smooth ride. Being We haven't been on bikes for a few years, I think our butts will be sore tomorrow!
We traveled through several villages. These were larger than the one we saw yesterday. It was also a cleaner community and I think "richer " as they had actually paved part of the road. We visited with a couple village families. The women were basket weavers. Beautiful handiwork. They sell them to a middleman for $2 and then he sells them in the city for $10!
As we rode through the villages the kids would have and yell Hello. I am sure this has been learned from previous tours. The second home we visited, the family was sending one of the daughters to private school to learn English so we practiced. It is expensive ( by Cambodia standards)to send a child to learn a foreign language...$1000 per year the first year, and progressively more expensive each year. Since parents don't speak English they can only practice at school. The average annual wage is $750
The first family we visited had 9 children, but 4 were married. There were 5 grandchildren. The lady was only 52 and didn't look that old. There house was wooden and 100 years old. They would like to build a new house but need to use the money to educate their children.
We visited the local market...lots of fresher fruit and vegetables and meat and fish(dead and living). People were buying only a small amount...only enough for the day as they come every day.
We stopped at a rice mill. The people of the community bring their rice after harvesting and it is separated into rice or rice bran and the husk is removed. The husk is used for fuel or composting. It is a very noisy process and has been used for a long time. The number of rice crops ia farmer can have depends on water supply. If there is an irrigation source they can have 2 or 3 harvests. If not only one harvest.
We visited anther school. This one is run by the HUSK organization. A NGO which means non government organization. The school was built with plastic bottles filled with plastic trash and then cement was put over it. The bottles and trash were collected by the villagers.for every bottle brought in they received a prize.
It is a public primary school that teaches English. It is free to all who live there n the community.
The Cambodia homes are built on stilts and the farm animals are often times kept below where the family stays during the day time. Mostly there were cows, but the first family we visited had a pig tied to a robe as otherwise it would eat all of their food!
There were chickens running around everywhere as they raise them to take to the market. There were duck farms in which the eggs are sold at the market.
Water buffalo are the animals used to plow fields and pull carts.
Scooters and motorcycles are an important mode of transport. Seems everyone has one and it's the family car as long as there are only 4 members in your family! Apparently the run on "gasohol" as the market area "gas stations " are shelves with empty liquor bottles and soft drink bottles filled with gasoline. I know this because I saw a scooter getting a filli up!
After lunch we went to the floating village. It is an area on the river where about 1000 families have lived for hundreds and hundreds of years. They never leave. We had to go by boat down the most polluted river where men and boys were in the water fishing with nets. Fishing is how the people earn their livelihood. There is a floating primary schooll, the government provides teachers. The teachers do not live in the floating village. There are floating markets, gardens, even a floating bar and restaurant. Lots of fish farms and traps.
According to our guide buyers come from the city to purchase the fish (mostly catfish) and bring what needs to be sold in the shops. I would guess everything is on a barter system. Since they never leave there would be no need for the money. The river is their laundry, bath tub, kitchen sink and unfortunately their sewer. It did look like they drank bottled water.
Only electricity would be from generators. Some houses had TV antennas. There was also a large cell phone tower. Not sure who they call as they do not move away so all the relatives would be in the village.
They do also farm rice when not in the wet season as the lake in which the river flows into is very low and allows for much land. Apparently they grow a lot of rice that is exported.
It was an interesting area. But again as with other travels I am glad to be an American and to have what I have.