The Journey to Siem Reap
The Journey to Siem Reap
Today we are heading north to Siem Reap and to the temples of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Our journey will takes us 7 hours to arrive to our destination and will pass us through the countryside of Cambodia. A fairly bumpy road takes us from Phnom Penh and towards our first stop to see the tarantulas in Skoun.
As we pass through the narrow crowd filled streets on our bus, life in Cambodia unfolds around us with street venders selling fish heads and chicken feet while tut tuts and motobike constantly beep their horns while weaving through the chaos filled streets of everyday life. Here life is simple yet complex in a country that is considered one of the poorest in the world. The average wage about $80-90 a month for the majority of the people.
As we travel through the streets you can hear the clanking of hammers pounding against metal, typically the sound can be followed to a mechanic working on a motobike. To say some tools are primitive here would be a slight understatement. The stinch of dead fish and raw meats in the market fill the air as the muggy heat of the day rises in temperature. Dust from the roads fill the streets and explains why most wear masks as the travel through the roads. The echo of “tut tut for hire” mixes with the beeping horns and chatter of Cantonese. Then add into the chaos just down the street a couple is getting married and they have erected a giant party tent in the middle of the street.
Family and friends will pass through the tent as festivities will go for days before the wedding. We experienced about a day and a half of the festivities as our hotel and the party tent were just hundreds of feet apart. We too were able to take in the hours upon hours of loud speaker celebrations, toasts and local music blaring from the speakers setup all around the tent, both night and day. I am still convinced they have not slept yet, simply because I know we haven’t.
Phnom Penh has been a great experience into the culture of Cambodia, at times gut wrenching and other times taken back by the intricacies of the palaces and temples. Buddha is everywhere and so are the intricate gates adorned with mythical creatures and gods that pay homage to Buddha.
You often see children selling candy, books and pencils on the streets. The street children as they are known typically work for pimps and the kids will not keep any of the money they receive from their sales, instead they are often awarded in wage of opium by their street master. A growing problem in the larger cities where families have released the children to the streets to fend for themselves at ages 3, 4 or 5 and resulting in a large number of drug hyped and addicted children roaming the streets dazed and filthy. Fortunately a number of charities and non profits are working to help give the street kids options and get them off of roaming the streets here in Cambodia.
Along with just experiencing Southeast Asia, the experiences for me have included learning some basic Cambodian words. Hello is “Su Sid Dey” and thank you is “oh kun cha”. To greet some one you also clasp your hands and bow forward, depending on your importance in society depends on how high your hands are placed in the air. Naturally, a monk would receive the highest.
Eating has been fun, the variety of cuisine is far ranging and of course everything is served with noodles or rice. We have had tarantulas and red tree ants and are told tonight will be snake soup. Cobra and scorpion wine is prevalent and though I find myself curious of most things, cobra wine is something I can certainly pass by without the experience.
We have had to learn to eat with chopsticks or you were allowed to eat with a spoon, but not a fork or knife. A fork can only be held in the left hand and may only be used to rake food onto the spoon and the fork may never enter your mouth. The spoon must be held in the right hand and this is the utensil you may put in your mouth to eat with. I assure you, it’s taking some time to learn proper eating etiquette but given the oddities of the food selections, I am often hesitant to the first bite anyway so I have had plenty of time to remember the etiquette on how I should go about eating the odd food in front of me if I can brave up enough to try it. Although, at this point I am pleased to say nothing that I have been served has crawled off my plate yet. The tarantulas were questionable however, thank goodness for a deep fryer as that took care of the potential crawling away problem.
Our ride continues this morning through the small villages and the rice fields blend into the landscape as cows dot the roadside grazing where farmers have tethered them. The rainy season has not been too long in leaving so many areas are still flooded and this has given way to some amazing blooming pink lotus filled ponds in some of the low lying areas of the countryside.
We are arriving now at Skoun, so it’s time to go play with more tarantulas and experience more of the culinary cuisine of Cambodia. Fried Cockroaches anyone?
Signing off today from Skown, Cambodia.