Saturday, 24th November

It was a leisurely start to the day. We had already prepared our overnight bags for our night in a ‘homestay’. After breakfast we gathered ourselves together for the several hours drive. We had a new bus – and it was new! Gleaming white leather seats – not what was expected somehow. However, luggage aboard and lazily watched by two tuk tuk drivers who lounged with their vehicles at the entrance of the hotel ready to carry off any guest who passed them, we set off.

On the outer edge of town there was a big local market selling everything you could think of! The stalls were laden with goods. Highlights were fine baskets, brooms and brushes of every shape and size. An egg man passed with mountains of eggs on the back of a bike trailer with a man perched on top of the egg cartons – I am not sure how that works! Bread – mainly of the baguette variety. Cooked food is available, of all types, from the start of the day!

Once out of Siem Reap we were on to the main road to Pnom Pen. It was to be like a rolling film set of rural life. The first over arching impression was of a vast flat landscape, disappearing in to the distance of mainly bright green rice fields and grassland. Trees hedged the route and drainage ditches marked off the fields. Banana trees provided the only real height, together with coconut palms – two staples in terms of the Cambodian diet. We saw very few people working the land. Young boys minded the cattle.

Intermittently ‘face on’ to the road, were properties of all sorts. Some looked quite well to do and several storey affairs, others were in the early stages of being built. However the majority were rambling ground level buildings, evolved over years to accommodate whole families with evidence of several generations of inhabitants. Babies through to great grand parents. There was often a fair amount of anything that could provide shade, quite understandable in the searing heat and constant sunshine of the dry season. While most of these were single story dwellings, there were also a surprising number of buildings on stilts. I say surprising because there was often no evidence of water around them, but there is a constant reference to monsoon rains which must make anything that can lift you away from water beneficial.

There were noticeably few big lorries. As we moved further out of town we saw water buffalo and occasionally a buffalo cart. It is interesting that motorbikes have more or less taken the place of donkeys and oxen in terms of cart pulling…….. they seem to carry enormous loads of all sorts behind quite small motorbikes.

Every few miles there was a bigger community with larger shops and often something entitled a ‘depot’ where it looked as though produce was centrally collected, but it turned out to be a filling station! Different thing altogether!! One is never sure of anything. Tyre companies seem to be quite the thing – a useful trade to be in with so many wheeled vehicles!

If there is any area of water there will be people fishing on it, down to the smallest murky puddle it seems. Fish forms a large part of the diet here and rice comes with everything.

We stopped at a stall selling sticky rice. This is rice mixed with coconut milk, sugar and black beans and is then stuffed into hollowed out bamboo and cooked on a barbecue. It was very sweet and, as it’s name implied, very sticky.

Further along the road, we stopped by the roadside where a family were creating popping rice using a real Heath Robinson device of an old generator attached to a hammer to crush the rice. There were a lot of processes before it emerged husk free and popping!

It was fascinating!! There was also a very pretty young woman with her child….

Lunch was eaten on the edge of a lake. It was a very busy place! Denise and I shared some chicken and mushroom steamed in a lotus palm. It was very good!

Moving on into the afternoon we visited the Sambor Prei Kuk Hindu Temple. Built in the 7th century and dedicated to Shiva, it was an interesting place, not least because of its being made of handmade bricks, with no mortar. The site was surprisingly whole considering its age, although it has also been taken over in parts by the dreaded fig. Another interesting feature is that all the buildings are hexagonal! The whole place had a lovely aura.

A gateway –

The Lion Temple

That brickwork…..

The woodland……..

The ultimate takeover……..

I still found it was very reminiscent of the sites we saw in Mexico. Very weird given how far apart the locations are…… It was at this site that we were to hear the first reference to Pol Pot and the tragic events of Cambodia’s so very recent history. Bombs were dropped on the site when it was thought to be a jungle area full of village communities. 6,000 people died there. A very sobering thought. Deng, our guide to the area had lived through the troubles and had obviously been very badly affected by the experience.

Leaving the temple and it’s ghosts behind, we headed off to the Deng’s mother in law’s hous, where we were to stay the night.

A very large and impressive house in Cambodian terms, but it had no flushing loo or shower, both processes being handled by ladling water out of a bucketšŸ˜³

Our accommodation was dormitory style in the upper part of the house.

Deng took us for a walk across fields of rice straw to see the sunset. On the way we saw oxen and cattle heading home for the night….

The highlight of the walk was the sunset.

Despite the late hour, some were still fishing –

The sky just got better and better…….

After a supper of rice, fish and green beans we had a very early night…..

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