July 13, 2010
A day in Kompong Chhnang
We started with big plans for the weekend, not to say it wasn’t a full weekend because it was... We wanted to go to Kratie to see the Irrawady dolphins, but because Kratie is soooooofar away, it would have taken us ages to go there, and taxi was expensive too, so we decided to go somewhere closer. So we woke up on Sat morning, after a very nice evening out in the Chinese house (blues concert there was amazing!!), and we took the bus from Psar Thmei (central market) to Kompong Chhnang.
The bus ride took around 2 hours, and it cost me 2.5 dollars. The bus ride in Cambodia is a unique experience, because Cambodians like listening to music and watching movies in the bus. Thing is music is very very loud and movies are very very bad, and still very very loud. And everyone watches like they are hypnotized and when there’s something funny they all laugh. It’s v v funny to see that
So after 2 hours of this, couldn’t wait to get out of the bus haha, we got off in Kompong Chhnang. In the bus station there were motos waiting for new visitors, especially barangs (white people). Not too many barangs in Kompong Chhnang, just some lost ones passing by on their way to Battambang. We made a very good deal with one moto driver who wanted to show us around by moto, and he took us everywhere. So, we rented 2 motos for the day with our private guide for just 10 dollars, so 3.333 each hahah. We spent the night in the Sokha Guesthouse, recommended by the Lonely Planet, I was expecting something more rustic, but it wasn’t really. Very basic and cheap, 5 dollars each.
The moto driver/guide he was special. He used to be a monk but now he was not anymore, that was probably why he indulged in the beauties of life, that is alcohol . So he started off a bit tipsy and by the end of the day he was drunk I suppose. You could smell the alcohol off him, but also you could see it in his eyes hahahha I was a bit nervous cause at the end he was driving very fast and I had the impression he was not driving very straight either but I survived, I’m OK
He took us to a place where they produce chilli, they grow it, pluck it, cook it and dry it, and then they sell it in the local markets ( See pics here http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=460640&id=505430715&l=9c9f18007b). Most of the people in the community contribute to this. These people live in the houses on high pillars (see pics), and in the dry season they work under them. When the wet season comes, the water level reaches so high, that the pillars are fully covered, and so these places become villages on water , and people switch to fishing and using boats. This is not the same as the floating villages, which are already on the river, and the little houses are actually floating they don’t have any support, they are just anchored. As the wet season starts, the level of water raises and so it doesn’t affect the floating houses in any way. The people there are prepared for everything as you can see. Most of the people living in the floating villages are Vietnamese, probably came up on the Mekong with the flow. The houses have digital antennas so they can watch TV, they have a school (this I thought was amazing), they have floating restaurants, so what more can you wish for. The ride by boat around the floating village cost us 7 dollars, so a bit more than 2$ per person. The boat was the tiny wooden one, very challenging to get in as it bounced a lot hahahah and the sailor resembled one of the Venetian gondola sailors, only that he was taking water out of the boat on a regular basis…happy we made it alive hahah; every one was waving hellos to us, especially the kids who know how to say hello in English and who love posing for pictures. It was very interesting to see how these people live. The ride in the boat was fun, but it was so hot that we were dead by the end of it. We bought some Vietnamese hats which are great to protect you from the sun!! But we bought them after the boat ride…smart no??? hahah
After disembarking, the guide took us to the vegetable market (see pics), where everyone was talking about the barangs. so they were arguing with our guide that we are all sisters, that I was the older one, astrid was the middle one, and eva was the youngest. At least they got the ages right. But when the guide was telling them we are just friends, they did not believe him…One of them even told him that the girls were the sisters and I was the older brother ( that was weird, seeing that I thought my chest would make it obvious I am a woman…but who knows how they look at us hahahha) so, we were ‘the attraction of the market’, maybe they even had bets on us who knows hahahah. We stopped for a Vietnamese coffee which is a bit different than the Cambodian one. We went on one of the boats to have it, so a little boat-café, very very nice!!
After that, the guide took us to a little mountain with a big Wat where many monks lived and went to school at (I am very bad with names here!!!). Apparently this mountain here has the shape of a woman, namely the daughter of Kong Rey…
Here is a story I have found online:
“A prince suspects that there is a Yeak (Giant woman/evil witch) amongst his people in his castle but doesn't know which woman is the Yeak because she blends into the territory by transforming herself into one of the concubines.
The Yeak realizes that she is in danger of being discovered so she gives the Prince a job by sending him away with a letter. His duty was to give the sealed letter to The Yeak's daughter known as Princess Neang Kong Rey. And in that letter it states for Neang Kong Rey to KILL the Prince. On his way to the princess, an angel magically changed the letter to mean something else which was ---------> for her to marry him.
The two actually fell in love and became husband and wife. Because she loved him so much she told him all the secrets including his 11 aunts and mother's eyeballs that were removed years before by the Yeak. Obviously he had to save his mother so he took the eyeballs without Neang Kong Rey's awareness. As he was leaving on his magical flying horse, Neang Kong Rey runs after him and cries for his return. Unfortunately she fell off a cliff when the Prince (named Puthisen) parted the ground with his magic wand lol. And where she fell, the mountain was formed in her shape… After healing his mother and aunts, he came back to look for her but she was already dead. The mountain was named after Neang Kong Rey where her bones were buried. To many people, there is a part of the mountain where there is a big cave that has a certain herb called "Ma-Omm" that naturally grows there in huge amounts. To the villagers, they believe that the Ma-Omm is the pubic hair of Neang Kong Rey so they refrain from eating Ma-Omm grown from that area. Otherwise Ma-Omm is a popular Cambodian herb consumed by millions of Cambodians.”
We also had a nice little talk with a monk there, who was trying to practice his English. He told us he wants to become a teacher when he finishes his studies ( Education Science) and teach about the Buddhist religion. He wakes up every morning at 4. and the only meal is at 6 or 7, he is allowed to eat rice and meat. He cooks his own food. The rest of the day he can’t eat anything, but he can drink. And drinks include Coca Cola!!! Can u believe it? Coca Cola can use this as a marketing tool, such as even monks drink Coca Cola… During the morning he goes to school and in the afternoon he preys and meditates. He goes to bed around 9-10 in the evening.
The province is famous for its clay pots. In fact, Kampong Chhnang means "Port of Pottery", Kompong – port, and Chhnang pottery. I bought some nice objects there, a little pot, and a candle holder for only 2 $. I would’ve bought more but it is very hard to transport…
The countryside there looked amazing very green, many palm trees, and nice little huts. We stopped on the road to have a nibble- a piece of meat and a piece of snake for the courageous ones…we could’ve had some bugs also…and then returned to the hotel after a full day. We had dinner in a hotel restaurant, which was not very good actually, but that’s all we could find at that hour
…and next day back in Phnom Penh for a full day of shopping in the Russian market – I bought sooo many stuff, with the purpose of decorating my room hahah; girls you would love it here !!! (next time I go I’ll take my camera with to show you what it’s all about…)