We spent the night in Chbar Mon in a school for teachers, where classrooms are used as dormitories too. The future 20yo teachers sat with us in the courtyard and we talked a few hours, some translating for the others.
The warehouses for textile industry follow the road to Phnom-Penh, some with Chinese label, which confirms the shift of the industry from a country to another. Around 7am minibus and scooters start to move around, some people stopping by like us to eat some rice porridge with Mekong fish and doughnut before going to work.
When we arrive in Phnom-Penh we are surprised by the simplicity of the capital, which looks like a huge village where tall buildings are rare. This gives some charm to the city, crossed by the impressive Mekong and its fishers’ armies. However we don’t want to stay there having no plan and not feeling ready to ask around for a free stay in such a crowded place.
To go out of it turned to be complex. After 5km walking we found a nice hitchhiking spot but a couple stops and take us back to the center despite us telling them to stop. We had to negotiate with them and at the bus station where they stopped, we finally made them take us back where we were. We reach Chealea at the end of the day, and are welcomed in a Pagoda on a hill. Second problem of the day, the street restaurant doesn’t have food so we have to walk 2km to find dried meat and rice.
These small issues are quite frequent since the beginning in Cambodia. Even if we question our culture and sometimes understand why it happens, which is an important and interesting thing to do, we finish the days quite exhausted.
Three young guys become monks the day after and we can stay two nights to watch the ceremony. The karma comes definitely back just before leaving Cambodia: a couple going to a wedding stops for us and we get the second ceremony of the week. We cheer with the newly wedded and eat with their families, among almost one thousand of guests. The rites are quite different from the Christian’s ones. For instance the guests bring gifts one after another in the broom’s room, after a procession where the more traditional gifts are at the front. Or the family pretends to cut the hair of the couple while sprinkling water with a rose. We will try to learn more details about these symbols and their meaning when we are back.
We leave this party well fed and cross the border with Laos. The south of the country is full of tourists who came to admire the dozens of islands on the Mekong river. We have a short view before going to sleep on a rice field. The ground and the trees are dry in comparison with Cambodia and Thailand and we observe for the first time a real difference of season after the wet Indonesia.
We move toward Pakse to sleep again in a Pagoda, where we luckily found some English speaking monk-students. We can exchange a bit, know more about the 10 rules for a monk under 20yo and the 227 after this age. By the way, every buddhist not even monk should follow five rules, like the one of not killing, but also not drinking.
We feel good to talk, the pagodas being a place used to help poor or old people, we don’t like to come and go without giving anything in exchange.
We walk a lot since the border, more than 20km a day and often around noon, unfortunately we cannot do that much about it for now. We hope we can manage our time better, but at the same time we want to go in the countryside and cars usually stop in the big cities without that much traffic elsewhere.
English level is really low besides the international hello, and sign language is sometimes not enough to be understood. It’s highlighting the difference of cultures and symbols between us in the villages where telecommunications, business and tourism haven’t spread fully yet.
Close to Khasmida, the only person among fifty to know a little English was transsexual and was feeling totally accepted in the community, which was somehow great in our opinion. We exchanged a bit with her and moved then to camp close to the lake that was actually a muddy pond. Malaria will catch us one day!
Now we are close to some mountains in Thakhet area, and there are many caves around there. If it’s still the case next time, we may try to find one without Buddhas to sleep in! But we need to find some people to discover how they live inside the house too, camping under the stars has some limits.
About the legends, we decided to take as many videos and note as many things as possible about people’s life and traditions, and we may display it on an interactive map here. The documentary seems complex to do, the situations being too complex and different to have any coherence within a movie. We’ll see!
Have a nice week! And Merry Christmas!