Cambodia – more than just Angkor Wat
Its been a long time, I sat down and wrote a few lines.. and much has happend for sure!
The ruins of Angkor Wat are really a must see if you are in this area, but Cambodia is much more.
I was at the ruins for four days. two sunrises and two sunsets – really stunning, special moments. I was driving trough the temple area every day, passing rice paddies and people working there.. So I developed more interest for the daily life of the poor, common people in the villages of Cambodia.
There is a place in Siem Reap which offers responsible tourism: their guided tours help Cambodian people directly. Their culture and way of life is not exploited for money like it is happening with many trekking tours to hill tribes in nothern Thailand. The money earned with these tours helps building wells, bying food and securing education. After seeing most of my dollars I spent in Cambodia wandering in the pockets of some rich westerner, I decided to go on one of these tours – despite the fact that I normally dont like guided, pre-arranged tourist tours.
I did a tour where we (2 girls from London and me) lived for a day with a local family and helped them do their daily work. I must say, that was really an experience.
We had a really good Khmer guide who told us a lot of stuff about life in the villages in Cambodia: hard work, strict social and family rules, poverty and hunger, the constant threat of land mines in remoter areas..
The family we worked with on this day (a women and her four childs, the father is a construction worker and gone all day) was building a little kitchen hut besides their one-room-living hut. The framework already stood, so we helped weaving the banana-leaf roof. At first we didnt really well, I think. But nevertheless we were the great attraction for the kids around. They couldnt stop laughing at us – we who are to stupid to even make some simple banana leaf roofs :)
After a couple of hours of “hard” work (I think if we were on a rice field this day, it would have been much worse), we began to prepare lunch. We bought the food from this family: rice, a chicken, vegetables and started to cook under the instructions of our guide. The chicken had to be killed and chopped into pices for the chicken soup, vegetables had be cut.. in the meantime the kids were sent out to collect a handfull of red ants. We cooked a Khmer delicacy this day: fermented fish with chillies and red ants.you just chopp everything up really small – I did the ants and felt like a mass-murderer :) – put it in a banana leaf and over the fire for some time..
The best thing about this cooking experience: we bought the food of the family and cooked it for them. Of course we tried a little bit ourself, but it was way more rewarding to see the family sitting in silent and enjoying a propper meal. The ants were pretty tasty by the way. Sour and salty. We had some prepared sandwiches andfruits and brownies, but none of us eat much, instead we gave it to the kids, too.
After lunch we spent some time sitting in the hut and our guide told us a bit more about Cambodia and its recent history. Of course I read about the Pol Pot regime and the brutality of the Khmer Rouge, but hearing it first hand from a person being involved in this shit is something different. His father was killed, bludgeoned to death with a stick when he was four, but even after the brutality of the 3 years, 8 month and 21 days, the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia and killed nearly 2 million of their own people, there was no end. Civil war continued until 1993, since then corruption has replaced the killing. And in the west, nobody cares. Cambodia is just another poor country, no oil, no valuable resources..
All in all, I was really glad I did this day. And I think that everybody visiting Cambodia should take the time to reflect on the recent history and not only go there because of the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, the booze (and sadly very often the women, too).