Today I want to share the weird and wonderful sights of Cambodia. To Khmer people these may seem ordinary, but to me they were fresh and new and usually very colourful.
All my life I have dreamed of travelling to South East Asia. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I have been a massive Beatles fan, and read with interest how visits to Asia changed the band's viewpoint on spirituality and culture. Then, whilst at Art School my friends would go off travelling to India in the Summer and come back with colourful tales and photographs. It is strange to feel a deep connection to a place, culture, people I have never met...but this is how I felt as soon as I got to that part of the world. It is INCREDIBLY different from everything I am used to, in so many subtle ways. Even as we got to Singapore there was a feeling of lightness and space. But I lost my photographs of Changi Airport, so you will have to wait till next year for that blog.
Everywhere you go in Cambodia there is food. There is a national obsession with food. Cambodians must eat all the time. I didn't understand this until I read 'First they Killed my Father', and now I can see that through the Khmer Rouge times people were so hungry: starved in fact, that food must be very important to remind them of safety and freedom. Plus Cambodians just love food and BunLay told us they have always been that way, food is a very important part of their culture.
In 'Spider Town' we came accross a bustling roadside market selling all sorts. We were all persuaded to buy things from some incredibly sweet young girls who could charm Alan Sugar off his boardroom chair any day. We bought bananas, pineapple and mango as well as some small green tree fruits that in the Caribbean we called Akees.
I actually didn't buy one Rambutan whilst in Cambodia, although I was very excited to see so many. Next time.
All the fruit we bought was fresh, peeled and prepared and in bags. It was delicious, and none of us got sick from whatever water it was washed in. In fact I didn't get sick at all on my trip, and was very pleasantly surprised with hygene generally - everything is clean and in some places they have built western style loos for tourists. However I was a bit pissed off when we stopped at one of these toilet blocks. It was right opposite out community school in BengMealea. The kids aren't allowed to use the facilities, and only have two long-drop toilets for the entire school!
In Spider Town (Skuon) we had a hideous coffe experience that I can recall to this day. Cambodians love coffee..rrrreeeeally strong, and with condensed milk lurking in the bottom. This I got used to but they did something else here that rendered the coffee undrinkable. On the plus side, look at it!
And of course, this was where I saw the fried spiders for sale, as well as the crickets and other bugs.
No I didn't.
In the end the most spiritually touching experience for me was this. We had a water blessing by a monk at the nearby Buddhist Pagoda in Beng Mealea. This gentle, quiet but obviously quite cheeky little fellow swanned around the camp to see what had been built there for the students, nodded approvingly, then set about blessing us all with 6 months good luck - surprised at the specific time limit to the luck...should just need topping up when I go back! He was offered some goodies, as is the norm: can of pop, money, candes and some cigarettes. I have to sa I was not too impressed that with all their beautiful wisdom they are fine with smoking fags! But I'll let them off for doing such a good job of orange.
I have a few more sets to share: temples, floating village and new friends to mention a few.