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Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Touring the province

If you read this regularly you will know that Sarun is now living out of town. He has moved in with his daughter in a village called Pongero. It's about 9 k out of town, away from Phnom Penh, on Highway 5. Recently he invited me to come and visit so he could show me around the area where he grew up.

I rode out on my bicycle which took about 45 minutes or so. I would have ridden straight past. Sarun had given me very clear directions except he said the market and their shop were on the right. Therefore I was sure I hadn't reached it yet when I saw his daughter waving and calling to me from the left.

Sarun and I went from there on his motorcycle. First we went to see Kompong Chhnang International Airport. As you can see from my first photo it used up a heck of a lot of concrete. It was built during the Pol Pot regime with Chinese money as a military airport. According to Lonely Planet it was never fully operational and it is rumoured that the Khmer Rouge leaders had all who worked on it killed to keep it a secret. There are also supposed to be plans to redevelop it for tourists, however from what Sarun tells me the people have no enthusiasm for anything that came from Pol Pot. Nearby buildings are derelict.

Returning along the quality concrete road built to service the airport we stopped to take a look at a fish trap in the rice fields. There is a creek running along the road but it is hard to pick it out as rice has been planted right through it. I noticed in many places that creeks have dams that let the water through but not the fish. The second photo is an example. The fish can't get through the palm leaves but they find the break and attempt to jump only to be caught in the trap.

Sarun asked me to take over the controls of the bike. First time I've done so in Cambodia and the first time for about three years. Gradually it all comes back except that his gears are upside down from what I'm used to.

We went to a village where something that looks like a stupa was built as a memorial to the local French commandant who was murdered by a villager who was unable to pay the taxes demanded. The memorial is overgrown with vines. No one cares for it. Obviously the commandant is still not respected. Almost across the road from the memorial we went to visit one of Sarun's friends who he told me was an English teacher.

The teacher was very friendly and he chatted to me in Khmer. I was pleased because most people here want to practise English with me which makes it difficult for me to practise Khmer. I figured he must be confident enough with his English to not feel the need to practise with me. We ran though all the usual questions that are customary when getting to know someone in Cambodia. We talked about each others family and ages and where I came from. I won't say I was fluent but I was pleased that I could carry on the conversation without any help. And he understood me : )

Next Sarun asked him to tell the story of the French commandant. I assumed now he would switch to English but he didn't. He continued in Khmer which Sarun translated as it was way beyond me. But why? I can only assume that despite being an English teacher when faced with a native English speaker he is shy about his ability to speak English.

The third photo shows Sarun with my new friend and his grandchildren. Sarun is the shorter one. I'm sorry, I didn't get the English teacher's name. Names are not considered important when getting to know someone in Cambodia.

We continued our sightseeing. I saw a lot of rice which I never tire of. The greens are beautiful—or have I mentioned that before. I didn't take more photos. I must already have hundreds. You can see a few of them on my flickr pages.

I had a delightful day. Makes me wonder why I don't have a motorcycle so I can enjoy this sort of thing more often.

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