Kompong Cham has a huge french colonial influence in the abandoned buildings but is also very Cambodian at the same time. Lots of dawn markets, busy streets, locals carrying sacks on their heads and not many westerners at all. Very charming indeed.
We cycled over the Bamboo bridge to the island in the middle of the river and did a little Tikki tour around the island on our bikes. All the local kids come running out screaming “Hello – Hello”. It was really fun and great to be riding bikes through the rice paddies. A bit scary over the bamboo bridge though. Actually it was really scary and I might have let out a little girl scream more than once. We all very much enjoyed our afternoon in the upstream delta of the mighty Mekong though.
This is a village of 740 families but its more of a rural village. Originally it was a very rich rice growing area, but during the Pol Pot – Khmer Rouge era the villagers went into hiding and the land became very overgrown and heavily treed. When the villagers returned around 1987 there was no fields left to grow rice so they proceeded to fell and sell the large timber in the area. Of course they had no knowledge of the damage they were doing or the lack of sustainability of this process so they decimated thousands of acres of tall timber.
In short, around 1996, some environmentalists came and started to educate the village on the benefits of being aware of the environment they were living in. The villagers have since turned the area into an eco tourism destination and have 36 families that do homestays for visitors. Eco-tourism in the most remote sense of the word. But they have setup a community fund and have a very exacting process of splitting up money they earn throughout the community. The whole time we were there I kept thinking that it is really like the purest form of communism. Equality. Materially and statistically. The community grows and then individuals grow.
We ate our full, watched some of the kids do a traditional dance show, played a few games, and took ourselves off to bed for an early night.
You all sleep in the same room (about 6 to a room) so its a pretty entertaining evening. After a night of Nic snoring his box off, Adam chatting to lord knows who and the old favourite – the bamboo sleeping mattress – we were up at 5.45 for our waterfall trek
They have a great jungle waterfall which we hiked up to and then rode the ox carts back some of the way. Another community initiative. The ox cart drivers rotate to earn extra income when they are not tending their rice crops. It is really a great "family" community. I loved not only the idea of it but to see the actual success in a community was really inspiring. We could all learn a lot from the community spirit they have carefully cultivated.
Sok Sai Bai – or bye for now.
- Make sure your iPod is charged for the bus trip.
- Check with the kitchen if you have any food allergies.
- A small personal torch or book light is essential if you aren't someone that can go to bed at 9pm when the lights go out.
- Ensure you have rubber thongs for bathing. The floor is dirt and you will need clean feet to go to bed.