Saturday, April 27, 2013

On The Road To Phnom Penh

We didn't spend much time in rural Cambodia.  But we did take two 6-hour, 140-mile bus rides to get from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and back.  This was our only real chance to see how people live in the countryside, far away from the major population centers.

The bus we took was brand new, with comfortable seats, A/C and WiFi.  The $13 ride is considered to be expensive.  You can do it for half of that without the amenities.

Bracelets at the depot; thrice blessed and once gifted

We had been on a mission to get photos of typical Cambodian houses.  But we couldn't agree on which houses were most representative.  Earlier, in the neighborhoods around the Banteay Srei temple away from Siem Reap, we saw several attractive houses.  They were mounted on stilts and decorated for Khmer New Year.  Sarah felt that these were much nicer than the average house, so we waited on the photos.  Based on the bus trip, it turned out that she was probably right.

The bus made a planned 30-minute stop at a village midway between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, for lunch and to pick up a few passengers.  Below is a view of the rice paddy behind the bus stop restaurant.

We're not sure what orange and yellow liquids are in the plastic bags

With ten extra minutes available, this was a good opportunity to wander down the road and take some house photos.  To eliminate any choice and debate, we photographed several houses in a row on the same stretch of highway.  A curious boy followed for the first few houses.

I turned around to take a photo of the church across the street.  The cross makes it look more Christian than Buddhist or Hindu.  That would be unusual, since there aren't many Christians in Cambodia.  Most of them were killed during the Khmer Rouge years.  Most villages don't have a Christian church.

Christians account for < 2% of all Cambodians

The villagers were friendly, and smiled warmly as I walked by.  If we had a little more time, we might have gotten invited inside one of the houses.  The consistently positive attitude of Cambodians, urban or rural, continually amazed us.

Below is a continuation of the same row of houses.  Most, but not all, of the houses are on stilts.  This is for protection from flooding during the rainy season.

A few days later, on the bus ride back from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, we saw a floating village on a river.  The river bank will be a lot higher during the rainy season.  They have many such villages on Tonle Sap Lake near Siem Reap, but we heard that they are less interesting to visit at this time of year.

Floating villages are designed to handle the heavy rains

We were soon to arrive in Phnom Penh.  The different vibe was immediately apparent. And that was even before we got to The Killing Fields.

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