Life In A Cambodian Village
Spending a day in a Cambodian village is a really cool thing to do while
you're visiting Angkor Wat. Not only do you get to do interesting stuff, but you
can really get to know how the Cambodia people live.
The village that we visited is about 30 minutes from Siem Reap by van.
As a matter of fact, it doesn't take long to reach Cambodia's countryside because the town is rather small. And once you get out of the town you'll immediately see rice paddy fields and corn fields on both sides of the road.
It really is a beautiful sight.
We'd seen many rice fields before, but in Cambodia they somehow looked different. Everything was so clear, so crisp. The air so clean, the sky blue, and the sun was shining without any clouds in its way.
Everything looked peaceful and as it should be. It was like having a Zen moment. =)
Arriving At The Cambodian Village
When we arrived in the village, we spent some time with the Cambodian village ladies while waiting for our oxen cart to come.
The ladies were making some snacks and selling food on the side road. Our van
driver got a bowl of soup because he missed his breakfast earlier.
We, on the other hand, tasted the pancakes they were making.
It was more like poffertjes actually, and it was delicious - a combination of coconut and palm sugar, hot off the pan.
It was very yummy!
The Oxen Cart!
At long last, the oxen cart came and it was clearly too small to fit the four of us comfortably. But we packed ourselves in and endured a 15 minute ride to the farm field.
It was a rough ride and we were jostled around a lot.
Soon, we were complaining and laughing about how we voluntarily and excitedly got ourselves into an uncomfortable ride. Oh, the things you do in the name of getting an authentic Cambodian village experience! =)
Working Hard Planting Corn
When we arrived at the field, Lim, our guide, told us that we'd be helping the villagers plant corn and cucumbers. I knew this, we all did, because Lim had told us the day's itinerary several times that morning. Still, I was dismayed at the sight of the large field.
At first I thought that there was no way that we, wannabe farmers could work the whole area in an hour or two.
And that's when the thought came entered my head. An hour or two?! I then realized the irony of it all. We had paid money to be allowed to work the field.
No, that was not a 'Zen' moment, but it was a realization nonetheless. =).
We ended up having fun though. The village farmers had already prepared the land, which made it easier for us. All we needed to do was mix the chemical fertilizer with the soil, make a few holes, drop a few seeds in, then pack more soil above it.
We had been working for a while when my brother came upon fresh
cow dung which he thought was dirt. So he was mixing the 'dirt' with
the fertilizer before realizing it, and we were all had a good laugh.
Truth to be told though, I'm sure all of us did the same thing only
without realizing it.
When the whole planting action was finished, I was so grateful that I didn't have to earn my living by growing corn or cucumbers that way. I also had more respect for the farmers of the world and for all the hard work they do.
We then had a good rest under a tree before trekking across the field to reach the Cambodian village schoo where we'd be teaching English to the village kids.
Teaching At The School Village
It seemed that we caught them just in time, because school was over and the children were out playing on the school grounds. Our class soon filled up though, with many other kids watching from the windows and the door.
Boy, did we have fun. All of the kids were very engaging and active. We had a good time learning the animal names and the birthday song, and after that we played rounds and rounds of word games.
I thought we spent quite a bit of time with them, and through it all the children didn't lose any of their energy. It was really nice to see kids wanting to learn instead of being forced to it.
A pretty view from the classroom
Lunch With The Host Family
After the lesson, it was finally time to relax and have lunch. Lunch was another cute affair.
It was really interesting to watch our host family cook with all the traditional cookery.
We ate on the host family's 'verandah' and had Cambodian village food. It was all really good, a fact that I had to reconcil with what I'd heard earlier. Previously, we kept hearing how bland Cambodian food is.
Lunch consisted of rice, Amok curry, a salted fish dish, raw vegetables, and fruits. There were also sandwiches as back ups.
Coconut water was also passed around, but I thought it tasted rather 'off'
compared to the usual. Maybe the coconut was a tad too young or too old? I'm
After lunch, we had a long siesta and just talked about the difference between lives in a Cambodian village, Indonesia, and Denmark.
The sun was too hot to do anything but rest.
After about 40 minutes of siesta, we said our good byes and thank yous to the host family and the kids. Then we were off to the Buddhist monastery in the village.
Visiting The Village's Monastery
We saw at least several monasteries while in Cambodia, being that 95% of the population is Buddhist. The village temple that we visited had a hall for praying and learning, a hall for functions, stupas (a small temple-like structure to keep the ashes of the dead), and dorms for the monks.
On the walls there were many colorful paintings, mostly recounting the life of Buddha.
At the back of the praying hall there was also a big wall depicting life in hell. The images were very detailed and descriptive. Lim gave us full explanation of the whys of the punishment.
The Swimming Pool, aka The Baray
After we roamed around the monastery for a while, we left the village for our final destination of the day: the baray (reservoir). When we got there it was obvious that the baray also serves as a swimming pool.
We saw many people swimming, boating, and fishing. Basically, this manmade lake is a recreation area for Cambodian people.
This was another part of Cambodian life that we wouldn't otherwise have known about.
Although we didn't swim in the lake, despite Lim's many encouragements to do so, we did sit on the banks, dip our feet in the lake, and splash cool water around. After that, it was, in essence, more siesta time and a time to just observe the Cambodians.
It was an interesting look at their life. Life was slow. There was no hurry
in doing anything. As if time will go on and on and on. The lake area was
definitely not a foreign tourist spot, because we saw only Cambodian people and
maybe one or two foreign expatriates.
In the middle of the lake, there is a small manmade island where a temple was built.
It is still a functioning temple, and some locals go there for to pray.
Lim told us a tale about a princess and her alligator that involved the lake and the island. I can't remember how it ended, but it was a tragically funny story.
Before we went home, we strolled around the fruit and food stands there. There was a grilling place that sold meat on a stick that actually looked really good until we found out what it was made of.
You'll also see many people selling clams. They come from the Tonle Sap lake and are half cooked, then seasoned, and then put under the sun for further 'cooking.' Cambodians love these clams, and you'll see them being sold everywhere.
Too bad I didn't have the guts to try it.
Small clams taken from the Tonle Sap Lake.
Overall Impression of Cambodian Village Life?
When it was time to get back to the hotel, we were all tired but satisfied.
What a day! From tasting Cambodian village pancakes, to the bumpy oxen ride ride, to corn planting, to mixing cow dung, to exuberant little kids, to a hearty Cambodian village lunch, to the village monastery, to relaxing on the lake, and finally to grilled frogs on a stick.
That was one fantastic Cambodian day.
Although visiting a Cambodian village is number #5 on our Cambodian Holiday Must -See and Must-Do list, it does not mean it is less spectacular than the other activities.
This tour is definitely different.
It's not about seeing and doing Cambodian activities. Instead it allows you to actually live the Cambodian village life for a few hours. And that gives you a closer look at Cambodian people's life, one that you can not get any other way.
Nothing can replace the real experience of 'being' there in a Cambodian village.
Where To Book A Cambodian Village Tour
We found this Cambodia tour package at The Villa Siem Reap, a small hotel that runs unique tours daily. This particular tour is called "A Day In A Life," and costs $30 a person. You can contact them directly through their website. The villa is very well run, and we were very satisfied with their services.
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Return from Life in a Cambodian Village to Holiday in Cambodia: The Must-See and Must-Do List where you will see our top five Cambodia activities.
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