A jaunt through the Cambodian countryside is one of my favourite past-times. It’s not just pretty and interesting, it’s rejuvenating.
The last few weeks I’ve been a bit edgy. I can’t quite put my finger on why that is or exactly what I’m feeling but it’s a restlessness, a discomfort – a bit like an itch you can’t quite reach.
I’m really not used to being so city-bound and it is only in recent weeks I’ve fully realised that. All my life I’ve been close to wide open spaces. I grew up in a semi-rural area, close to farms and national parks, yet still within the confines of the city limits.
In recent years we lived on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland – a busy, populated area but flanked on one side by lush green hinterland and rolling hills and on the other side by ocean, with long stretches of beautiful beaches. In short, fresh air and wide spaces have always been close at hand.
While Siem Reap is a pretty small city, it is very urban. And though you don’t have to go far to get out of the city and into rural villages if we don’t make that effort I find myself going a little bit stir crazy. The walls of the apartment start to close in, the lack of a garden becomes a little bit claustrophobic, the red dust coats everything, even the back of the throat and the noise and bustle of the city seem to get louder. I get restless and stressed and tetchy. It’s how I was feeling the other week. I just had to get out of town. Anyway, the Joker was up for a change of scene as well so we jumped on our scooter and headed for the villages. And we found this little gem.
Such a tranquil scene. We’ve been out this way before but there was less water. This time, it was late afternoon and there were children fishing from the bridge. This fella didn’t have a hook — just a lump of lead on the end of his line, so he had a pretty slim chance of catching anything unless he managed to donk a fish on the head. But he seemed oblivious to this challenge and kept trying his luck. I like his enthusiasm.
But it is not just the rural setting that recharges the batteries — it is the complete change of scene. Experiencing the people, the culture, daily life, different housing — the whole kit and kaboodle. Calling out sue s’dey as you pass locals. Having them grin and wave as we pass by in opposite directions. The children who call out “hallo” as you ride past and wave with big smiles on their faces. And it is the pace of life. It is all energising. It is making connections, however tenuous and fleeting. And it is seeing how other people live and appreciating what we have and how they make the best of what they have.
And it is negotiating little bridges like this.
The next week we headed out in a different direction. The landscape is changing rapidly. The wet season has ended and the water is ever-so-slowly drying up. The lush green rice fields are browning off. The rice has gone to seed and people are out harvesting. I was happy to capture the late afternoon light around Phnom Krom and the nearby stilt village on the edge of the Tonle Sap lake.
The late afternoon light looked gorgeous on this stilt village, despite it’s impoverished look. But the town lacks the open friendly feel of most villages we visit. We think this is Chong Kneas on the edge of the Tonle Sap lake.
A lot of tourists have been in this area and instead of the usual cries of “hallo” the children run up and put their hands out – asking for money, or anything else you want to give them. It is sad that the presence of tourism has increased this hand-out mentality rather than an entrepreneurial spirit. It is one of the many reasons we never give money to children.
Heading home we encountered this small herd of cows heading down the road. This same road has buses and trucks travel down it.
And we finished the day with a beautiful sunset.
Batteries recharged. How do you rejuvenate? Do you have a longing for wide open spaces as well?