If you enjoyed the Part 1 of Rob Deason’s family trip to Cambodia, here’s the final part of the trip. Enjoy!
The largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia is located near Siem Reap. On the shore of Tonle’ Sap Lake lies a fishing village. Six months of the year the residents live, work and play on dry land; but during the rainy season the lake floods and the village turns into literal waterfront property. We went by boat to tour this fascinating place, where stilts lift each of the buildings, including the secondary school and police station, above the waterline. Merchants cruise the town with their goods for sale piled high in their canoes. Children playfully paddle past us. After we transferred to a row boat, they took us on a leisurely tour at “ground level” through a mangrove forest to a floating restaurant. Women and children conduct the tourist trade, because most of the men leave to fish all day on the lake.
That evening, our tuk-tuk took us to the Cambodian Circus Show. This circus didn’t have clowns or elephants or lion tamers. It reminded me of a Cirque de Soleil production featuring acrobatics, juggling, art, and music. Unlike Cirque, the young adult performers had been rescued off the streets as abandoned children and trained in the circus arts. The show told an interpretative tale of one woman’s life before, during and after the Khymer Rouge reign of terror. A wonderfully entertaining and emotionally impactful show. Everyone we encountered in Cambodia just made us want to root for these resilient people.
Now, what is it about Cambodians and butts? In a Cambodian cultural village we attended a bunch of short stage shows depicting Khymer stories of everyday life and traditions. In each one, at least one character played the fool who “broke the wall” to interact with the audience, and along the way would pinch, pat, poke, slap or squeeze the butts of other characters. The audience loved it. Most interestingly, in a story of a young woman choosing between three suitors, they called up a handsome young man from the audience to participate. Of course, the girl picks him to be her groom. They stripped him down barely out of sight and put him a loin cloth. At one point, the goofball character came up behind him and squeezed his nearly bare butt cheeks. The kid was a good sport about it all. I have to admit I found it as funny as the natives. A good butt joke crosses all language barriers. Here’s another quirky detail which left us bemused and puzzled: in a story of a rich Cambodian wedding, the parents of the bride each bit from a banana and then pulled the rings from their mouths as if the rings had been inside the banana. Then, they smeared some white stuff on each other’s faces. The actors performed in the Khymer language so we definitely got left in the dark with some stuff like that. The evening concluded with a huge pageant honoring the first king of Cambodia who built Angkor Wat. When it started raining long and hard, they cancelled the show. Fortunately, our tuk-tuk driver had joined us for this show and he led us through the downpour to the tuk-tuk, which we never would have found without him. For being rainy season, this was our only experience getting rained on. While we had waited for the performance to start, our driver shared about his experiences as a little boy during the Khymer Rouge era. We just loved his openness and kindness.
We experienced so much more than what I’ve written here. It didn’t work out for us to tour the capital, Phnom Penh, with its own unique attractions and charm. For the very adventuresome you can also travel for hours to an elephant rescue facility that we also wished we could have done. All this to say, Cambodia offers a lot and we highly recommend it should you have the opportunity.
* If you enjoyed reading these posts from Rob, and you should check out his series Super Shy available via Amazon here.