Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry,
but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die,
it can introduce the idea
that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.
Very few travellers get a taste of what life is like for a poor family in a rural Cambodian Village. The villages don’t have running water or electricity and for most tourists getting off the beaten track to this extent might seem a little too intense. I find experiences such as these almost more special than ticking off the biggies such as Angkor Wat. It enables me to really get under the skin of the place I am visiting and there is no better way to do this than to interact with the local people.
Many of the families in this village open up their houses for homestays, because it is for them a great source of income. However, during our time there, we didn’t bump into any other travellers and it felt very close to a truly authentic experience.
On our way to the village we passed some incredibly large western style houses and learnt they were rented by local and foreign couples on their honeymoon. The village was set in a beautiful area with lush green hills and waterfalls close by and the simple houses were a stark contrast to the posh houses we had passed up the street.
Some of us (or was that just me?) showered outdoors using a bucket and the rainwater collected by the family. Feeling the cool water trickle down my skin after the hot, dusty journey that day reminded me that travel truly enables you to appreciate the simple luxuries of life.
The kids here were so intrigued by our arrival, they all just sat on the bench outside just staring in quiet fascination.
We had dinner at the local community centre, dining on beans, rice and fried noodles outside. After dinner, Dino our guide amused us all by using a deck of cards to foretell our future. Cambodians seem to be a little obsessed with predicting the future and we often see variations on this theme at the temple. Perhaps there is in all of us a secret longing to know that life in the future will be ok. As Dino went around the table, requesting each traveller to split the deck and ask him a question about their future, it became apparent to me this longing or was it curiosity was not limited to Cambodians alone but was shared by many in the western world as well. I remembered the silver lining I had marvelled at that evening as I walked to dinner at the community centre. I hoped that whatever setbacks there might lie ahead for any one of us they will come gift wrapped in silver lining!