Our adventure and what turned out to be the best day of the trip started with breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, bread and ham.
Tuk-tuk at 820am to a rural village market where we saw an old woman eat a raw fly-covered fish head!
We still had some gifts leftover from our visit to Arafin's village, so we used to bribe a few of the market traders for photos which they quite enjoyed. I gave a disposable razor to one guy which I had taken from a hotel room somewhere, and immediately the old fish-eater was back and tugging my sleeve. I turned as she whipped off the krama on her head and ran her hand over her grade 1 then promptly stuck her hand out for a razor too, smiling at me with her one remaining tooth! It seems quite common here for old women to shave their heads. I know monks have to do it every couple of weeks as part of the monks regular rituals but I have no idea why old women would do it too.
Eric then took us to see the Pagoda where a cremation was due to take place in the afternoon. It's basically a massive fire in the grounds of the village Buddhist temple. We looked into the fire pit where the body is placed and there were still the remains in there of the last person who'd been burnt. I'm not great at human anatomy, but it looked like a hip and someone's leg bones were still sitting on the grate! The heat really was unrelenting and I could feel myself burning up inside, so I went to sit still in the shade for a bit whilst the others went inside the pagoda to take pictures of another big Buddha statue.
Another bumpy tuk-tuk ride and we had a gorgeous pasta picnic lunch made by Eric's wife, Lida, in a tiny village near a school on the river. Then another long, but thankfully breezy, tuk-tuk ride on an even more bumpy dust track to a river "port" for a ride upstream to another floating village, complete with school, crocodile farm and shop. An amazing afternoon was spent sipping beers at a floating cafe, and shooting the passing kids paddling home from school. What a life.
The road back was again long bumpy and dusty, but we passed through some stunning dusk lighting. A small boy was pulling buffalo through the canal waters that ran along the side of the track. Ox carts made their way home driven by both men and women and the children were busy washing in the water ponds. It was a really contented peaceful ride.
Unfortunately though, due to the traffic in Siem Reap, we only had 20 minutes to shower, change and get back out again for a Khmer BBQ, so the photos from my big camera I didn't have the time to upload, but these snaps from my little point-and-shoot give a pretty good idea of what it was like.
The Khmer BBQ is not like home at all. Firstly each person cooks their own food and secondly the BBQ is sat on the table in front of you! It's basically a camping gas cooker with a large metal saucepan on top that has had it's bottom raised up into a dome shape and a few holes punched in the top of the dome. Chunks of pig fat are placed on top of the dome and then when they have produced a little fat which trickles down the sides of the dome, you are ready to put your meat/fish etc on the dome to cook. Also, water is poured into the bottom of the pan to allow you to cook noodles and veg to go with the meat. Under normal circumstances I would call this ingenious, but it wasn't such a good idea for me when it was already 38 degrees in the shade and the outdoor restaurant can't use ceiling fans as it would blow out the cookers.
It was so hot that unfortunately, after a failed attempt to find the ladies loo, I collapsed and fainted cracking my head on something concrete on the way down and landing on my back in a pool of liquid right outside the male urinals!!! Typical.
I don't remember too much for a short while afterwards, but when I came to, I was in the back of the restaurant in a chair surrounded by Cambodians fanning me with bits of cardboard, whilst being splashed with iced water. The next thing I remember is being pushed down a main road alongside the traffic in what felt like a rickety wooden wheelchair to the local hospital clinic which was more like a large doctors surgery I guess. A bit surreal at the time, and I was filthy dirty, soaking wet and stinky on the way home (as well as $100 lighter), but 24 hours on and although the head is tender to the touch, I can say that yesterday was my favourite day by far. And would you believe it.... I'm travelling with 3 other photographers and not one of them got a photo of me lying in dirt and stale pee - result - that's a facebook moment that wouldn't have died for a while!
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins