Climbing aboard our small wooden boat, Ryan wondered how I had got him into yet another unsteady, potentially sinkable vessel. Watching the driver pump out the water, which had built up in the bottom, did not fill us with confidence. Once the decrepit engine chugged into life and we had clambered aboard we off on our two-hour journey down river to the small village of Chi Phat, through jungle clad countryside, waving to families sitting in their stilt houses along the river’s edge.
No street lights, or paved roads and barely any vehicles..we were along way from the big city. Chi Phat Community is an ecotourism project which allows tourists to get a glimpse into a more authentic slice of Cambodian culture, while making sure all the profits go back to the community. They offer treks and cycle tours, fishing trips and cooking classes…the only problem was that it was low season so some of the things we wanted to do weren’t on offer. But luckily the main reason we went was to stay in a homestay…and see a little more ‘real life’ Cambodia.
We stayed with a kind family, though only their teenage son spoke English, in their beautiful wooden house on stilts, painted sky blue like a boat. Really it was more like a guest house as we had a whole floor to ourselves! We also ate with our hosts and got to find out a little bit about their lives and rural Cambodia. The next day we hired bicycles, Ella’s with a super squeaky back wheel, and went off to find the nearby waterfall. Taking a dip was super refreshing and we managed to peddle back before the heavens opened…anyone would think it was rainy season or something!
The rest of our time in the village was spent exploring, listening to the sounds of all the animals our homestay family had (at least fifty ducks and chickens, plus some cows and dogs) and drinking some cold beers in the ‘village pub’ which was a shop with a couple of chairs out front. Importantly though the owner gave us the answer to a puzzle which has been bothering me most of the way through SE Asia. In all rural areas, and some urban, chickens and ducks (sometimes cows) just wander around wherever, eating and clucking, sometimes stopping traffic…definitely scaring us when we’re driving mopeds. Apparently they are owned by different families, not, as I had assumed the ultimate free range and therefore free for all in whomever garden they end up in. Owners tell them apart by their markings and colour…mind blown!
So after a couple of nights off the grid, we jumped on the back of a moped and bumped down a very muddy road, before getting a bus, then a very full shared taxi to Kampot. But we’ll tell you about that next time…