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The SIAMPEDIA Expedition to Cambodia – Party in Tani

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind

 

The days in Phnom Penh came to an end, we headed further southwest in the direction of our friend Wolfgang’s village. Tani in Kampot province was our goal for the day.

The airport gate was our last memory of the capital, as we left Phnom Penh in a westerly direction, before veering south. The road quality gradually declined as we traveled further. The traffic seemed to thin out with every other mile covered. It was a sunny day and we did not forget to bring a birthday cake for Wolfgang`s daughter, it was her party today and we were invited. A true highlight of our trip was about to follow!

Rather adventurous forms of transport were discovered and passed along the way. The flat land here, allowed for towed trailers being pulled behind small mopeds, that would need several pickup trucks to haul otherwise!

We arrived early, because the location was easy to find, the description Wolfgang gave me, were a perfect guideline to his residence. The party was rather large, as it seemed. Even a large event tent was provided to shade guests from the sun or an eventual rain shower.

The beautiful birthday girl and her little brother were all dressed up greeting their little friends and other guests. Countless helpers were preparing food for many guests to arrive and decorations found their way onto the tables and everywhere.

Whilst everyone was getting prepared for the event, we looked around the farm and village.

The farm featured Wolfgang’s home and plenty of sheds and space to store his farm truck and equipment. For the big day, everything was cleared and ready to accommodate guests. His wife was very busy organizing the catering and seating, while Wolfgang checked the entertainment electronics and lighting for the venue.

The village of Tani was nearby and appeared sleepy on our visit. Besides the main road through town, here they were using dirt roads only.

Massive amounts of bicycles occupied the parking lot near the school, it was early afternoon and the school was in session still.

The old school building was open-air style with a leaky roof, but no windows. Wolfgang is the manager for a Tani NGO project, dealing with the real needs of the school children and teachers. Break time was anticipated and the school kids in uniforms stormed out of the old building only seconds later, unfortunately we’d miss to document that moment.

The children rushed to their washroom away from the school and then converged under large and shady trees or at the drink and snack stalls, which were scattered around the grounds. They quickly posed for us for a moment.

Wolfgang treated them all to a sugarcane juice, a rare treat for some of these kids. Their parents (if they are lucky enough and have them alive), do not earn too much money. Poverty is widespread in rural Cambodia and some families have to walk far for questionable drinking water from the local temple pond or a large jar, catching rainwater at times.

Despite their neat and clean school dresses, many do not have any type of shoes and attend school barefooted:

The sweet sugarcane juice provided some form of nutrition and Wolfgang sponsored a bag for every kid that was present here, and their numbers didn’t dwindle for a while;) every kid was fetching his or her friends and came over. Some even twice!:)!

Wolfgang is overseeing the construction of the new school here. His presence on-site brought plenty of wells into the neighborhoods here and the school is just another project. His projects need additional funds to help more kids in need, please visit his website at: The Tani Project

The construction of the new school was in full swing.

We still had some time left, so we grabbed bikes and toured a bit around the countryside. Here we cross the rails from the infamous Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville track near his farm land.

You can’t shop for babies at these convenient stores here, but in the countryside they may be the only shopping option for miles! This young mother carried her toddler in the frame-mounted basket on the bike! Kids learn early in Cambodia to grab any transport chance they may have.

It finally was time for the party:

The birthday girl was really excited about her new blue bicycle with a huge basket in the front.

A lot of friends and their kids came over to celebrate and we had much fun also!

The village chief and all neighbors filled every seat available. Beer, booze and food for the seniors and cake, sweets and candies for the kids was being served. Wolfgang’s charming wife had everything under control and the hosts were much applauded to for another great event in Tani village.

We spent a few more days with our friends and enjoyed every minute of it. A few short trips by car were made, our Proton was leaking power from the battery. Some cables or connections must have gotten wet in the Phnom Penh flood, when the water almost reached the seats. The power drain was slow and the source for it undetectable for us. So we cranked the vehicle up daily and recharged the battery, left it parked during the day with open doors in scorching heat out in a field to dry out.

Non motorized transports were still common then, ox-carts and horse drawn vehicles were seen daily. We had a great time in Tani.

Two mechanics are better than one, but on day three or four the battery was dead as can be. Luckily Wolfgang had a farm tractor parked nearby, so I was able to draw some juice with the help of my jumper cables. That was the final day of this electric malfunction, the interior was bone dry and the battery did its assigned job again for the rest of the trip.

This wonderful country home is our host’s residence, we loved the view over the fields from the upper floor’s terrace. Inside it is so much roomier, than it appears from the outside.

To be continued!

The SIAMPEDIA Expedition to Cambodia – Phnom Penh today

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind

 

From 1863 until 1953 Cambodia was suppressed as a part of the French Indochina colony, they tried to force their alphabet and language on them as well, but to no avail. Today’s Cambodians are eager to learn English to communicate with the world and only die-hard old timers still use French to a small extend. Signage for roads and important things are in Khmer and English, just projects the french taxpayer dish out some dough for are left sometimes in the former oppressor’s language.

This project deals with a much needed renovation of the Psar Thmei or Central Market building, no one really calls it Marché Central . French manipulations led to major wars towards the end of their colonial oppression in almost any country they set their feet into.

Psar Thmei is one of the liveliest markets in the capital of Cambodia.

Motodups or Motos handle a large percentage of the individual traffic in Phnom Penh, they have replaced the pedal powered cyclos and are ever present anywhere, note the extended seat on the red bike, they are built to carry two paying passengers.

Cyclos are still to be spotted around the bigger markets (for locals) and near Sisowath Quay along the Tonle River promenade after dark. Their charges for tourists are largely inflated and they are not really safe to ride in, being traffic obstacles almost everywhere.

Most markets have a wide variety of goods, often second hand shoes or garments nest to food stuffs or veggies.

The Royal Palace and Silver Pagodas are quite a sight to see.

The area near the river Tonle (also called Bassac) meeting the Mekong is one picturesque area any time of the day, the green grass strip in the picture below is the dividing piece of land between the Mekong (in the back) and the Tonle River coming from the huge Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia’s natural wonder. In the rainy season, the higher levels of the Mekhong drain some watermasses into the Tonle Sap, in dry season, the flow reverses and the Tonle Sap feeds the lower Mekong with massive amounts of water. The day of the reversal is celebrated big time and coincides with a national holiday in Cambodia.

A lot of neat monuments and gathering spots have been erected, where they were ruins and dust pits before. The city is exceptionally pretty now in certain areas. We toured our hearts out and enjoyed every single minute of it. I consider the traffic manageable. Then again, Tunis or Cairo in Northafrica or Jakarta and Manila over here have much denser traffic.

The Cambodian Independence Monument is surely one of their most treasured ones. It celebrates their independence and freedom of the french rule. You can find it on the intersection of Sihanouk Boulevard and Norodom Boulevard, just a few 100 m south of the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. To the east of it, there is a large park, the roundabout right at it is heavily frequented by traffic, the shot here was sheer luck.

Theres good food to be had for every taste now, the street food often has tasty surprises. Make sure it is well cooked or grilled. Public toilets are a big void.

Beers, Booze and Bargirls are cheap in Cambodia, some other types of travelers enjoy the hotel bars or plenty of alternative locations around town. We had a 24 hour joint just in our hotel – this city really never sleeps:

There are all kinds of entertainment venues. Karaokes, girlie bars and regular bars are so plentiful these days, here are a few of the famous ones:

This one sports a disco plus bar and eatery, one of the older establishments in Phnom Penh:

A plentytude of modern neon lights and LED powered screens with animations are to be found across town, perhaps the most visible sign of a city improvement for the traveler during night hours, besides the much better surfaced roads.

The Psar Thmey is the focal point of most transport activities. Here or near here, most bus lines start or end and almost all private taxis, pickups and minivans hang around, waiting for passengers to fill or overfill their vehicles. Common practice in Cambodia is to sell the passenger seat twice and the bench of those old Camry’s to no less than four paying passengers. This is the rule of thumb for a shared taxi. Minivans appear often in a sorry shape, but their capacities are stretched by far. Usually some boards or a room door in the back under the open rear door, increases their capacities for any cargo, human or not.

The cheapest form of transportation is being offered by pickup trucks. Big rolls of carpet, cement, motorbikes, building materials, foodstuffs, once this thing is loaded to the brim – the human passengers board on top of it all!

My ride with a good friend on top of a load from Poipet to Battambang a while back was documented here:

Khmertrip – Stage 2: Poipet to Battambang

For us the time came to move on to the village of Tani in Kampot province, where we planned to visit a friend and his interesting projects. Only 100 km away to the Southwest and closer to the Gulf of Thailand, our friend and his family were running a small farm and so much more.