May 5th, 2010. Afternoon.
We rode our bikes east and north from Beng Mealea to Kampong Khleang. We rented a boat to see the floating villages on Tonle Sap. Unfortunately, the boat was in extremely bad mechanical shape. Every couple of minutes, the engine stalled. The father-son duo made repeated trips under the deck to revive the machine.
For me, there is no such thing as a bad time on a vacation. When something planned does not work, it is simply a pointer to something else that should be explored. I used the opportunity to rest my tired muscles and happily dozed. Then I slept. I missed most of it (and Nathan say’s I missed nothing).
Back on land, we then drove through the main village of Kampong Khleang. It took some time to notice that the houses were sitting on stilts 8-10 feet high. When monsoon arrives, the Tonle Sap grows about 5 times in surface area. In a few weeks, this mud caked road will only be accessible by a boat. This dry village will become a floating town.
The village is abjectly poor. The average income for a family of six is under $30 a month. The barely clad children, part poverty part weather, excitedly gathered around our huge motorbikes. They happily posed for us. All they wanted in return was a peak preview on the LCD screens. Everywhere i turned, I saw a smile of happiness.
Despite their state, they were giving not asking.I don’t remember the last time I have seen such a happy bunch.
Every single body!
Supermodel in the making?
Then, I noticed the girl in the bright yellow polka shirt. She waited for the camera to focus on her, then she confidently held the gaze. The carefully painted blue nails trailing through jet black straight hair, a strand carelessly hanging over her right eye, a delicate mole above her full lips, she was a standout! Clearly she loved the camera as much as the camera loved her.
Fully soaked in their gay laughter, we packed our Japanese camera’s in our American backpacks, fired our Japanese monsters and lit a shuck.