Our well mannered and charming sales people of the ‘silver village’ were no preparation for the weaving village on the island of Chong Koh. This sell was particularly intense – as soon as our feet touched soil there was a woman or girl latched onto our arm, extracting information from us with such speed and dexterity the CIA would welcome her into its ranks!
Maria was the name of my girl, and, once again, I liked her smile, so I promised I would return at the end of the tour and buy something from her. The problem was that she only had a couple of things that I was interested in, and she had to get what I wanted from a friend, so her profit margin was low. I felt really bad about Annie, the woman who latched onto John when he landed. She was patiently waiting while he was helping me make decisions with Maria, and because he was delayed by having to go back to the ship to get more cash, we were rushed back aboard and didn’t get to buy anything from her.
However, we thoroughly enjoyed our tour around the small town, watching the weaving of silk and cotton on different looms, and always being surrounded by adorable, happy children. These people work so hard, every day, and maintain this amazing sense of positivity; maybe because they have survived the awful traumas this country has seen. It really puts us to shame.
After our buffet lunch we docked at Angkor Ban, complete with beautiful neighbourhood centre and old houses – such impressive, colourful buildings! A community of Buddhist monks live there, as well as about 226 families averaging 6 people per family – not exactly a tiny village! The government were even having the main road graded while we were there, so it’s a happening place!
I had a lovely ‘old lady experience’ in this town. As we were walking along the dusty road, we saw this diminutive figure walking towards us. When she got close I clasped my hands, holding them to the correct height to greet an elder respectfully, and said ‘hello’ in Khmer. She smiled and laughed and held my hands and patted my arm. A truly uplifting experience.
Strolling along the dusty street that was being prepared for bitumen we came across the local market. The fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables are neatly arranged on low tables of palm-frond woven mats on the ground. To show their customers that the product is the freshest of fresh, fish are often still alive, gills gaping, twitching on the tables. Was disconcerted to see the woman grab one and hack into its head with a small machete for a customer’s dinner!
That evening began with a sandbank party on shore. Cocktails were placed in our hands as our bare feet hit the sand, and music wafted from the huge speakers the crew had lugged ashore. We were enticed to the patch of ‘dance sand’ by the crew wanting to teach us traditional Khmer dancing, in exchange for us all teaching them ‘rock and roll’. Was having a jolly old time until a bug went down my throat and lodged there – had to run back on board hacking cause there was no water on the beach! Emerged again bug free and continued with the celebrations, which included the lighting of Buddhist ceremonial lanterns and launching them into the sky to bring good luck. The vocal encouragement in the forms of “ahhhh” when the lanterns soared unassisted and the frantic “oh-oh-oh” when they faltered (as if making noises could get them airborn!) was a universal language. With so many limping on take off, the cheers abounded when they finally flew – full of hot air!
The Jahan is a Heritage Line ship (this cruise began in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam and we joined it in Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
Our travel agent on this cruise was Kelvin Do at Indochina Treks. We were very impressed with his efficiency, helpfulness, excellent advice, friendliness and price! His email is: firstname.lastname@example.org