Being in Cambodia for over 6 months has meant I have gotten to know many people well. Everyone I meet here is very friendly, helpful and always willing to go out of their way to show you places. They happily explain things in their country and also about their culture.
When you stay in a place for a while you form good friendships, some even special ones. One, in particular, stands out in that she is a friend of the owners of the farm where I am working and lives in Phnom Penh the capital. She offered to take me out and visit places that I guess normal tourists would not see.
I have to be honest, I have a strange feeling about the Capital here in Cambodia. It seems slightly different from any other in South East Asia. Read my post on the killing fields and you will get a feeling as to why, although I suspect that is not the sole reason.
Anyway, I spend a large amount of my time on the farm and whilst Kampot is nice and quaint for a day to rest it doesn’t have the appeal of a big city. Not that I miss that, but sometimes it is nice to go to places that are completely different from where you spend most of your time.
A different side to Phnom Penh
So visiting a city with a local guide who is offering to take me around is something you shouldn’t pass up.
We had some fun times, she introduced me to where the locals eat, cheap but amazing Khmer food full of flavour.
My first breakfast noodles in the local market full of pretty much everything you could think of. All for a couple of $s and whilst I confess to being the only non-Khmer in the whole market. She put me at ease by explaining everything and when people saw we were just friends they relaxed.
Here although not spoken about, it is very common for white guys to come and take Cambodian women as partners. Normally those of a younger age to themselves, so it does cause some interest when they see you together.
Shows of affection in public are frowned upon in most of Asia. So if you are lucky enough to meet a beautiful partner in Asia, be aware of their customs and show respect not only for the person you are with but also those around you.
Very rarely they will say anything but you should understand their feelings towards this.
She also took me to one of the local islands here in Kampot where I found a local place to relax and unwind. We had a fun few days, swimming, eating and drinking lots, looking out on to sea as the sunset on the horizon. It made you feel pretty special and when you see how limited life is here. How, happy people, are you can totally get why some people think of South East Asia as paradise.
I learned that if you act like a local, things seem to be easier, cheaper. They relax more around you as they suddenly don’t see you as a tourist.
I have learned to like the local way, if I go to a city and I hire a tuk-tuk for the day then I ask him to take me to where he would eat.
The food is great, cheap and yes people at first look at you and wonder why you don’t want to eat in an air-conditioned restaurant. But I feel they appreciate you more for being with them
I tried much more food than I had in Kampot on these trips to the city and enjoyed the company. Learning more about Cambodian culture and listening to accounts of their dark history.
She told me about her family and how her parents lost siblings during those horrible days.
A family member who I was lucky enough to meet gave me a book of her account of the Khmer Rouge years. Which I must say is very honest and explains things in a way that seems deeper than the usual stories. I guess actually meeting the author and seeing the real person gives you a different feeling when reading her story.
Probably the only time I dressed up since being in Asia. So as it was her birthday I wanted to thank her for all the time she had spent taking me around and introducing me to the other side of her city. So I took her to her favourite restaurant and we had the most amazing meal I have had in Cambodia.
I am now comfortable to visit Phnom Penh and wander around and say hello to the many friends she has introduced me to.
I don’t see much of her these days, as she seems to have found a guy who is making her happy and obviously it is not appropriate to still go out on your own with other guys who are single. But I will treasure the time we spent together and appreciate everything she did for me and wish her luck for the future.
And who knows maybe there will be an invite to another wedding🤣