Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pursat - Cambodia

Our second stop on the scenic route to Phnom Penh was a town called Pursat.  We weren't too sure what to expect from the town itself but like the Bamboo train in Battambang there was a primary point of interest, this being a real floating village about an hour from town (although the exact distance varies depending on the time of year and rainfall).  Having alighted the bus on a busy road, we walked for about half an hour in the hot sun until we found a guest house just off the main stretch.  There was a fat bloke with lots of bamboo tattoos who spoke no English behind the desk, so he summoned his children who happened to speak a little bit and we sorted out a room.  The guest house seemed quite new and modern with some work still needing to be done, but it was clean and a very nice family fun affair.  They were extremely hospitable and every time we ate in their popular restaurant, we always had one of the children keep us company.  The youngest was extremely competent at speaking English and was very keen to practise.  He often told us stories about his family in the Khmer Rouge occupation and how his granddad was executed for ‘eating a carrot’ whilst working in the fields.

On our second day we decided to go to the floating village.  After negotiating we both hopped onto the back of a moto for the hour or so journey as there wasn't a tuk tuk in sight.  With our driver we arrived at the port where we hired a boat for eight dollars. Our moto driver was really keen to come so we all jumped into the boat and disembarked.  If our expectations had been put into check by the bamboo train then this certainly exceeded them.  I think I was expecting a few canal boats hugging the shore, but instead there was an entire civilisation living out on the water with practically everything you would see in a normal village!  There were phone shops, a petrol station, churches a school and many homes and other businesses.  We spent an hour going round and afterwards our arms and throats were tired from all the waving and greeting to everybody we sailed past.  There were women beating the remaining fish from their nets and gatherings in public halls, just on the water.  The whole thing was totally bizarre but a great place to visit and well worth the trip, I challenge anybody to find a more authentic and exciting floating village and I don’t say that lightly.  We finished up with a can of coke each at one of the port cafes then enjoyed the ride home as the sun was setting.  The driver positively lit up as we handed him twelve dollars for the day’s work, although I think he secretly enjoyed the trip as much as we did.

Kate and the boat driver


Beating the fish from the nets

The local phone shop (one of many!)

The school
Our remaining time in Pursat was spent wandering round the indoor market where we splashed out two dollars on a pair of flipflops and escaped the sun in the odd watering hole.  There was one bar that especially sticks in the mind where we made friends with the staff and some of the children although the youngest boy was completely terrified of us.  I heard that sometimes they tell the children scary stories about foreigners and it seemed as though he had had more than his fair share!  I can't talk highly enough of the hospitality we received in the guest house and the friendliness of the locals in this dusty town.  We had read about Pursat in brutal detail of a girl's recount of the Khmer Rouge occupation, 'First they killed my father' but you would never know such atrocities had taken place from the manner of the current occupants.  Exploring was made especially difficult in the heat and as we had done everything we set out to do, after a couple of days we headed out of the dusty town to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.          

Taken at a bar with the scared little boy (now brave)

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