04 Jan Cycling out of Siem Reap; the awesome children of Cambodia and a night in the rat-house
After about 30 miles of riding on the busy, dusty road leading out of Siem Reap, we turn on a dirt road toward Preah Vihear.
Suddenly, all the traffic noise and honking dissipates and we are able to talk to each other again. Besides the occasional scooter, tractor, or cyclist, there is hardly any traffic. Instead, we encounter many smiling people waving at us from their wooden huts. Especially, the children are eager to greet us. We hear so many “hello”s and “bye-byes” from near and from far, that we have a hard time keeping up with all the waves and greetings.
Children are yelling hello from inside their houses, from under their stilt houses, they yell from their yards and from behind their huts. Many are playing somewhere behind bushes and trees and we can hardly make out where the cheers are coming from. Relentlessly, they keep up with their uplifting hellos until we return one. Some of the smaller children look like they should only be able to blabber out a mama and dada; yet, they laugh and wave and spout out a very clear “hello!” or “bye-bye” , which seem to be interchangeable around here.
At other times we have teenagers pass us on scooters and bikes, waving at us, other children come running up to the dirt road to greet us. We feel a little bit like we are in a never ending parade, but we love to see the smiling children of Cambodia.
They definitely make our day and it looks like they will continue to do so throughout our travels in Cambodia.
They hardly have any toys, we have only seen a couple of soccer balls and bicycles. They usually play with sticks and ropes and make up games such as who can fling their flip-flop closest to a pole. Most of the time they play in groups: catch, or hide and seek, or whatever else they can come up with, and very often one of the older kids carries one of the small ones on their hips and very rarely do we hear any of them argue.
Although they have close to nothing, run around barefoot or in flip-flops, and sport dusty clothes and hair, they are the most cheery, happy, and uplifting children.
Eventually, we return back onto an asphalt road, but the greetings and waves continue on.
As it is getting late, we are on the lookout for a place to stay the night. According to our map there is supposed to be a guesthouse in the next village. Unfortunately, we are unable to find it. Instead, we find the police station and ask wether somebody knows of somewhere to stay the night. One of the policemen has us follow him on his scooter to the guesthouse. We have to backtrack a little bit and then turn off the main road, down a gravel-dirt-path to what looks like an old farmhouse…no wonder we could not find it. The officer talks with a few people and makes a few phone calls. After some miscommunication, we find out that there is not enough room for us.
Then he suddenly disappears to return his cellphone to the station, before he returns.
Once back, he has us follow him to the outskirts at the other side of town. Pretty much in the middle of nowhere, he pulls into a house and motions us, that this is a place to sleep. After getting a translator on the phone, we find out that this is a so called home stay…a very expensive one to top it of. We politely say thank you, decline, and head back into town.
As we are standing at the market to weigh our options, a curious crowed of people comes up to help us. We ask about staying at the temple, but are told, we have to register with the police first. Not wanting to bother the police officer again, we ask wether somebody could call the guesthouse again to ask, wether we could just pitch our tent somewhere on the property. Luckily, somebody is able to call and the guesthouse people agree, so we head back to the beginning of town again.
Once there, after a long series of more miscommunications, we are offered the old Kareoke room to sleep in. Supposedly, we can fit all four of us and our bikes in it and there is a bathroom and shower. We agree on the price, somebody puts some bedding on the floor for us, we fix some noodles for dinner and are just about ready for a shower and bed.
We quickly find out that the bathroom has no shower nor any running water for that matter. To take a shower, we have to go outside in the courtyard to a concrete basin filled with rainwater. There, we can use a water bucket and soap to wash off with.
The filthy toilet in the room only flushes by pouring several buckets of water in it, as well.
Trying to stay positive, we think, well, at least we do not have to unpack everything to pitch our tent. That is until we get ready to lay down on the bedding on the floor and watch a big rat climb over the bathroom door…it only took us a few minutes to remove the bedding from the floor and to set up our tents inside the room. We zip up our screen doors shut and call it a night.