Asia | South East Asia | Cambodia | North West Cambodia | Siem Reap – Day 6 – Pictures, Cambodia
With Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath, which I observe) starting this evening, I didn’t want to begin my three-day Angkor Wat pass today. So, making up my itinerary as I went along, I wandered through town, eventually heading out east to the Central Market. This turned out to be two very dusty kilometres away as the road is under massive reconstruction and is currently surfaced with mother earth’s finest red powder. Tons of motorcycles and an infrequent car or truck powdered the back of my throat with a fine coating of highway.
As I got nearer the market, I caught up to another traveler, Ming from Singapore. We had only begun the usual traveler’s exchange when Ming waved down two Cambodian boys, each about ten years old. They all slapped hands and Ming explained that he had met these two a couple of days before on a bicycle trip out to a nearby town. With the boys in the lead, we headed into the market. We walked past vendors of fresh fruit and veggies and then through sections of stalls where plastic and metal household goods were on thick bulging display, piled up on and suspended from every available surface. We skirted wooden counters where every major organ of what I hope were cows, pigs and goats were displayed, a terrific amusement park for local flies. Fish vendors used rough-edged instruments to de-scale their wares right there on the floor, giving rise to a piles of fish scales and a rather penetrating aroma.
Ming asked the boys their names by introducing himself first, his finger bouncing off his chest as he repeated his name. He then pointed the finger at ‘Pieh’ and then ‘Peu-uh’. He then asked ‘mama?’ and Pieh pointed the way.
We walked through the far side of the market and into a neighbourhood of rough wooden houses. Pieh turned us into a courtyard of a large two-story shack and walked us right into the dark ground-floor (and I do mean ‘ground-floor’) enclosure. As my eyes adjusted, handfuls of kids appeared, wrapped shyly around their young mothers’ legs and waists. It seemed that at least four families shared the house but even with (perhaps because of) all the introductions, it was hard to tell which kids belonged to which mom. I pulled out my mini-pack of family photos and the whole gang gathered around to meet my ‘mama’, ‘papa’, older sister and niece, all of whose pictures provided no end of merriment to my hosts, young and old.
At one point, Ming and I were each given a baby to hold. My little guy wore nothing but a t-shirt and some white powder on his scalp, probably against lice. After a moment or two I smiled at everybody and said ‘bye-bye’, waving with my free hand as I headed for the entrance. More fits of laughter as the mother caught on and immediately played it up, waving bye-bye in return. Ming asked if photos were ok, and the whole clan dashed about in hasty preparation, the mothers arranging their kids hair and the grandmother changing her entire outfit. Ming handed his camera to Pieh who expertly snapped a photo of all of us, and then I handed him my camera. He clicked again, pleased with himself. I then turned on the little digital display screen at the back of the camera and once again the crowd crushed in. When I showed the grandmother her photo, she looked intently at it, guffawed toothlessly and pushed my shoulder in amazement. So, I pushed back lightly and everybody roared.
After some time, we reached the extent of what our limited methods of communication would allow and we said real goodbyes. First evidence of the rainy season came crashing down from the sky just as we reached the entrance of the market again. There’s nothing like a tin roof to magnify the sound of a downpour.