We started our second day in Cambodia with a bicycle tour of the countryside. We were quite lucky as no one else had booked in for the tour, so we had the guide all to ourselves. Our first stop on the tour was a local market. It’s where people in the area go to get their daily supplies. Our guide explained that most will visit on a daily basis as they don’t have fridges to keep food fresh. We also tried a couple of tasty treats there. The first was a Cambodian doughnut – a smaller style doughnut covered with a hardened palm sugar. It kind of tasted a bit like treacle. Delicious. We also had a fried banana which was also really tasty.
When we were sitting down to eat, our guide was telling us a bit about his life. When he a boy he and his brother (and maybe others from his family too, but I missed that detail) fled Cambodia and tried to reach Australia by boat. They were caught and detained in Indonesia for six years. As he was a boy, he was able to sneak out of the detention centre and spent time hanging out with indonesians and Chinese, doing odd jobs etc. He now speaks something like four languages, mainly learnt though his time there. He was a pretty amazing guy. Although he had little to no formal education, he’d managed to work his way to a good, well paid job in Phnom Penh working in sales. He ended up giving it up though because it was very high pressure, which is how he ended up doing the cycling tours.
After the market, we rode around, just soaking in the countyside and seeing the non touristy side of Siem Reap. We visited a local primary school, a guy who makes palm wine (which Timmy thought was alright, but I found horrible) and a house where women were weaving baskets. It was a great morning and I’m glad we got to experience a bit of what the real Cambodia is like. It’s impossible not to notice how very, very poor a lot of these people are. Some will earn as little as a dollar a day, with a normal wage being about five. Still, they seem a very happy – always smiling and having a laugh and all the kids are just so full of life and energy. They make fun just playing in the dirt. When you compare their lives to those of kids in Australia, they may have a lot less, but I often found myself wondering they live more like kids should – playing outdoors, no tvs and video games, spending more time with family etc. As the saying goes, money doesn’t buy you happiness.
In the evening, we went to a nice restaurant for dinner and checked out the Angkor Night Market. This was all in the main part of Siem Reap town and was so different form being out in the countryside. It’s completely focused on tourists. We got in a little bit of last minute shopping to spend the last of our usd and had a $1 foot massage. Brilliant.