Scenic Freechoice - Explore Kampong Cham town - Farewell reception and dinner
06.02.2017 - 06.02.2017 35 °C
We sailed all night and woke up this morning, tied up to a tree on a remote river bank. Memories of the Irrawaddy! The climb up the river bank looked ominous but as usual, there were Scenic staff all along the route to help us. Because we had 300 steps to walk up steps to a monastery on top of the hill, most of us decided to take our walking poles, which I discovered at Mount Popa, help immensely.
So after breakfast, we scrambled up the river bank (in the wet, the boat is level with the road), crossed the road, passed an old Chinese cemetery, and then commenced the climb to the top of the hill at Wat Hanchey to meet the novice monks.
It was a gradual climb and before we knew it, we were at the top. Easy peasy!!
It is school holidays at the moment, so a lot of the monks were on holidays, back visiting their families and villages.
Mao interviewed this little boy, who, by the way, was 13 years old. He had been in the monastery for two years.
Most Cambodians start puberty at about 15, as opposed to Western children, who start at 12 or 13.
Mao asked him if he wanted to stay in the monastery and he wasn't sure, but Mao told him to stay long enough to receive a good education. These monasteries educate the boys and the girls go to Government schools. During the Pol Pot regime, there were no monasteries, in fact, if Pol Pot knew the monks were educators, they were killed.
A couple of school teachers in our group are quite concerned that the children don't play and that their life is just full of discipline and rules. However, our Western children are over indulged to the point that they don't appreciate anything.
The monks were setting out the food for lunch. After midday, they are not allowed to eat any solid food until 6 am the next morning.
There was a lovely view of the Mekong from the top of the hill.
Then we started the descent. Quite steep, but to protect the knees, it is best to walk down sideways.
There was supposed to be a lovely breeze on top of the hill, but there wasn't, but it was okay.
Now sailing for Kampong Cham - last day on board. Feeling sad.
Kampong Cham was an important French trading post during the colonial era. Crumbling French colonial buildings and classic Chinese shop houses can still be seen in the downtown area.
The big bridge, Spean Kizuna, was the first to span the Mekong's width in Cambodia and the first to joinn the east and west of Cambodia by road. It was a joint Cambodian-Japanese project completed in 2001.
Kampong Cham gets its name from its large population of ethinc Cham, Muslims who may have originated in Borneo before fanning out and establishing populations in Cambodia and Vietnam. At the height of the Khmer Empire in 1177, the Cham briefly won control of its territories, before Khmer King Jayavarman VII defeated them in an epic battle on land and water, scenes of which can be found of the walls of the Bayon temple in Siem Reap.
The old red tower on the west side of the bridge is thought to be a customs tower built during the French colonial ear and a watchtower to monitor boat traffic on the river and to protect the rubber plantations nearby.
I went on a walking tour of Kampong Cham town this afternoon. We walked through the streets and then visited the local market. The streets are wide and clean and there is not much traffic so it was quite easy to cross the road without taking our lives into our hands.
We were quite the attraction in the local market as not many tourists visit this town, let alone the local market. It sold EVERYTHING and the meat and fish were very smelly in this hot weather.
Our guide bought us a lady finger banana. It was quite different from those in Australia, small but with a very thin skin and very, very sweet.
We saw some old colonial buildings and then visited the old home of the king.
The last call on our tour was the old bamboo bridge. What an amazing piece of architecture this is. We were lucky to see it because the government is pulling it down soon to build a modern bridge. The lady who owns this bridge pays $30,000 USD every two years for the lease on the bridge. It is a toll bridge and has been asked how much money she makes but she won't say, but obviously she makes quite a lot if she can afford $30,000 USD every two years.
Back on board, we attended at traditional Khmer music and dance performance by a local NGO/charity called Organization for Basic Training. The kids played instruments and sang and danced and then we all got up and tried to dance with them. Very funny.
We invited David and Margaret from Melbourne and Alison and Russell from Sydney to have pre dinner drinks with us on our deck and then we all went to dinner together. It was a very nice group.
After dinner, all the staff were introduced to the the diners. It was our chance to show our appreciation for their devotion to us over the past week.
Now off to our cabin to pack ready for our departure to Siem Reap tomorrow.