I thought I’d combine a book review with a continuation of my travelogue.
I’m in what is to me something of a nowhere town. Kompong Thom is a small town on the road between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s main cities and tourist destinations. I can’t complain. I choose it deliberately to see small town Cambodian life. But I do feel out of place. I feel the cultural difference here more then elsewhere. So I am grateful to have some books for company.
So far I’ve had Orwell ( Burmese days), Hesse ( Siddartha) and Eamon Kelly’s (Ireland’s Master Storyteller) to keep me company and its the later I want to talk about. He has been great company keeping a friendly upbeat tone, giving belly laughs galore and reminding me of home.
The quotation above “isnt it awful far from home some people live” is from a story of his about a Cork labourer on his way to a job out the country. It says all you need to know about the famous Cork mentality!
He gives wonderful insight into Ireland’s past but also perhaps giving me a window into farming, village life here too.
Driving out the countryside today I got to see some of that farming life. Cows wandering, people working in the fields etc.
I imagine much of it is relatable. Eamon Kelly is writting mostly about that rural Irish farming life of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. He is talking with humour, love and honesty about his own people, elevating them and describing the complex heirarchies, social relations and folk customs of his people. He does throw in a few fantastical stories but he generally sticks to simple humorous happenings. Like all the best art, it is ultimately a celebration of life, but he does not at all turn a blind eye to the difficult lives of the servants and labourers.
It is part social history, part fantasy and gives a wonderful insight into, if not a simpler time, certainly a time with less distractions and more home grown entertainment!
He reminds me not to be glib or hold simplistic views on life here. To me I’m in a bit of a nowhere town but of course it’s not. The streets are full of life, kids playing, stall holders, romance. For two days, there was Buddhist chanting broadcast on amplifiers across the town. I’m told it was a funeral. Imagine that!
In a way I envy the village life that is still here. In the Western world we are getting more atomised all the time. But we all need a village. I think it is a basic need.
But I don’t wish to romantisise or idealise the life here either. The majority of people are poor and have little and I don’t know what the internal dynamics are like and if there is much social cohesion. I would love to hear a Cambodian Eamon Kelly poking fun at returned immigrants, Buddhist monks, labourers, business owners, courting couples etc.!
Then I’d have a handle on the place.
Anyway here are some pictures from today. It was another beautiful sunny morning and I was off again on a tuk tuk to visit Sambor Prei Kuk, some temple ruins in the forest. They are pre angkoran Hindu temples and build in the 7th and 8th centuries. There are about a hundred of these towers dotted throughout the forest. As ever it was a beautiful morning and it was lovely to be in the forest. The drive was also a great chance to see some rural life also.
Here are some pictures..
Alan Coakley is a Travel Director with Trafalgar Tours based in Ireland.