“Isn’t it awfull far from home some people live!”

 

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.

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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..

 

 

 

Day 2 in Phnom Penh

I slept late due to jet lag this morning and my late start upset my plans for the day. Finding the museum and royal palace closed for lunch by the time I was up and about I ended up acceding to one of the many tuk tuk drivers offering lifts around the city.

Having initially agreed to a spin to Wat Phnom and the monkey temple on the far side of the Mekong, I ended up also going to Koh dak or silk island. The whole afternoon took over 3 hours and I was pretty exhausted by the end of it and ready for dinner and a rest. Although mildly irritated not to have gone yet to the museums or palace, I did see alot of Phnom Penh today.

The first temple, Wat Phnom, was very attractive and teeming with ceremonies, chanting and tourists.

 

 

And here is an audio of the music from the temple. Very soothing and calm

The monkey temple was nice also and not too heavy with tourists although I did have kids trying to beg money from me which of course is dis-spiriting and  sad.

 

From there I got the ferry over to Koh dak or silk island as its known. Here I got to see some of the cottage industries and some of the farming and village life too.

As we passed my guide pointed out the China town on the distance across the Mekong. A gleaming modern construction it sat in stark contrast with the Muslim fiahing village on this side of the river.20171203_052607.jpg

 

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This is one of the fishing boats directly above. My guide advises me they are predominantly Muslim and that they live on the boats.

Onwards then to Koh dak or silk island. It was nice to see village life but the pressure to buy was strong. This was a world apart from the main city with farming and cottage industry predominating. It was nice to see it but I was exhausted by the end of it. I eat a delicious curry and returned to my book and then the hostel. But the begging children and the desparate pressure to purchase on the island linger in my mind.

 

Travels in Cambodia . Day 1

So I started this blog with the intension of writting about all things Irish but it feels good to write here about my foreign trips too.

I therefore present what I can only call an outsiders guide to Cambodia.

My intension really is to share. Its that simple. I will try and avoid cliche and keep it personal and honest.

I was alternately nervous and excited about the trip. Ive dreamed of coming to south east asia ever since I started practicing Buddhist meditation 17 years ago. You must be wondering why I waited so long. It seems every second person has been here but for me somehow it never happened. As I settled into fatherhood and career it never felt like the right time. I must credit Tom Ferris the writer, podcaster and blogger for shaking up my mind about what is possible in the midst of lifes demands and responsibilities. Like many of my generation my work is largely day to day and job to job as both a teacher and tour guide but rather then cursing this state of affairs I am going to view it as an oppertunity.

So here I am.

It is simply wonderful to be here. Stuff is happening everwhere. The rocky footpaths are jammed with food stalls, barbers, mechanics, carvers. Anything and everything jostling together. Tuk tuk drivers constantly looking for work. Its a grind, Im not blind. But everyone is so good natured, if clearly snowed in with the demands of a hard life.

Making.Ends.Meet.

And then there are the monks and the beautiful monasteries. Like lights they move around in their saffron robes. My heart is happy when I see them. The monasteries and temples are by far the most beautiful buildings and stick out as sincere human refuges amidst the cacophanous 21st century mess we are catching ourselves up in.  Children are playing around them. I sat in a temple amidst a few teenage monks while the kids kicked a ball outside. Birds were singing within the temple. I could hear cocks crowing somewhere in the grounds. The city din receded to a gentle hum. My mind was gentle and peaceful. I could have been in the middle ages.

It helped that my phone was in the repair shop all day getting unblocked. Practicalities intruded on my mind then after leaving the temple. I was anxious about not having my phone. Would it be fixed? Was I being overcharged.? The muddiness of life that we love.

By the evening my phone was finally fixed. I heard the monks chanting on my home. Heart lifted and mind reacquinted with my mental internet candy.

So onwards and upwards…tomorrow is another day. And a day at my leisure….may it change me and seap into my bones…

Lots of love, Alan