We had an easier day today with a couple of short excursions and a longer period of travelling down the Mekong until we reached Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia.
Our first excursion was to a little village and a Buddhist Monastery. At the monastery, we all sat in a row while two monks chanted and splashed us with holy water. Then they sprinkled us with Bougainvillaea petals. The final part of this ceremony was for us to approach the monks on our knees and receive a personal blessing and a red woven wrist band. I now feel very blessed.
From the monastery, we walked around the local village, pausing to look inside houses and to get a glimpse of a relatively well off community. Each of the houses had a number of large clay pots for water storage and some had blue plastic piping which carried water which was pumped from the river. I couldn’t see any evidence of a water treatment facility, so I assume that people would simply let the river water settle and drink the clear water once the silt had settled. Most houses had at least two cows tethered under the house – a sure sign of wealth. Only one or two and a properly constructed toilet. There were a number of little stores throughout the village; similar to the local version of a 7 11 store. This type of little business are the ones that I fund through my micro financing lending through Kiva.org.
We were back on the boat until lunch and then had quite a time for a ‘Nana Nap’ before our final excursion for the day. at 4:00 pm.
This was to a silk factory on an island in the middle of the river. To get there, the tour company had arranged a number of Tuk Tuks which saved us from a very long walk. As we climbed up the river bank, we were welcomed by quite a number of women tom the local village who had a very sound business strategy. They asked our names and engaged us in conversation and then explained that when we came back too the ship they would have their shops set up. One woman told me that her name was Molly and asked me, as is usual in this part of the world,, to please stop and see what she had to sell when we came back.
We stopped in the middle of the village before getting to the silk factory where we walked around talking to the local people and having a look at some of then crops they were growing. It is a very fertile area around here and people were growing corn, tapioca, bananas, sugar cane, mangos, and a lot of other assorted crops. They have a ready market because they are only a couple of kilometres upstream from Phnom Penh. As usual, the little kids were quite cute. Although in this culture it is inappropriate to pat them on the head, they all knew about High Fives so engaging with them was very easy
At the silk factory, we had the usual overview of how silk is made and you wouldn’t believe it, but by the exit gate was a shop! Jill had asked me to buy some silk scarves for her.I haven idea what colour she wants, so by now I have about seven in my possession and she can sort out what to do with them when I get home. I wanted to buy an ornament for our Christmas Tree and saw that that they were selling little silk elephants. I only wanted on, but this that I saw came in a set of ten as part of a little mobile ornament so I had to buy the whole set. Still, I thought that for the price of $4 they were not a bad deal.
Sure enough, back at the boat, the village ladies had setup up their ‘shops’ on blue plastic tarpaulins and they were open for business. We had to run run the gauntlet between them as they asked us to buy something. They were quite pleasant about it and not at all aggressive. Molly being quite a good business woman dragged me aside and engaged me in more conversation. Before I knew it, I was the proud owner of yet another silk scarf. She was happy because she had some more money to support her four sons who were studying at school and I was happy because I have another colour option for Jill to consider when I get home. A real case of win:win, I think.
Back on the boat, we listened to a talk from out tour guide, Tek, about Cambodia and watched the sunset. I’m looking forward to seeing something of Phnom Penh tomorrow.