Yesterday, we climbed up a series of steps cut into the river bank from our overnight mooring to visit the little village below the temple of Wat Hanchey. Yes, another temple! This one was a little different in that a modern temple was constructed around the site of an ancient relic and it also included a large and active Buddhist monastery.
Before walking up the hill to the monastery we walked through the village and were able to see something of village life – a little store, houses built on stilts and people drying crops such as corn and other vegetables in their gardens.
We also visited the local high school. This caters for about 800 children who come to school in either the morning or afternoon session each day. Some of them ride their bicycles for 10 km to get to school. School is compulsory here to Year 9. There were about 40 children in each class and the school teaches ten compulsory subjects. The headmaster gave us an overview (translated by our guide) before we spent some time looking into the classrooms. I’m sure that we were a distraction for the children and the teachers, but they were gracious enough to let us watch them teach for a few minutes.
We came back to the boat for lunch. This photo is of our sister vessel. They are owned by the same Vietnamese touring company and we were moored together for the last two nights. We have two decks of cabins with a restaurant on the back of the second deck. The lounge and sun deck are on the top deck. I haven’t bothered to find the spa and beauty parlour yet, but there is a little swimming pool at the front of the sun deck. The water on board is filtered and OK for showering, but we are supped with bottled water for drinking.
In the afternoon, we visited yet another temple at Wat Nokor. This was not in as good condition as the Bayon Temple that we saw at Siem Reap, but similar in style. It was also built sat the same time (around the 12th Century) when many of the ancient temples here were built. The Cambodians are devout Buddhists and these temples are a very important part of their life.
From there, we moved on to the local market with its narrow aisles that were only a shoulder width wide. I seemed to be quite the object of some amusement being so tall. Many young women stood next to me to compare their height with mine. One young lady just said ‘Wow, as she looked up at me and fled away giggling. We did a little shopping there to buy some gifts for the orphanage that we were visiting as the last part of our day. People from the boat bought various things ranging from clothes to toothbrushes, lollies and writing materials.
The orphanage looks after about 80 children of all ages from three years to young adults. It is run by a French aid agency and some of the administration staff are paid by the government. I was shown around by this 11 year old boy (whose name I am sorry to say, I cannot pronounce) and he proudly showed me his bed and room in which he slept.
The children are here for many reasons. Some have parents who have died of HIV, others come from separated families and some have parents who are too poor to support them. The orphanage seems to do a very good job and I think that these kids may be very lucky not to be on the streets and having to fend for themselves. They attend local government schools and some of them have continued on to university.
It was very hot today – 37C, and we were glad to get back to the ship for a shower and a cold drink (in that order!) After dinner, we watched the movie ‘The KIlling Fields’ which was the story of the Khmer Rouge in Kampuchea (Cambodia). Today, we will get to Phnom Penh and visit some of the memorials to this disastrous time in Cambodia History.