Monday, 25 January 2010

The Road to Phnom Penh

The vernacular architecture of rural Cambodia is possibly the most amazing scene in any country we’ve ever visited! The ribbon developments along the roads are not so much villages as one long stretch of settlement, with each homestead possessing its own livestock, cooking fires and unique house on stilts. Whilst the flatness and lush greenery of the countryside reminds us very much of Bangladesh and that journey we took last year in Bengal from Kolkata to Dhaka, the pride taken in the presentation of each home and small-holding, together with the cleanliness and orderliness of the rural idyll contrasts this part of Indochina starkly and strongly with the squalor of parts of India. But why are the houses on stilts? Is it to protect the home from flooding, for the Tonle Sap backs-up in the wet season covering much of the flat plains with water. Or is it to protect the family from vermin which is unable to scramble up the wooden legs of the house? Or is it to provide garage or storage space: somewhere for the cattle to shelter?

Giant, fluffy haystacks line the road at the entrance to many small-holdings, whilst water buffalo wallow in the adits at the side of the road leading down to the rice paddies, just to gain a little respite from the searing heat of the midday sun. A large family of ducks waddle from a small pond to bask in the sunlight on a small grassy bank. Cooking fires stoked by lengthy logs waft their fragrant smoke over the road, whilst above them, their cauldrons emit the steam of a spicy brew. Can this scene really be genuine? It’s so magical and yet unlike anything we’ve seen before in Asia. Can it be true that just thirty years ago this landscape was the living hell for the millions of starving victims of the Khmer Rouge?

1 comment:

  1. I like the countryside bits more than the town bits. It looks lovely. Hope you are both having fun