There is always something going on in Cambodia. Mostly in a good way… You just have to appreciate the creativeness you see on the street. Anything goes to make sure food is on the table tonight. Living in the capital city is never boring. There is so much buzz around, it is hard to ignore the energy that goes on in an Asian capital. And Phnom Penh is no different. How do you escape it? You buy yourself a motorcycle and make sure that tank is filled up. Ready to go, leaving all the hustle and bustle behind.
The search for serenity
Having lived in Phnom Penh for four years, I was always searching for that peace and quiet. But as Cambodia grew as a destination, so did the city. With over two million people living in Phnom Penh now, peace and quiet is not a stone throw away, anymore. You have to dig deep and drive a good number of kilometers to find a quiet to regroup your thoughts.
That is how I found Kampong Chhnang. A place 90km away from Phnom Penh. On a 250cc bike, that means 2 hours drive. Kampong means “port” in Cambodia, and Chhnang means “pottery”. As the name says, Kampong Chhnang is the place where they make ceramic pots. But is much more than that. It is the place where I found my serenity.
Fields of gold
Driving my bike to Kampong Chhnang used to be a piece of cake. Where was the traffic? Nowadays everyone has a car so traffic jams are common. But all of that fades when you arrive in Kampong Chhnang. All you need to do is make a turn towards the Tonle Sap River, take the ferry and be dropped at a place even the UNWHO doesn’t really know about yet. Forgotten land with people so friendly and sincere, you wished we could all step back 40 years in time. The area is like a delta on the southern tip of the Tonle Sap Lake.
Sandy roads through the green paddy fields that stretch as far as the eye can see. Every once in a while you will find a forgotten ancient Khmer ruin in between the lush vegetation. The feeling of freedom of being on a motorcycle suddenly becomes indescribable. Reaching pagoda’s so far inland, that the monk who takes care of the pagoda hasn’t seen any people over the past 6 weeks. He is sitting next to a coffin. The abbot, his teacher, passed away weeks ago but he has no money to bury the abbot. I talk to him and donate him the money he needs to bury his teacher, USD 20.- He cries and continues to bless me. Out of respect I don’t take a photo, but his lonely yet grateful face and his words will forever be imprinted in my memory.
It is these experiences away from where people believe they have it all in order. Away from where people chase the almighty dollar. And away from where people leave their values behind to become someone they never really wanted to become. It is places like these where you find gold, amidst the paddy fields.
View my life at the Calmth of Cambodia gallery.