Monday, 30 June 2008

Tommy Sheridan look-a-like contest

Our introduction to Cambodia wasn't a good one. It was kick started with an unhealthy dose of traveling sickness - runny runny poos (very runny indeed) that lasted for the next 2 days. Our destination after crossing the Laos / Cambodian border was the remote North-Eastern province of Ratanakiri and the town of Ban Lung. To get there we had to travel for four hours over the bumpiest dustiest orange dirt track. Being afraid to fart for four hours isn't nice, I can't say I enjoyed the journey. On arrival, we found a guesthouse and went straight to bed. Nothing much happened for the next day and a half. We played tag team for use of the toilet seat, I was sick a lot, we drank lots of fizzy juice and we entertained ourselves by listening to the rats scratch and scurry behind the walls of our room.
When we finally surface, we couldn't wait to get our toes dirty and begin our experience of Cambodia for real. In this part of the world you get more than your toes dirty. Is there life on Mars? Maybe. But Mars is here on Earth in the North of Cambodia. We hired a moped for the day and within 10 mins we were covered in thick orange dust from the road. Every time a large truck passed by it would fling another batch of thick dust into your face. It gets everywhere, up your nose, in your ears, between your toes and leaves you, fake tanned all over, looking like a contestant for a Tommy Sheridan look-a-like contest. And the beard! After we left the area I was still wiping orange muck from the beard 3 days after we left the area. Needless to say, we loved our time in Ban Lung!
We swam in the most beautiful and serene lake that is in the middle of an old volcanic crater. It is perfectly round, perfectly warm and perfectly clean. Why can't Loch Lomond be more like that?! In the evening, just before sunset, the lake was busy with monks, local families, tourists and Cambodians from Phnom Penh all enjoying the cool, cleansing water.
The next day we hired a local guide, a young man called Terry, who took us out on a tour of some of the Laos and Chinese villages that are in the area. He is an agricultural expert who received a scholarship to help attain his degree from Phnom Penh University. He now works for a German NGO called 'German Agro' (which sounds more like a violent faction of German football hooligans) and is passionate about staying in his home province and helping local farmers to make the most of their farms and crops. He took us to an amazing fruit tree farm where we saw bananas, pineapples, limes, oranges, rambutans, lychees, guava, jackfruit, durien and black pepper trees. He was astonished to hear that we had never seen a pepper tree before, nor had we tasted jackfruit or durien. But then he had never seen snow before. 'Same same but different', as they say round these parts. We tried durien and jackfruit for the first time. Durien is expensive as it takes 8 years for the first fruit to be ready from a new tree. It is also known as stinky fruit and although greatly loved and prized by locals, it has an aquired taste for more Western palates. I wasn't mad about it but it wasn't disgusting either. And it really does smell funny. Jackfruit was more sticky, stinky and I didn't manage to go back for seconds. But Kathy did. I could see that Terry was trying hard to conceal his disappiontment in me.
To make up for it we offered to take him out for his tea. We enjoyed some real Cambodian dishes like sour soup and monitor lizard in cooked in lemongrass. At least, that is what we think it was.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mr M,

We are on holiday in guess where...? ELIE!!! I have enjoyed reading your blogs. It sounds really exciting and i wish i was travelling instead of you.

Love alex mennie

Mr M said...

Hi Alex!
Hope you're enjoying your summer hols. I wish I could swap the weather here with Scotland. It is 37-39C. TOO HOT!!!