Thailand and Cambodia - Part 1 - Bangkok
Cambodia - Part 2 - A village on stilts and one on the water

Cambodia - Part 1 - Sojourn Village


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Our recent trip to Cambodia was one of the most memorable trips we have taken.  We both fell in love with the country, especially the people.  I have a hard time putting it into words - Cambodia had a heart.

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A little history on Cambodia:

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No one knows for certain how long people have lived in what is now Cambodia.  Studies suggest that people using stone tools lived in caves in the area as early as 4000 BC. 

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Cambodia has a population of 14.8 million people.  Around 96% of the population is Buddhist.  Cambodia is slightly larger than state of Missouri and lies between Thailand and Vietnam in mainland Southeast Asia, with a smaller stretch of the northern border adjoining Laos.  

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For most of its history, agriculture has been the most important sector to the Cambodian economy, with rice being the principal crop.  Rice has been grown on Cambodian soil since well before the 1st century AD.

{A women washing her lettuce in the water collected from the rain}


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With only 4 days, we selected Siem Reap as our main destination.  It is where all of the beautiful temples are located.  I cover the temples in a separate post.  In researching hotels, I stumbled upon a little hotel/bed and breakfast, Sojourn Villas, which was outside of the touristy part of Siem Reap.  It had only 10 rooms, 6 of which are individual huts. 

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Our entire stay with them was fabulous; the room, the staff, the food, the tours, but most of all we loved the exposure we had to the three little villages next to the hotel they help to support.


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Fifty percent of the staff working at the hotel come from the three little villages, giving them opportunities and an income they would have never imaged.  The hotel also created the  Treak Village Enrichment Program, which helps to improve the lives of the people living around Sojourn.  This program focuses on four key areas - supplying water filters and the repair of water wells, trash collection, and planting trees. 

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Early evening we took a stroll through the village.  We were a little intimidated at first as this was definitely NOT a tourist attraction.  But this quickly went away as soon as the kids came out to say hello!

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They were so precious and did not beg for money.  They just wanted to meet us and have their picture taken. 

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Their favorite thing, which evoked many squeals was to see their own image on the camera.

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As we continued our walk,  every group of children we saw were delightful.  They could not speak other than to say hello and goodbye.  When they saw us they stopped what they were doing and came running for a picture.

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They all chimed hello...hello... hello...


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The next day we took a paid tour by one of the young staff members at the hotel.  Fifty percent of the tour cost went directly to the village.

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We had a million questions to ask and we thought this would be a good way to learn about the village. 

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Look at these wee ones chasing the ducks.



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Below is a typical house in the village; no electricity, no running water, basically a palm leaf hut.

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All of the houses are built on stilts for many reasons - because of floods, to keep out wild animals, and it provides shade during the hot day.  With no walls, the air can flow freely.  We even saw a few put the cows and oxen under there for shade.


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The hotel is trying to help them clean up their community and each month an award is given to the family who has the cleanest property. Last month's winner can be seen below.  The award?  A 100-pound bag of rice, which can feed the family for a month.

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And to help keep the common areas clean, the hotel hired this woman who picks up trash and sweeps the common areas, all of which are dirt.

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Notice the chicken inside of the house.

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Fortunately we had our guide with us the day we saw this man carving a head of the king out of wood so we were able to ask him about it.  His wife and baby are in the photo above.  


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We bought one of his carvings.  D was a little iffy on it as it is not our style - but I am so happy I did.  It is a beautiful piece of art.  He was not finished so our guide went back the next day and picked it up for us.  The king's head is supposed to bring good luck.


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This is the local store.  It is under one of the houses.

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D decides he wants to buy something to help support the economy so he purchases a bag of chips and a homemade...did you get that HOMEMADE rice cake thing - it looked liked the marshmallow rice-crispy cakes we ate as children.  I told him not to eat it... so did the guide!  But you know D...


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D handed the storeowner a dollar and said to keep the change, but the guide made D take back the change.  I think it cost him 20 cents.

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We kept seeing these odd little stands with lots of bottles filled with liquid.  Our guide told us it was gasoline for the motorcycles and mopeds.  Gas is very expensive and they buy it off the black market.

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We walked to the local school where he told us that only the older children attend.  It was time for the morning session to end so we got to interact with the older kids.  They were learning English in school so they asked us very simple questions - what is your name? how old are you? and they giggled a lot  :  )

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The guide was a bit embarrassed that they asked our age and he explained this was what they were learning - we told him we did not mind at all!

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Such a cutie and quite the character ......hanging with all the girls!

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D took a close up of each one  - you can see them in the slide show at the end.

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This is a very common scene - a family of three on a motorcycle.

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How about a family of four?  And notice only the man has on a helmet.


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We were amused at how much they carry on motorcycles.


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When this truck came around the corner it reminded me of something from an action movie.

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Just across the street from out hotel was a temple where many of the young monks live.

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Our guide was so sweet and we learned so much from him.  The hotel has provided two deep-water wells and they supply water filters to each family. Access to safe drinking water is one of the most urgent needs across Cambodia, where one in seven children die before their 5th birthday, mostly due to water related diseases. 


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Our last night we made sure we got back to the hotel before sunset so we could visit the village one last time.  It was around dinnertime so the families were very active.  Look how each of these little girls have pretty necklaces on.

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Many of the little children ran around without pants on.  Some were completely naked others had on tops.  The boys would start to wear pants around the age of five, the girls a little younger.


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Every time I saw them I laughed - it was so cute.  And trust me, we saw a lot of little naked ones!  The photo below is my favorite.  Working away with her little broom but stopped to wave.


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Just like the previous days, they all came running when we came.  We never saw any other tourist the entire four days we were there.  It was quite a distance form the main part of Siem Reap so I think most people would not visit unless they were staying at the hotel.

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This group was really wound up! D was trying to photograph the little girl and the boys were jumping all over him.  And the parents were around...busy with their tasks.  They did not seem to mind us photographing the children.

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These guys were drinking a special concoction....they could speak a little English and invited D to have a glass.  His mean wife told him no - I was less worried about what it was than was there water in it??  Remember this entire village does not have running water!

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With the sun just beginning to set, it cast a beautiful light on this family working out in the field.  It looks like a painting.  The image on the far right is a scarecrow.

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Everyone was bringing in his or her animals for the night.  This kid was pulling his oxen with his bike. 

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And this woman was walking her water buffalo home on a leash.

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D walked over to say hello!

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 And for the last photo from this special village, our tuk tuk driver from the day before.  He drove us all day to see temples and then to our restaurant in the evening.

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When he saw us walking around he went and got his young daughter to show us.  Isn't she beautiful?

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As you can see, life in this village is fairly simple.  It made us look at life with different eyes.  D made copies of all the photos and we mailed them to the hotel and asked them to please pass them out to the people we met in the village.  We doubt they have photos of themselves.

We took over 4000 photos in Cambodia.  I broke it into 3 different posts and albums.   We hope you enjoy all of them!  Click on the arrow below for more photos of the village.


A note about Cambodia's history: 

The Khmer Rouge is a very important part of it's history.  There is so much to be told it would take me an entire blog…..what I will tell you is when the Khmer Rouge ruled between 1975 to 1979, it is estimated that 1.4 to 2.2 million Cambodians were killed.   Half of those deaths were from executions, and the rest were from starvation and disease.  Most of the people killed were the wealthy and educated.  This horrible part of history devastated Cambodia and they are still trying to recover and it is still one of the poorest countries in the world.



Don, These are wonderful photos of heart. These makes my heart warm. you are my hero. You guys make me want to retire now!


It's nice to see you back!!

Wonderful post ~ what an adventure! I love that you got to see "real life" there, and not just the tourist traps ~

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