From a reign of terror emerged the Khmer people of Cambodia…The Mekong River cruise and a bit of whining/whinging…

Four times in a single day, this bowl will fill with the sap from the rubber tree to later be collected by “rubber farmers.”

As we drove through the Cambodian countryside for almost five hours with our guide speaking to us via use of the QuietVox while explaining the horrors this country faced for many decades, we’re not only appalled by what we were hearing but also, amazed over how the citizens of Cambodia have managed to survive.

Each 10 km or so, we passed through another small village.

Still recognized as a third world country with a large portion of the country without common utilities such as electricity and running water, Cambodia has a lot of growing yet to do as it strives to work its way into the modern age. Farming is still done by hand without the use of mechanical equipment.

We encountered many Buddhist shrines and temples on the highway.

The majority of farming in Cambodia includes the following as described here:

“The principal commercial crop is rubber. In the 1980s, it was an important primary commodity, second only to rice, and one of the country’s few sources of foreign exchange. Rubber plantations were damaged extensively during the war (as much as 20,000 hectares was destroyed), and recovery was very slow. In 1986 rubber production totaled about 24,500 tons (from an area of 36,000 hectares, mostly in Kampong Cham Province), far below the 1969 prewar output of 50,000 tons (produced from an area of 50,000 hectares).

When we stopped at a local restaurant and gift shop for a “happy room” break, as described by Kong, many of us girls made a few clothing purchases, including me, a real rarity.

The government began exporting rubber and rubber products in 1985. A major customer was the Soviet Union, which imported slightly more than 10,000 tons of Cambodian natural rubber annually in 1985 and in 1986. In the late 1980s, Vietnam helped Cambodia restore rubber-processing plants. The First Plan made rubber the second economic priority, with production targeted at 50,000 tons—from an expanded cultivated area of 50,000 hectares—by 1990.

Tables lined the restaurant and bar at the stop, but none of us dined here. The hotel had prepared boxed lunches for all of us which we ate on the bus, most of which contained deli sandwiches, an apple, a baby banana, chocolate dessert and bottled water. I’d told Kong I didn’t need a lunch but he presented me with a beautiful lunch box with sliced fresh veggies, salad and sliced chicken.

Other commercial crops included sugarcane, cotton, and tobacco. Among these secondary crops, the First Plan emphasized the production of jute, which was to reach the target of 15,000 tons in 1990.”

Water buffalo in the lake by the stopping point.

Cambodia has suffered great devastation and loss of millions of lives as a result of wars and leadership by ruthless, tyrannical leaders such as:

Quote from this website:
Pol Pot  19 May 1925 – 15 April 1998, born Saloth Sar was a Cambodian revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until 1997. From 1963 to 1981, he served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. As such, he became the leader of Cambodia on 17 April 1975, when his forces captured Phnom Penh. From 1976 to 1979, he also served as the prime minister of Democratic Kampuchea.

Water tower in small village.

He presided over a totalitarian dictatorship, in which his government made urban dwellers move to the countryside to work in collective farms and on forced labour projects. The combined effects of executions, strenuous working conditions, malnutrition and poor medical care caused the deaths of approximately 25 percent of the Cambodian population.  In all, an estimated 1 to 3 million people (out of a population of slightly over 8 million) died due to the policies of his four-year premiership.

Cambodia is a country of many bodies of water which are a result of heavy rains during the rainy season.

In 1979, after the Cambodian–Vietnamese War, Pol Pot relocated to the jungles of southwest Cambodia, and the Khmer Rouge government collapsed.  From 1979 to 1997, he and a remnant of the old Khmer Rouge operated near the border of Cambodia and Thailand, where they clung to power, with nominal United Nations recognition as the rightful government of Cambodia. Pol Pot died in 1998, while under house arrest by the Ta Mok faction of the Khmer Rouge. Since his death, rumors that he committed suicide or was poisoned have persisted.

To continue with this historical information, please click here.

Buddhist shrine with five various cups of tea as an offering.

There’s more information regarding this regime, more than we can ever share in our post, but over these past few days we’ve become keenly aware of what has transpired over these decades under the rule of this destructive leadership resulting in the loss of 25% of the Cambodian population.

Guarded entrance to a Buddhist temple.

Many survivors today have horrific stories to tell of the loss of loved ones and generations of families. Emerging from this indescribable genocide the strength of it’s mainly Buddhist followers, is a gentle, kind and loving people that literally take our breath away.  We’ll follow up on their Buddhist faith in another post this week on the Mekong River.

This small town is known for the manufacturing of statues of Buddha.

If I wasn’t still struggling with back and neck pain, I do believe we’d fully embrace every aspect of this Viking Mekong River Cruise to a much greater degree. This ship with only 52 passengers (after all) and a staff of 25 is very small and intimate creating a wonderful sense of connectivity. 

Many come from all over the country to purchase these statues.

The cabins are considerably smaller than those on big cruise ships by approximately 30%. The bed takes up almost the entire cabin with no more than two feet , .61 meters, between the bed’s edge and the side walls.  From the foot of the bed, we may have six feet, 1.8 meters to the sliding doors.

There are many poor areas in Cambodia with houses on stilts such as shown here.

There are no interior hallways and only four decks and only two communal rooms beside the dining hall, a saloon with uncomfortable seating, and a movie/lecture room in the lowest level with only portholes.

A modest neighborhood which may be comprised entirely of family members.

Under normal circumstances, this would absolutely be an adventure for both of us. With my current situation, I’m at a loss as to where to sit to prepare our posts each day which usually take four or five hours including photo prep.

With the outrageous cost of cars in Cambodia, as was the case in Singapore and Vietnam, most locals drive motorbikes.

Sitting on the bed in our cabin, propped up with pillows seems to be the only option at this time which in itself isn’t comfortable. Tonight, I’ll speak to Kong to see if he can make a suggestion as to an alternate location aboard the ship that won’t be so painful.  There’s no way I can’t sit on the uncomfortable un-padded wicker chairs in the saloon while “looking down” at my laptop.

Selling crickets for consumption is big business in Cambodia. These lighted (at night) plastic bags attract the crickets overnight which are later collected and often sold to other countries throughout the world.

The WiFi is sketchy at best but that’s the least of my current concerns. We have six more nights on the ship until we check in to another Sofitel Hotel in Saigon for two more nights as the cruise wraps up. 

Selling crickets for consumption is big business in Cambodia. These lighted (at night) plastic bags attract the crickets overnight which are later collected and often sold to other countries throughout the world.

I‘ve no doubt that once we’re in the hotel, I’ll manage very well as I did at these last two hotel stays in both Vietnam finding many comfortable seating areas outside the hotel room.

Cambodian people use lots of umbrellas and overhangs to avoid darkening their skin from the sun. Women especially long for light skin as our guide explained the long sleeved hoodies most women wear when outside or riding on motorbikes.

Today, we went on the morning tour which didn’t require a huge amount of walking during which overall I did fine. After we returned, the ship set sail on the Mekong River in the pouring rain. 

Rubber is big business in Cambodia. We stopped along the way to get out and see the rubber trees from which latex is extracted, later to be processed into rubber.

The meals have been great and more than anything, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the other passengers. Each has a unique story to share as we’re now eating three meals a day as of today. 

Close up of rubber tree.

Its not that we’re hungry for three meals a day but the seating in the dining room is comfortable and the conversation is well worth eating too much too often. I’m sure once we settle in Phuket in eight days, we’ll both lose anything we may have gained.

Trash is a serious issue in Cambodia. There are no trash collectors nor means for locals to deliver their trash to a landfill. As a result, there’s trash everywhere including in yards of homes and businesses.

Tom is currently at a lecture about life on the Mekong River and will fill me in on the details which we’ll soon share here as well..

Narrow modest homes with no grass and little vegetation.

We’ll be back tomorrow with many more photos and stories of Cambodia, a country and a people we’ve easily come to love and respect in so many ways. 

Even the newer homes, are narrow and on small lots.

Regardless of the discomfort, we appreciate the opportunity to experience these two developing countries each with a history of war, tyrannical rule, strife and sorrow for their citizens and soldiers from all over the world.

Pelting rain slowed down the final kilometers to the boat in Kampong Cham. We weren’t able to take photos once we arrived at the dock when ship employees came outside in the rain and mud to escort us aboard the ship.
Dark clouds started rolling in.  One of the two buses in our passenger manifest broke down and we all had to wait while it was repaired.

Photo from one year ago today, July 14, 2015:

Nothing was as lovely as a sunny day in Trinity Beach, Australia. For more photos, please click here.