Memories and emotions from journeying in Cambodia are, for the most part, triggered by colours, also water and of course people. Outside the urban sprawl and tourist areas it is the consistency of colours everywhere that strikes you. The land is flat with the odd seemingly misplaced hill, a world of farmed fields rice paddies, a couple of cattle in the flat fields, and the odd farmer pushing his bicycle to or from his work. The villages that dot the landscape are consistent and small with wooden houses on stilts, subsistence shops, the ubiquitous scooter, food sold beside the road, and a real feeling of timelessness.
In the landscape the earth is brown and the water is brown, the cows are brown and the houses mostly brown, and growing alongside those every shade of green tree, plant, and bush. The varied shades of green highlight the vivid colours of the flowers, and even a very tiny butterfly as yellow as you ever saw, takes its prominence when seen in contrast to all that green and brown.
The colours that are the most vivid are those of the ubiquitous Buddhist temples. Deep terracotta tiled roofs and bright shining gold embellishing the symbols. If the sign of the extent of religious belief is to be found in temples and churches them for sure Bhuddism thrives in Cambodia. The poorest village will boast a beautiful temple and even in the middle of busy roads are shrines at which people pay devotion as they pass by. The nature of Buddhism is not to impose and you never feel imposed on but the beautiful temples and statues can’t be ignored. Those colours offer a vivid and vibrant contrast to the brown and greens of the landscape.
Water is everywhere, big wide deep rivers and tributaries starting with the Mekong, no small streams, irrigation ditches, dykes and of course the rice fields providing that staple diet. It rains lots in Cambodia in season and that rain disturbs no one. A violent downpour drives people inside but within minutes of it ending the world is alive again, life continues as before, the torrents of water just a normal part of natural life. Someone cooking with a wok stops for the rain but barely has it gone and he is at work again. The rain is just rain, its not even an inconvenience.
And the people? Gentle smiling ever friendly, they have not acquired the hard edge of some people of the countries of south East Asia. The people are family orientated, conservative, hardworking and very cool. The best way to know them is to eat with them at an open air restaurant where the food is real, the price almost embarrassingly low and the flavours divine. Enjoy that hospitality and curiosity and be part of lives that, whilst very simple, fulfil everyone. A Cambodian driver for your journey ensures you will pass the time with the people and enjoy them.
Cambodia is a proud place, and a growing place, but away from the centres of change and construction and the increasing western facilities it’s a beautiful warm friendly and unassuming country to bring a person back down to earth.