A quick shower from the hot and muggy bus ride we set to explore our new city. Our guide picked us up at the door with push bikes and we set out to see the sites with some peddle power. 1/2 km from our hotel, and just below the massive banks of the river sat a marvel. It was a one km bridge built out of only bamboo. It is constructed by the island people whom take it down during the monsoon seasons to keep it from washing away. We set out across this man made marvel that could support cars driving across it, with an aw.
The but massage from the bamboo bridge was not the most enjoyable, but the culture we would soon experience would be well worth it. As we approached the makeshift immigration point, you could tell somebody was making a few dollars on the tourist. We peddled our bikes from the bamboo road that was laid across the river sand into the dusty roads of the island. Peddling further we peddled with ease on the narrow concrete road.
As we went through the village the kids would come out to greet us as the parents stayed doing the daily chores. It was like their lives were on display, but the kids were full of joy. As we rode past they would give us high five, and we would pass them a small piece of chocolate candy (we could not give them much but kids always like candy).
We landed at this house where we tried the local fruit with one looking like a very large like but tasting like a sweet grapefruit, and another that was the size of a soccer ball with spikes like a porcupine that tasted like mellon crossed with a squash. We joined in on a game of volleyball with the island kids, and later I made friends with an 87 year old lady that spoke no English, but seemed to be speaking to me like a long lost friend. While she did not smile much, she seemed to be happy amongst her extended family, and her new long lost friend.
We left their and headed back across the bridge to catch the sun setting on the river. The views were wonderful , and the sounds of the children playing on the sand bars rang across the banks. We headed back to the hotel to wash away the dust and sweat we had collected along the way. We came back out to be met with the tuk tuk driver to take us to a home dinner with a local family.
We arrived to hear children playing and the smell of curry cooking. It was a modest home with only three rooms. You walked in to the main room that served as the family room, praying area, and sleeping area for the four children. The mats were laid out on the floor with the plates set like it was thanksgivings. The food started to come out from the back and we all started to join in as if we were at our mothers table. The food was very traditional Cambodian that did not disappoint. As the meal ended the host offered some spider wine that had a rather moonshine kick. The spider was added as they think it gives you better energy, and I am sure it is always a conversation piece. We packed back up for the hotel as the tuk tuk drivers were ready, and waved goodbye to the family that was so gracious to welcome us into their home for an evening to share culture through their eyes.
After 31 years I am still in awe of the creatures of God and the fruits they produce for us. The silk trade route is one of the things we learn about in school at most only get the chance to buy it without understanding its full value.
We woke up and went to watch the sun rise over the low river, and went to grab a local favorite of mango pancakes. Then back to the hotel for the tuk tuk. The driver took us across one of the river bridges and over to the ferry stop to catch it across. As the boat landed ashore the Silk Island, we were eager to see this local, but ancient trade of silk making. We winded around the island a bit till we pulled up beside what looked like a normal Cambodian home. As we got out, there sat a lady using what looked like a museum piece to make a silk table cover.
We each took a turn at learning to weave silk into a tangible good, and walked away with the appreciation for the hours it takes to hand make sheets of silk. She was eager afterwards to show us the labors of her and her family. Looking around for the perfect one to match a potential outfit, one would feel guilty paying so little for what took 4 days to make. With a smile on her face and after playing with the kids we loaded back up toward the next stop.
As we arrived there we were greeted by a gentlemen whom had only been speaking English for 1 month. He struggled a bit but we asked him to just take his time as we had nowhere to be. I mean we were in their country and couldn't speak their language, but he was really happy to practice is English. We were off on the tour and interested to see the sites of the mini village. We first stopped to see the silk worm as he explained the process of how they eat and eventually spin their cocoon where the silk is harvested. They take the empty cocoon to harvest the work of the worm. They drop the cocoon into hot water. When it is finished they pull it out of the water grab the top and pull the silk into a string. They do this on a spinning wheel most of the time, but did it by hand to show us.
We moved on to what would become a line of ladies weaving the silk into anything from a scarf to a possible dress. Stopping along the way to admire their work, you could see the joy on their faces as it seemed somebody appreciated what they were making. They may never get the chance to see it on a gown worn to an expensive ball, or a simple ladies night on the town, but they could only imagine where their handy work would end up.
We walked further down the path to the store where they sold their goods, we browsed around a bit to only leave appreciating their kind nature of letting us see a past time in action as the future will replace them with machines soon. Ending up at the river we go to see some huts that the locals lived in and the areas that seemed to be used for large community weddings. Heading back to the entrance we thanked the tour guide for his time and let loaded up on the tuck tuck toward town.
The silk island left us with its own thread in history and the wonder of the yonder days when the Silk Road dominated Asia and if these folks had been part of that iconic piece.
During our Cambodia adventure we had a Homestay scheduled to help us really get to know the Cambodian culture. After spending so much time in Honduras I knew what we were getting into, Josh on the other hand had no clue what we had signed up for. Arriving at the Homestay was not what we expected, but as always we made the most of it for the memories we would take away. We really did not get time to spend with the family as much as we wanted.
Throughout this trip we saw that the Cambodian people do not live the same first world way we all do, even though they have a few of the same amenities such as smart phones, they still do not have electricity or running water. We had packed our night packs the night before not totally knowing what we were getting into.
We ware taken around to three houses and told these would be home for the night. We then loaded up to head toward their association ( kind of like a home owners association but more truly for the folks in the village to all share the revenue). The association takes turns as to which house gets picks to stay in. They have around 40 homes in the village that people stay in. They all take turns so each house has the same opportunity for guests and their "rent."
With 40 houses to pick from they have a wide range of houses, from house on stilts, wooden houses, and very sad shacks. As we arrived at the association headquarters we were introduced to the main manager whom told us more of the villagers situation they had faced and how their village was only 10 years old. Their families were driven out in the late 70's and not allowed to return till 1998, and even then they had to work with the UN to clear the land mines set out. There were other horrible stories that as Americans we had never been told. Their version of the Nazis was more recent and hidden from the world. Please research it if you would like, but be prepared for a huge shock.
The night wore on as we finished our traditional Cambodian food and we were treated to a show from the local village children. The show ended and we were so honored to have a peek into their culture of singing and dance. We headed back to the house and started to unpack the bags for the night, you could tell the family that had very little, put so much into making sure it was all organized to their best.
As the clamp was removed from the 12 volt battery to turn off the light, we wonder about our own busy life and how we are blessed in so many ways to only be as humble as these folks. I felt really guilty staying in their home. They had a two room house, one room with five beds, and one room the family all scrunched in together the small room. As morning came and the welcoming sounds of the jungle creatures mixed with the rooster crowing, we took a stroll down the dusty road and greeted the families. It was like any other family in the morning with the kids getting ready for school and the parents doing the morning chores. We were greeted by children whom were dressed in their Sunday best and others that well had not covered up their birthday suit.
We soon headed off to breakfast as the women of the village had been preparing with love and care as they served it with a smile and joy in their eyes. Bellies full we decided to take off on a trek to see the local water fall that was described as a trickle during the dry season, but a raging Niagara in monsoon season. The dusty and rocky trail turned and winded us to the fall, and after crossing the rickety ole bridge we arrived. It was a Kodak moment as we turned the corner and gaze upon the falls. Our guide said that we could take a shower under them if we liked, so, why not after the hot and muggy track up. After playing around a bit and climbing around the rocks like kids at recess, we headed back down the trail to catch the bus to the next adventure.
Leaving the village we said our goodbyes to them and the families that rented out the front of their two room house for an experience that can only be described as the Cambodian way.
Here is the group we did our homestay with, if you are interested. http://chambok.org/
Here is a link to learn more about the Cambodian War.
With a lazy start to what would become a rather eventful day it was a perfect start after the other early mornings thus far. A nice stroll into town via the heel toe express allowed us to take in the sights and smells,which make this place special in its own right. A locks and bagel, ham sandwich, coke, long black, and topped off with the LARGEST macaroon in Asia was a great meal to start the day.
Later we gathered to meet our bus to the next adventure 4-wheel ride (quad bike) through the villages and rice fields, that explains the fast. We met at the venue and got the safety briefing (hard to believe with all the sights we have seen). The ride started like any other 4x4 ride and vastly reality hit us on the face and we saw the Cambodian life just outside our flat. Every passing school kid we saw just grinned and waved hello and goodbye to this foreigner that seemingly and really left them in the dust. Dirt road after dirt road and shanty after shack all our worries and troubles seemed so small in these moments. The tour was put on by Cambodians, and obviously took the same route every time. As soon as the kids would hear the bikes they would run to the streets and wave.
Soon we arrived at a temple, while we wanted to explore more temples, we took ourselves out to the reality outside the walls. We smiled and took pictures of the locals, while sharing their daily struggles that were not so small to our first world dramas. Do they really have the secret to life? There is no measuring contest, no "keeping up with the Jones'," I am not sure about you, but that sounds pretty good.
We went along to a rice paddy that had its own water buffalo cow and she too was as happy as a pig in slop. The ducks scrambled around splashing here and there, while the baby calf in the next paddy nursed its mother with tail a wagging. Time seemed so still and frozen back in time about 100 years ago with the simplistic life all around. Hopping back on the bikes we flew though field after field throwing dust into the wind. With every bump and turn came a ooh and a wee! After a bit we traveled back to the base and washed off the dust, and a shower was much needed back at the flat.
We strolled though town after a quick rinse off to find this amazing Cambodian/coconut dish to die for. I actually wanted to lick the bowl, but decided against it. Pondering after the ride and the sights we thought more about the future and where we would be. As the meal ended we readied ourselves for the "floating village adventure. We met with the guide and he drove us 1.5 hours out of the city to the 3 square mile lake. Along the way the sights of the boney cows and the brown grass left you wondering and pondering life further. Along the way we drove down this narrow highway (a one lane road) that was eye opening as you would see piled trash on the side of the road while seeing shacks with people laying out tarps on the already crowded road to dry their freshly harvested rice. The houses were shacks with bamboo floors, but the people were happy and full of life in the what seemed like so far back in time. Wooden ladders climbed up to each house some steeper than others.
As we arrived to the lake there was evidence of how aggressive the monsoon season is with the houses on stilts taller than most two and three story houses. The faces of the people headed down river to greater waters much like the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico. The stares some with wonder and others with what seemed like hatred for being here in their land. Some boats filled to the brim with fish, shells, or other forms of food such as rice. They were headed to sell at the local market or dinner that night. Each fisherman and woman tired from their early morning and I am sure with no tea breaks during the day, they lay sleeping on their harvest.
Some of the houses on stilts had children that were smiling and laughing, while other children work to help their parents tend the crops, prepare food, or even wash the dishes. Similar chores we all complained about doing are all just part of survival for most of these kids.
The crops along the river were as tall as the cotton in August and as full as the rice fields look across the delta in the south. Every farmer had his own form of irrigation system and form of farm house along the river. Their only fertilizer is the monsoon season. As fast as the waters flood,the bare fertile ground is planted by each farmer. While their fields are not as manicured as we are used to seeing, every row is well manicured and taken care of like it was their prize possession. Both coming from an agriculture state that is the worlds largest producer of rice, it is a joy to see the many different ways it is grown.
Coming to the mouth of the river you are struck by the massive size of the lake ahead. The home of the floating houses. There is a cluster here and there with each cluster having its own community. You see a lady washing up her dishes to prepare the dinner out of the shallow lake water and a boat going from house to house delivering ice to cool down the Fishermans catch of the day. You look around and it reminds you of that movie Water World and how a village can survive afloat.
As the sun was setting it was a sign for us to head back up channel to the village on stilts. Going back up stream was just as impactful as the ride down, but this time you got a second glimpse into their simple and rather humble lives. Each child still had a smile bigger than the sea and each adult showed a sigh of relief the day was ending and they had provided or they would fish another day in hopes. Pulling into the village from our trip, the kids ran out to sell what they had made or what they were given to sell, but we had candy to share. Quickly they went from little hustlers back to kids just wanting candy, as most were thankful as others were greedy. There was one little girl that stood afar at a stare, and we couldn't help but to go over. After we gave her some candy she seemed to be the most grateful of all, as she reminded both of us how we were raised just the same to be kind, and thankful not to be running and demanding.
You can not help to take a bit away from this river ride as we both leave changed and thank God for what he has given us, and for the humble parents we were blessed to have. So say a little prayer for that village as when the monsoon season comes they will start the circle of life over again, but the dry season will last two more months and the lake will drop further.
Woke up before the rooster crows, or the crickets chirp to welcome the day. We traveled to greet the sun over the top of the lost temples. While waiting on the sun we spoke to those old and young, tall and short with hundreds of languages being spoken. The sounds of laughter and the sighs of being up too early rang throughout, and there were times where humanity disappointed me from the push and a shove to get that perfect shot. Seemingly reminding you of the rather more violent barrels that were fought to defend or concur the temple we all so aggressively want to get a shot of. The fish jump and play creating ripples along the mirror pond and seem to live as is the world is at peace. As the sun rose and the pictures were taken, we all dispersed and set off on our own journey.
As we went along through the first temple you could sense the bustle that once was along the grounds and the struggles/drama that would have played out. Think back to your favorite historical movie, book, or TV show and picture yourself walking those grounds thousands of years later. From temple to temple we went and jaw dropping scene one after another. We were impressed by the intricate detail and story telling they left for us to see with each chip of their carve. It put us in the movies we grew up with like Indiana Jones and others that are more recent that include the history and drama that may have unfolded on theses very grounds. We learned of temples that were built to honor one God and later changed to another, a temple that was built to have the happy face of Buda facing all the cardinal directions, and one that was built to honor a kings mother.
Tired toes and sore backs from trekking across the ancient ruins, we found a "Happy Loo" (clean toilet). We then headed back to the inn for a quick splash and out to explore. We got crazy and decided to let the fish take a nibble on the toes before settling down for some tucker.
Last year when I was packing, selling, and taking care of everything in The States so we could move overseas, Josh promised to take me on a trip. This is the first part of my promised trip. I tried to write these blogs, so you could experience all the adventure with us. Hope you enjoy the first of many Asia posts!
Thailand lived up to the hype that is always advertised or shown on TV. From the traffic jams to the motor bike army, our initial sites were what was to be expected. The only difference was the hire car driver that LOVED 7-11 stores, and I think he had done enough research on it to own or at least buy their stock. We arrived at the hotel and did not want to stay cooped up after our 8 hour plane ride, so we hit the streets for some food.
The sights and smells were again what was to be expected. We walked a few blocks and landed at this hole in the wall place that was not a disappointment. We picked it because of the nice old man standing outside hustling people to eat his food. I had the pad Thai and Josh had the green curry chicken with a coke (I drink more coke while overseas. I learned in Honduras it helps kills what ever passengers you may be eating).
With our Bellies full and beat from the flight the only logical option was a traditional Thai massage, which beat anything I have ever had. Now mind you it was already ten at night when we went into the massage place. It was completely packed. Everyone was ready for their $7.00 one hour massage.
The next day we woke up ready to take on this high expectation day. Roaming the streets to and fro while waiting on the tour, we found the adventures of the tuk tuk, which was an experience in itself. We met with our tour guide (whom also lived up to another Thai stereotype , a lady boy). Our tour had two other Americans as our only other tour group members. So we saddled up in some tuk tuks off to the river tour-adventure. Here we took a long riverboat that was all blinded out with beautiful flowers. I noticed the driver was at the back of a boat sitting really low, he could not see where he was going, don't worry,no wrecks though.
Boating up and down the river you could not help to see the poverty stricken areas that had been frozen in time. No million dollar houses on this river. You could see temple after temple as we went along, and seeing each one of them as full as they were showed that while million dollar houses may be nice, but their faith was first and seem to be the part of life that made them full. Made me step back and say what was most important to us God, family, and friends. No where at that point did I think of work as most of the time I put it before the others.
After getting off the boat we went to the temples to indulge into their beliefs and culture. We were in aw walking around the temple grounds as it reminded me of seeing the Vatican in college. I asked myself the same question about both places: would all of the money, time, education, and resources be better spent helping the poor around us than in some building that needs upkeep and expensive grounds keepers. But then you think that if the Vatican was not there as a beacon of light and those temples where never built how would we better understand their history. So I say to say they are necessary evils to continue the history of our religions to teach others, just a little extravagant way to display their beliefs and history if you ask me.
Going from temple to temple we were just dumbfounded by the amount of detail on each building and how much they cared to show off their own beacon of light. Mid through the tour we started to get a bit "hangery" and tuned out. As the tour ended and we went along our own ways, the other Americans headed off to Thai boxing and we decided to take another adventure in the tuk tuk.
Now this tuk tuk ride was the most fun I think you could have in one. Our driver was a well experienced 75 year old man with the spirit of a teenager. Every bump a wee and every curve a woo. He kept us laughing and holding on as we must have missed the roller coaster speech to keep all hands and feet inside the car. As we arrived back to the hotel we wanted to say "one more round". But we knew to take the memory and run.
Being in Thailand we just had to take a look around the street markets to take in the sights smells and sounds that infused all the senses good at time and well interesting others. We then dogged into this rather nice restaurant and as we sat down I said "you should buy a suit". Josh needed some talking into,but as the meal went on the waiter (who doubled as the owner and suit maker) he said we should check out his shop next door. Later we walked out with shirts and a suit. A little lighter in the pockets and a full belly we headed back to the hotel.
What do you do when you have walked all over Thailand, and ready to relax? Get another Thai massage, of course. This one was a relaxing with the much needed attention to our sore feet. We went along back to the hotel to prepare for the next day's adventure.
Next Asia post will be about Siem Reap, Cambodia. Check back in the next couple of days. I am working hard to go through all 1,000 pics.
WOW! The response to the last advice was so overwhelming. I will share a little more. Don't worry I am still saving some for next year though.
"Always kiss goodnight." Pat and Janie
"Marriage really tests your power to forgive! Keep the long-term goal in mind and work toward it. Never, Never, Never take your eyes off Christ. He is the one to intimate follow, and honor. Even if your spouse takes their eyes off him, it's up to you to continue. No marriage, no matter how bad it gets, is beyond repair if it is wanted badly enough...just ask any person who has experiences a divorce. Finally...seek great spiritual mentors who possess what you like obtain. You will be blessed." Doug and Tanya
"Keep dating! No matter how busy life gets with jobs, kids, etc...make it a priority to do something together that you both love Seek ye first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you." Bob and Sherry
"Monitor and adjust. Stay faithful to your church attendance; do fun stuff together; and guys really like to be praised when they do the tinniest things; example= Hey honey, I put my cup in the sink; Oh, baby that's so great." Dean and Penny
I will save the rest for another year. Hope you enjoyed. Did you notice the things that were repeated over and over again?
In honor of our Anniversary this month, I thought I would share advice we got from our friends and family about marriage. Our RSVP cards had a place to give marriage advice, some were read at our wedding, but most were not. No need in keeping all this advice to ourself. I always love a good chance to share our amazing wedding pictures from Larry Odom, and prove that I can dress up for special occasions.
"Marriage is an awesome journey. Always remember each others feelings, be attentive to one another, and always communicate. Never go to bed at night upset at each other. BE BEST FRIENDS." Gary and Dana
"Love each other. Listen. Laugh. Respect each other. Try to make each other happy." Robert and Jill
"Live for Jesus-be faithful to God's house. Pray about decisions that you two will make. Communicate! Don't stop talking to each other- sharing the happenings of each day and just whatever is on your mind. You should be your spouse's best friend. Keep falling in love with each other daily." Kay and Freddy
Be intentional about spending time together, don't get caught up in all the busyness and make time for each other." Austin and Kathyrn
"Marry your best friend and keep that friendship alive. Put God first in everything you do and say." Mawmaw
"Life is not so much about the up's and downs but about having a person you love to share it with." Jennifer
"Remain friends as well as lovers. A always, communication is key!" Derrell and LaToya
"Hand everything over to God-you can't do it without him! Tell each other that you love him/her every day! Look for the good! Laugh!!!!" Jim and Kathy
"Settle your differences before you go to bed. Never withhold your love to get your way or prove your point. Love should be unconditional." Phyllis
"Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Pray together every night." Paul and Paula
"Grow together. Put each other first. The closer you stay to God the closer you will be to each other." Mark and Debbie
"Always treat each other with kindness. Use kind words and a gentle tone. Encourage each tother to "be the best you can be." Rodney and Elena
"Put God first, above self and spouse follow him." Scott
"Remember decisions now will be for the both of you." Jack
"Solve disagreements before the end of the day, so you can start a new day fresh. Don't say negative things about your spouse to your family or close friends. You will forgive them. They will not. Keep God's will ahead of your agenda. Look up the word "commitment" in the dictionary. Always remember the way you feel about each other on your wedding day. Etch it in your memory. You may need to recall that in the future." Mack and Vicky
What would your marriage advice be?
A couple of years ago a group of friends and I decided it was a good idea to ride a 100 mile bike ride. We trained all summer, and climbed every mountain in Arkansas.
Now, while I loved the company and enjoyed making all the memories. What I did not enjoy was all the time on the bike.
After the day of our ride, I was not interested in ever getting on a bike again. NEVER!
Never say never right? Well, after moving to Australia, getting a job, wanting to save money and not buying a car. I needed a way to get to work. We live 5k from the school I work at, but it was taking me around an hour each way on public transportation.
Meet my new ride!
My ride to work is great! Wide and quiet streets with great views.
One of the best parts of having my bike is I get to use the garage door opener. It needed a little bit of work.
It is totally different not having all my biking friends to help make memories, but it is getting me to work a lot quicker.
What is something you said, NEVER about, and now do it everyday?