Countryside and crocodiles

This is ethno-tourism at it's best. Our past experiences of visiting people and villages to see "traditional ways of life" (mostly during our South American travels) had been disappointing. They feel more like a human zoo, with the locals putting on their Sunday finery and prancing around doing traditional dances (normally reserved for special occasions) every day for the tourists. That's why we haven't even been to see the long-necks and other hill tribes of Northern Thailand.

But this was different. It was just us and our tuk-tuk driver. We weren't the only ones of course; during the day we saw more tourists like us (and the things we visited are pasted all over the travel agencies), but it all felt very low-key.

Yesterday we had been South of Battambang, today we headed North. First we stopped to see a family making rice paper (used to make spring rolls, both for the fresh and the fried varieties). Apparently this is all manual production - there is no industrial production of rice paper in Cambodia. It can be a very good source of income for a rural family in the dry season (the wet papers need to dry in the sun so they can't be produced in the rainy season).

Saw the ruins of Ek Phnom, a small site with a modern (relatively speaking) temple and big Buddha next door. Nothing really to write home about after Siem Reap. And then we returned home on an alternative, much more rural road. Went past rice fields and assorted rural settings to the fish paste market. Normally everybody makes their own; this is low-quality mass-produced (though not industrial) fare mostly for restaurants. It doesn't look like a fun job: sweaty and extremely smelly (though nowhere near as bad as the crab market at Kep).

Paid a visit to the killing fields, site of further atrocities from the Khmer Rouge. The numbers say it all: 4060 arrested, 4008 bodies found in mass graves. There is a memorial to the victims and details of the local history.

After that the kids favourite: a crocodile farm. They are crammed in pens round pools in their hundreds. You walk above them on small walkways, with just a hand rest to separate you from a very sudden death. It's quite exhilarating in an adrenaline-rush brown trouser kind of way.

Back in Battambang Esther had a massage by a blind Massey. It is quite a common charity / social enterprise in Cambodia and enables blind people to make a decent sustainable living. Quite an experience she said.

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