Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Cambodian Water Festival Story

Water Festival is a three day holiday at the beginning of November. Usually, Cambodian hold boat races very similar to the dragonboat races we have in other countries. This year I decided to stay home for the holiday since I had just gotten back from China. My host family had big plans to go visit the “Cambodian Cultural Village” which is just outside of Siem Reap city.

Recently, my host father had bought a new used car. It was a Toyota Camry (typical for Cambodia) and he did not know how to drive. Over the past month he’s learned how to drive and taught my host brother how to drive too. I still remember the first time he took the car out for a test drive and the car never made it back that day. Turns out, my dad drove it into a water filled ditch. For our trip to the cultural village my teenage host brother drove. It was 5 of us in the car including my host mom who kept telling him to turn down the radio. The rest of my host family, aunts, uncles, cousins, went in a big SUV that they apparently have on lease.

Things were going well. We left the house around 2pm and wanted to arrive around 3pm. This is pretty good timing for Cambodia. Half-way to the village we had to stop in Pouk market to buy roast chicken for the picnic dinner later. In order to save time, our car picked up my host grandfather and drove him to the dentist in Pouk. I think they expected the visit to take a few minutes, but it took almost an hour. All of us sat in the open waiting room reading dentist chair catalogues and watching a Chinese soap opera that was dubbed in khmer.

When we finally got to the “Cambodian Cultural Village” none of the adults wanted to go in. They were all outraged that the “village” raised the price from 4 dollars to 5 dollars because of the holiday (this is the price for Cambodians). Then my host mom kept saying how we arrived too late and there’s not enough time to see everything. We spent about another 30 min in the parking lot discussing this matter. Then we all got in the car and made a pit stop at a Wat. Everyone in my car was just confused at this point and not sure why we were stopping here, but I took some pictures of my little cousins and we all waited for something to happen. Somehow there was a signal for everyone to get back in the cars and so we did.

The next stop was Road 60, a carnival type place outside of Siem Reap City. It was built as a joint venture between Cambodians and a Korean company so you’ll see a lot of Cambodians and bus loads of Korean tourists. I’ve been here many a time, but this was definitely the lamest trip yet. We got there and sat down to eat dinner. This was a pretty good dinner. Lots of roasted meat and rice which I enjoy. Typically, after you eat we go ride on the “roller coasters” which consists of a rusty ferris wheel and a big wheel thing that goes back and forth, similar to those pirate ship rides in America. This time we went shopping. Road 60 is a long road that has vendors on both sides. People will drive through on their motos and just stop on the side if they see something they want to buy. I ended up following a bunch of teenagers around and all they bought were stuffed animals to give as birthday presents for an upcoming bday party we were all invited to. The kids had been talking about the ferris wheel for days because it’s the scariest ride they will ever be on (and the logistics of riding a large rusted wheel in Cambodia is pretty scary), but the teenagers would have none of it. By the time they had finished buying stuffed animals it was time to get back in the cars and go home.

When we finally arrived home I was exhausted from doing nothing and all I wanted was to go to bed. My host sister really wanted me to stay up until midnight to go to the Wat. I’m really glad I didn’t because the next day I asked her, “ Was the Wat fun last night?” She replied, “No, I was too tired.”

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