There’s something about sunset and sunrise in the tropics which I’ve never been able to fully do justice to through a camera lens. The breeze softens, the sky is washed with colours from a fiery palette, and the lowering of the temperature is a welcome respite from the brutality of the midday sun. Because of this, the return to the village was most welcome, even if it was only for a single night.
The village in question is Chok Chey, in Prey Veng province. On the way there, we had to pass through Neak Loeung, a large market town an hour’s drive (and ferry crossing) from Phnom Penh.
Neak Loueng has always had an olde-worlde feel; thin dirty alleys through ramshackle stalls, abounding with pungent aromas of things that are likely to give you one of many forms of illness. It’s also become something of a cultural mixing pot, as with much of the surrounding regions of Cambodia; in recent years, reasonably high immigration has been seen from Vietnam. While I enjoy its quaint charms, I don’t like staying for too long, for I tend to get queasy quickly in the face of strong odours.
Chok Chey (again)
In contrast to Neak Loueng is Chok Chey. The poverty seen in the countryside is visible here, with rickety thatched huts, litter and Dickensian farming scenes still prevailing. However, it must be said, things have improved dramatically since my first visit nine years ago, thanks in no small part to improved access to education, and the knock-on effects in farm management and environmental responsibility. My favourite activity is strolling through the paddy fields (often accompanied by what seems like five million excited children), searching out dragonflies, swallows, and all manner of other wildlife that inhabits the fields. This is something reserved for the extreme ends of the day: from about 10 AM until 2 PM, the heat is intolerable.
Mosquito numbers are in decline (I only saw one in 24 hours), thanks largely to a proliferation of dragonflies, and a drastic increase in fish farming. This is quite the opposite of my current location, Prey Veng city, where the mosquitoes are prevalent, and pining for blood.
Prey Veng, while not as markedly changed as Phnom Penh, is still much tidier than it used to be. New buildings have been erected, the impoverished are becoming less so, and those who speak English speak it very well. It is lovely to see the provincial city of my ancestral home on the up. As night descended upon the city, I was lucky enough to be shown around the exquisite interior of a temple. I close this post with two pictures of the intricate decoration adorning its walls, ceiling and pillars, as I really need to get some sleep.