Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Ready Steady Cook and a trip into the countryside

After the big night out, that afternoon we were booked in for a cookery class at Le Papier de Tiger. Now, on a hangover, being in a ridiculously hot kitchen would be nobody's first choice of hangover cure so you can imagine how we felt about this! 

We were shown step by step how to do everything. I made spring rolls to start, shrimp amok for main and we all opted for a sugary, creamy banana concoction for dessert which was delicious! For three courses - two hours cooking, half an hour at the local market and obviously eating time, the whole thing costs $12. Bargain! And it was great! The food was good quality, the teacher was brilliant and the restaurant itself was really, really nice - dare I say it, 'posh' for Cambodia!

On our final day in Siem Reap, we headed out into the countryside for a real, authentic experience of Cambodian village life. The owner of our hostel, an Englishman with a Cambodian wife, told us about a trip some people take into the countryside to experience their everyday life, help out with their daily tasks and just learn about the cultural differences. We thought this sounded great and something we definitely wanted to experience!

At $20 we thought it was expensive but they would feed us and spend a full afternoon and some of the evening with us so we decided it was a little steep but, I suppose, reasonable for what we would be doing.

We were picked up by two tuk tuk drivers, both of which spoke brilliant English. They drove us a fair way out into the countryside to one of the drivers aunts house. They grew their own crops, killed their own meat and made everything from scratch - no supermarkets, no cheating - all homegrown. We were offered a duck, vegetable and rice concoction which sounded tasty...although a little off putting when we were witness to the killing of the poor duck..he was plucked, thrown in the pan and cooked on their homemade fire and tasted delicious when he was ready. Poor, tasty ducky! Tuk tuk driver had the cutest nephew...

We were also offered some homemade wine, which smelt vile and was ridiculously strong! A couple of us politely tried it and decided a second helping. We ate the food before being taken to the duck killers house to go out on his tractor, I'm being serious!

He told us he would take us down to the river to show us where the locals go then take us down to the school and into the south village...we got as far as the river. The two tuk tuk drivers and duck killer/tractor driver had brought the rest of the food and wine with them and continued drinking until near-drunk. No more was mentioned about the south village nor the school and it was getting closer to 6pm, which meant it would soon get dark. We asked him to show us how to drive the tractor which was actually the only 'hands on' thing we did that afternoon and we had to ask...

Then the heavens open; the lengthy tractor ride saw us caught in the most torrential downpour and storm I'd ever seen - including lightening bolts very nearby, something really thrilling when you're terrified of thunder and lightening like myself! We eventually made it back to duck killers house, absolutely drenched in our shorts and Tshirts! Tuk tuk driver then suggested we head inside for half an hour or so to wait for the weather to calm down.

Duck killer has 5 children, a wife and his mother in law all living in a tiny, one room shack on stilts in the middle of nowhere. The children are aged from around 2 to 8 and were all intrigued by the strange white people in their home. They live similarly to the tuk tuk drivers aunt, growing crops and providing for themselves. The small roomed home meant they all slept on mats on the hard, wooden floor..all together and they would probably do this until the children found partners. This is one thing they all couldn't get their heads around; in Cambodia, everything revolves around the family - they all live together and always spend their time together. Children, parents and grandparents often live under one roof and they can't understand why when Western children get to 16/17/18 that they move out and live away from their parents. We tried to explain but the cultural differences were just too much for them to understand why we would want to live alone!

After around 45 minutes, in all honesty, we felt a little awkward. We could only communicate with our two tuk tuk drivers and they were both drunk now. The children were quite obviously getting tired so we said we should leave and after a few minutes, the drivers agreed.

Cold, wet through and feeling a little ripped off..we headed back to the hostel. They dropped us off, we thanked them for the day and we went inside to settle our hostel bill and speak to the hostel owner about the afternoon we had experienced. He strongly agreed with us that $20 was a lot of money for the treatment we had received and assured us this had never happened before. We were then told he didn't expect us to pay anything because this man had basically taken us to visit his family and get drunk. Thankful, we settled the bills, feeling a bit guilty this man would receive no money for taking us to the village for the afternoon.

We dropped our things in our room and headed out for some food.
We found a lovely little French restaurant just outside Pub Street and shared pizzas and salad - we were more than ready for this after our small helpings of fresh duck and rice earlier on that afternoon. 

We had our early start the next morning so headed back and called it a night! I knew I'd miss Siem Reap and Pub Street - definitely my favourite place so far! I was so excited for Angkor Wat, we had a really fun night out and I absolutely love Downtown Siem Reap hostel.
It's safe to say, I will definitely visit again when I can!


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