Our final two days in this mesmerizing country were spent visiting locals in their villages, schools and temples among other sights and sounds.
An ox cart ride of 20 minutes was our introduction to this last of our various transportation modes. Bouncy and rough, our caravan of oxen bobbled their way along the raised road as we discovered lotus fields and rice paddies of the Kompong Chhnen region. By the way, lotus flowers are used for decorational purposes (see the artistic arrangements on the flower market below) while the stems and roots are used in cooking of many flavorful dishes.
Buddhism is the dominant philosophy here and we were all invited to a local monastery for a blessing. The 15 minute ceremony provided us with an insight into the lives of holy men. Chosen at an early age of 4 and up (once a boy can throw a rock to scare away birds) monks learn to chant and provide guidance to local villagers.
The day ended with a visit to a local family’s home and a school where kids of all ages learn English in an after-school program. We were all assigned a group of kids and we practiced pronounciation with them.
All in all very educational and touching moments that enriched our souls made these 7 days fly by quickly but meaningfully for everyone on board and I am sad to have to say that we will bid farewell to the Avalon Siem Reap in short order.