After the kids went back to work, I watched the sun sink and colors of the river change before deciding it was time for another shower! Hanging out, playing with kids in the cruel Cambodian sun can make you feel pretty, scrubby pretty quick. This time I took a long, cool shower and stepped out on to the balcony to get a glimpse of the riverside coming to life as the light of day slowly faded away.
Below me was a group of men showing off their fancy footwork in a game of "sai", the southeast Asian equivalent of hackysack played with feather weighted shuttlecock. I watched them for awhile from above, before deciding to go down for a closer look.
The new crew: Setha, Pisey, Chhay and Thevy.
Almost as soon as I crossed the street and sat down on the pavement, one of the players greeted me with that famous Khmer smile. When the round of sai ended, he came and sat beside me, asking me where I was from and what I was doing in Cambodia. Soon his friends joined him, and we sat chatting for quite awhile. As it somehow always does, the conversation turned to food. I felt obliged to confess that Cambodian cuisine is one of my favorites. They asked me what I liked, and were quite suprised when I began expounding the virtues of Chaa Kreung Ma Rass Prowt. I guess its not the typical tourist response, because they were impressed. They invited me to breakfast the next morning with the promise of some delicious Chaa Kreung and a chance to meet their girlfriends. How could I refuse?
I was up with the sunrise, ready to wander the streets before we planned to meet at 9:00 AM. As promised, Setha was waiting on his motobike with his girlfriend behind him, and Chhaya at his side. I hopped on behind him and off we went, wither to I did not know. "Did you eat?" He smiled back over his shoulder. "Ofcourse not!" I shouted back. " Chaa Kreung! MA RASS PROWT!" We all giggled. As we got further outside of the city, more and more of the moto drivers and passengers turned to watch us pass, smiled, waved, and shouted "Hello" with a beautiful smile. We must have been quite the sight: 3 to a bike is no big deal, unless 2 are Khmer and 1 is foreigner who can't stop smiling.
After about a half hour we arrived at Pisey's house, where I met her family and Thevy, Chhaya`s girlfriend. "Well, what do you want to do today?" Setha asked me. "Have fun!" I said. "Ok!" he laughed. " Let's go fishing!"
Fishing was not the first thing that came to mind when I thought of fun, but I figured he knew what he was talking about. We hopped back on the motos and headed out to the countryside. In another 30 minutes we had arrived at a quite, hidden paradise without a tourist in sight. Soun Sobin, Garden Dream.
Soun Sobin is a lush, secluded garden paradise, filled with cool breezes, cozy lakes, verdant flora, tropically colored flowers and comfy, quaint little bamboo huts, thatched with palm leaves, and softly standing on slender sticks over the surface of the water. Many Cambodians come here to picnic, fish, and and take advantage of the romantic setting, the perfect backdrop for the many couples snuggling in the shade of their private huts. With much deliberation Setha selected our own, and then set to work ordering a ridiculous amount of food and pouring a round of iced Tigers for he, Chhaya and I. " Oh, I don't like beer!" I protested as he raised my glass with a smile. "Oh! Sure! Come on! Cheers!" He laughed. " What about them?" I said, looking to Pisey and Thevy for support. "Oh they`re girls. They don`t like to drink!" Right. Well, seeing that I could no longer use the "girl" card I had so often and foolishy relied on, I was at a loss. "What the heck!" I thought, "I`m in Cambodia!" I couldnt refuse. "Cheers!"
We laughed and drank and ate a great deal. I definately do NOT like beer, but with Cambodian deliciousness to wash it all down with, I somehow survived. I have no idea what i was eating, but it was all good. I must have asked a million times, and though they always kindly and patiently answered, repeatedly, I forgot. It didnt help that my glass never got past the halfway mark. When I tried to pour for the guys, as is the duty of women in Japan, they refused. "You are our guest! We pour for you! And for ourselves."
After eating, drinking and enjoying the beautiful day away, we decided to head back to town. Setha and Thevy`s continuous attempts at reeling in a big one had all been in vain, despite the fact that all around our little water hole fishermen were faring far better. Reluctantly we headed back to the bikes, and hit the road.
After about 10 minutes, we stopped at a little roadside hammock house, an open, rickety-looking structure built on long, shakey stilts over a water-filled feild. "Oh! This place has delicious Chaa Kreung!" He smiled. Thanks to the overwhelming amount of food we had just consumed, I thought maybe he was telling me for later refrence, but he pulled his bike right into the entrance and Pisey hopped off. "Lets eat!" She laughed.
The tiny restaurant/karaoke bar was empty, except for us and a small group of college students singing Cambodian love songs in between beers. They all stared as I walked past, and even after we sat down a few hammocks behind them. It wasn`t long before we were all singing and drinking together.