We rented a car (which in Cambodia is only possible including a driver) to get from Battambang in the Northwest of Cambodia to Kratie in the middle of the country. Driving through Cambodia is never boring, with total chaos on the streets and a very beautiful landscape.
The land is completely flat, with emerald colored rice paddies everywhere, and sugar palms thrown in for good measure.
The typical Cambodian house in the country is made out of wood and built on stilts to withstand the rising water levels during the rainy season.
Houses like these in the pictures are typically inhabited by 10 to 15 people, with several generations living under the same roof; in the shade underneath the house the family keeps their livestock (chicken and pigs mostly).
You often see small kids taking care of even smaller kids, 5-year olds carrying 2-year olds on their hips.
And this is how people protect their kids from the rain…
Our driver was great – in his mid-fifties and thus in his teenage years during the Khmer Rouge period. He blew us away with his account of how he survived the terror regime – living in labour camps and witnessing friends and most of his family being murdered or dying from starvation; only 2 of 8 family members survived.
I asked him at the beginning of the car ride how he managed to survive the terror regime and following that question we had a 3 hour conversation with him about that very complex and interesting topic. I have recorded most of that as he was extremely open to talk about his experiences – I think almost pleased that foreigners like us are interested in what he has to say.
He said that surviving the Khmer Rouge came down to two things: (1) Always eating clean food, and (2) getting the easiest, least physical jobs possible. So instead of picking rice in the field, he got the job of ploughing fields with the oxen doing all the hard work. When he got malaria for three months, he said he was cold for one hour and then hot for two. His skin turned yellow. And he knew that if he got diarrhea, he would die. So he cooked all of his food several times, “until all the water out,” so that he wouldn’t get sick. “That’s how I survive.”