Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Isolated Villages

Poom Kompong Roteah is a small village that is probably only 40 km from the city center. To get to it, you have to drive north on National Route 5, almost to Oudong, but then just past the new Prek Kdam bridge take a small turn off to the right along an unsurfaced, muddy and rutted road. A few kilometers later you have to get a small boat across the Tonle Sap river to the village.
I've been there a few times over the years, and little has changed. I'd say it's quite typical of many of the small isolated villages away from any main roads in the countryside. The one "road" running through the village doesn't connect with the Prek Kdam bridge, so that's why you need to take a boat.
Nobody has a car there, and on my last visit I was there for about 4 hours and saw one motorbike and one ox-cart go past. There isn't much or any money around, the people survive on subsistence farming, fishing and the odd bit of generosity from relations in the capital. When I checked the local shop they had barely anything to sell, the ice-chest had a few of those silver-packaged sweet drinks in it and a few jars of preserves. There was no ice in there.
What I found interesting was the construction of some of the houses. I have relations there, and the village evacuated to the Phnom Da area in the early 70's because of heavy fighting in the area, and then eventually had to move to the capital as the fighting drew closer to the city.
Some of the houses have concrete pilings and elaborate stairways that were obviously the bases of much nicer dwellings before the war destroyed them. Now they have woven structures on top, the cheapest building material available. One you can see in the pictures was built on the ground under the pilings, a very unusual arrangement in an area that sees regular flooding in the rainy season.

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