The magic of travelling on the water. In the evening you arrive, and you see nothing. No, they don’t have fancy streetlights here in Kampong Tralach. So, just imagine waking up on a riverboat, leaving your cabin and seeing just meters from the ship some kids waiting for you.

“Hello, what’s your name?” They were proud to say it over and over again to each passenger that they saw. 

Here they don’t see that many tourists, as only a few ships berth on the shores of Kampong Tralach. When leaving the ship we are being overwhelmed by the children of the village, who are giving self-made flowers, rings, drawings… No they don’t use paper here but things they can find in the nature. I have two lovely new friends who stay with me the whole time.

Slowly the oxes drive us through the countryside, passing houses, rice fields, motorcycles and more children. We feel a bit ridiculous on the chariots. We have certainly become the attraction of the day. 

When I have some dirt on my flipflop my female ox carriage driver carefully wipes it off my shoe. The kids run along or sit besides us, the tourists. I can see the smiles on the faces of our fellow passengers, touched by these many kind gestures. 

The Wat Kompong Tralach Leu and attached Vihara (monestary), is situated right in the middle of the rice fields. It dates back to early last century. It is also home for poor people without kids, family. That’s why Cambodians prefer to have baby girls so they can look after them when they get older. 

While we listen to some history and visit the temple, the kids stay near and every ten minutes some child comes to bring new flowers. 

My wonderful driver

We were told not to give the children money but to buy them some syrup from a local vendor. It seems such a small thing in exchange for so much kindness. While driving back to the ship, one of my young friends jumps from the carriage to get some large leaves, in order to protect us from the sun. Thinking smart and ecologic. When we go back on board the kids look sad. The small village goes quiet again. 

Text: Véronique

Photos: Mike & Véronique