The drive from Kampong Cham to Cambodia's capital city Phnom Penh, where we changed busses, took about 3 hours including a rather pointless rest stop. The distance we covered was not that great, but the roads were even narrower and busier than the previous day and our bus driver was struggling to overtake. Its amazing how different the road hierarchy works in the third world. Busses are often the fastest thing on the roads, bullying smaller cars and motorbikes out of their way, and overtaking with ease much heavier lorries. Our driver was at least less horn happy than the previous one, but he still used it plenty. The service station was also a cocophony of loud bus horns as each driver blasted theirs repeatedly to signal their departure. Its all very unneccessary and very annoying!
We were given two hours to get lunch in the centre of Phnom Penh, ahead of departing on a private bus for our homestay. We are back in Cambodia's capital in a few days for a longer stay, but on first impressions it appeared to be the craziest city I have ever seen. Traffic congestion was horrendous and it took us an age to make it to the bus station. There were cyclos and tuk-tuks everywhere, and lots of people harrassing you to get in them. We pulled up by the central market, which was crazy busy with activity and also smelled horrifically. Whilst wandering round it some people had to run out in search of "fresher" air. All the food produce was crawling in flies. There was at least a western style shopping centre, where we ate pizza for lunch in a western style fast food restaurant. The top of the shopping centre offered nice views across the city.
Everybody was pretty relieved when our 2 hours were up and we could escape the hectic place. Again, getting out of the city took an age, and our 3.5 hour journey south east to the home stay proved to be the least comfortable journey I've had all trip, despite the fact it was a private bus. I was seated on the wheel arch, so had no leg room, and also by the window on the sunny side of the bus. The air conditioning was not working and it was horrifically hot. We had to drive along with all the windows and even the side door open, but after a while we had to close them because of the dust. I felt exhausted when we arrived to our homestay in the village of Chambok.
South of Phnom Penh the scenery changed somewhat. Dry and flat corn fields gave way to greener and hillier ground, and the homestay was situated on the edge of the mountains, and on the fringes of the jungle. The village is mainly home to former Khmer Rouge soliders who were offered land to stop fighting during the countries civil war. It has since recieved the support of many NGO organisations, and they have set up numerous homestay accommodation houses to attract tourists to the area. After being welcomed by the village elder we were given the choice of either swimming in the local river, or taking a 2 mile walk to a waterfall. I went with the less popular choice, which was the waterfall, and was glad I did after the others reported that the river was not that clean. A local villager accompanied me and 3 others on the walk, but he spoke no English and it was a bit awkward. I wasn't sure what to expect from the fall itself as it is dry season here, but when we arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see the river flowing gently over the 27m sheer drop. It would be amazing in wet season, but even in the dry it was still a nice sight.
We just got back into the village before dark and were fed a nice meal by the locals. We stayed at the dinner table drinking and chatting until just past 10pm when our bus took us to our accommodation for the first time. There were 8 in each house, and everybody was seated on mattresses on the floor, though at least we had a mosquito net - this is a malarial region. It felt strange turning up at a random person's house so late. We never even met our host family, which was very different to my Peru homestay where they treated us like one of their own. The night's sleep was pretty uncomfortable and numerous loud noises kept waking me up throughout the night. Most annoying was some loud music coming from a nearby house, where a party was being held to celebrate a recent crop harvest. Then, around 3.50am, the rooster started up, closely followed by loud noises from the house dogs. By 6am everybody was awake, even though it was dark, and the locals didn't even try to be quiet. The daybreak gave me the first chance to take a good look at our house, which was basically a small farm. They had their own cow, chickens and an absolutely massive pig. There were also lots of puppies running about, which the two cute local girls were playing about with.
Without having any interaction with our hosts, we left for breakfast back at the village centre at 7.30am, and then got back in the horrendously cramped bus for the 3.5 hour journey here to Sihanoukville. Tomorrow we are going on a boat trip to some islands, and I hope that improves my impression of this place as so far it really doesn't appear to be very nice. We have 3 nights here and I should update again before we leave. Hope you're all enjoying the snow back home!