Pailin & Chmmar

Oct 8, 2003
Just had some fantastic days exploring the west of Cambodia. From Pailin I found a lovely dirt road that goes all along the Thai border, passes limestone outcrops, which is rare here, and has very little traffic as the cars have problems to pass the rising rivers ( there are small bridges for the bikes).

I was walking to the hilltop pagoda of Pailin when a big fat Khmer mama called upon me with lots excitement. She spoke English and was working for some aid organization. She asked me if she could come along but told me that she had difficulties to walk and begged me to continue our way on a motodop. I said no way, that I didn't even consider that option as you see much more when you walk. The opportunity for her to meet a foreigner (very very few in Pailin) was just too strong and she ended up walking for miles (+- two hours), sweating and suffering and stopping every three steps on the hill and telling me that in her whole obese life she never ever had walked that much. She also got me a bit scared at one stage, constantly repeating that the situation is very dangerous for a visitor like me as the whole region is full of hostile Khmer Rouge. Later it was a relief for me to see that she was of the paranoid type, afraid to cross the empty road, anxious when a motorbike would pass us, stiffening in front of peaceful puppies, etc...
On the way back we passed a wooden house full of fine young country girls looking at us (it was obviously a brothel). The BFM (Big Fat Mama) asked me if I knew what that house was. I put on my most innocent schoolboy face and told her : "I'm not sure, a school? a hospital? a textile factory?" BFM shook her head, sputtered, looking for words and said : "no, it is for when a man want have sex. you like a girl like that?" I put on my most disgusted innocent schoolboy face and said with an expression of abject reject ; " oh my Good Lord, I very much incredibly and a lot think that this is NO GOOD!" She must have thought I was the sweetest schoolboy she'd ever met and told me her family house in Battambang would be permanently open for me. Now you must think that, as soon as I left BFM, I went to check out the brothel but I won't comment on these unspeakably vile thoughts of yours.

A few days later I was visiting the vast and fairly remote temple complex of Bantaey Chmmar. As I scrambled over the old stones, admiring the faint smiles of the Bayon faces, I suddenly stumbled upon some locals with tattoes of malnourished eagles on their chests and other tattoed Khmer inscriptions on their arms. My heart missed a beat when I discovered an exquisite and very attractive female among them, draped in beautifully colourfull clothes. With my innocent schoolboy face I quickly won over the sympathy of her father and dragged his adorable daughter along the ruins, taking numerous shots of her with my monumental Nikon F90X. Soon the father started telling me in Khmer something what I understood to be a most wonderful temple in Kok Moun. Kok Moun is a small village in the middle of nowhere and that temple figures in no guidebooks whatsoever, so I figured that here was my chance to see something unique. Half jokingly I asked the father to borrow me his daughter as I didn't know the way. He sternly refused, saying that the mother would certainly beat them both up. A bit later I accompanied them to their place and saw with surprise that they all were actors from a travelling theatre group. They had set up a stage in the Banteay Chmmar village. My schoolboy face works miracles because the mother gave me the permission to take her daughter along to Kok Moun ( I had told her that I was too afraid to go alone). Nevertheless a big surprise for me, knowing the culture and knowing that Kok Moun was a fair distance away on some bumpy dirt road. So we're heading off on my motorbike (Transalp 600) and drove and drove...After a long time I understood that the little princess didn't know the way more than I did as she was from this travelling threatre and not from the region. I stopped to ask some farmer and he told me that hell, we had passed Kok Moun a long time ago. I turned myself to the colourful nymph and spat out : "hey you didn't tell me anything when we reached the proximity of Kok Moun and you know how tired I am and do you know how much the fuel costs in this country?" All she had to answer was, in Khmer : " in don't understand." At once, from the lovely and shiny princess she was to me, she became an ignorant, illiterate, unwashed, stinky and last but not least, unwealthy peasant. The illusion of love. The sherry on the cream came when we finally reached Kok Moun to come to the conclusion that there's no temple whatsoever in Kok Moun. There's nothing at all in Kok Moun but dusty shacks. One would become a murderer for less.