It’s a beautiful Wednesday morning as we head to Pouk District for another LikeLocal Cambodia unique travel experience. The streets are bustling with locals coming and going as everyone prepares for the annual Khmer New Year.
The Khmer New Year is one of the most celebrated events in Cambodia. Every year for three days, Cambodians come together and celebrate with festivities such as traditional performances, parades, water fights, games, feasts, and more. This is a time for families to reconnect with each other and take part in cultural activities. It is also a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.
About 30 minutes outside Siem Reap City, we took a small hidden road to another offbeat travel destination to meet Ms. Seng Heab and tightly knit her family. Ms. Heab and her husband are silk weavers. They built their own silk weaving “machine” and sold the final material to local markets. A meter of weaving can take more than one hour to make.
Ms. Heab demonstrated how she uses the machine and what the final product will look like. I was mesmerized by this self-made contraption and what it could do. So complicated yet so simplistic. Ms. Heab and her husband spend hours per day weaving silk into materials as their only income. Even in the blistering hot sun, they keep to their daily routine, disciplined in their craft.
Ms. Heab invited me into her kitchen, where she continued telling us more about her craft and showing us what we would eat. Ms. Heab, in partnership with LikeLocal, cooks for foreigners who want a local food experience and learn more about community-based tourism.
Ms. Heab prepared pork rib soup and tried fish with watermelon fresh from the local market for lunch. As we wrapped up our conversations in the kitchen, we unwrapped a large mat to sit on and enjoy lunch together.
The conversations continued as I asked as many questions about the Khmer New Year and how their family of 6 would spend it. Of course, there are a lot of similarities to how locals would spend their time, but Ms. Heab’s family mostly play outdoor games, like football, dancing, and drinks together. Oh, and don’t forget to sing together. That’s something I’ve learned over the last three months. Cambodians absolutely love karaoke, and mind you, 90% of them can actually hold a note.
For two hours, I felt a glimpse of home. Loving family. Community. For two hours, you forget about the world, the to-do’s of day to life, and navigating clients. For two hours, you can sit and laugh and have an authentic cultural immersion experience that no one else can offer.
Ms. Heab and her family are among the most kind-hearted people I have ever met. Although our conversations may have been lost in translation, we definitely have something in common; food and the stories of Others…