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Life Among the Khmers

Sharing Stories - A Glimpse into Another's Life

CAMBODIA | Friday, 19 April 2013 | Views [300] | Scholarship Entry

Siem Riep is at once ancient and modern, beautiful and tarnished. Cambodia’s second largest city is famously home to the renowned temple of Angkor, yet it was not only these towering stone giants which created a lasting impression – but a local remok driver called Ami who would come to teach me many things about life as a Cambodian.
Firstly, he showed me that the Khmers are some of the nicest people I have ever met. An example of this is the story of when the bus pulled in to Siem Reap. For the previous hostel had phoned ahead to talk to a hotel that they recommended we stay at, and so they told them my name and when our bus would arrive. Unfortunately the bus was delayed, although the rain was not. As a result, Ami had had to wait for every bus that arrived, in the hope that it was ours, running through the rain each time one pulled in. And when it finally did arrive, there he stood; holding a sign, without a complaint about the wait, or the rain. And all the while he smiled, for the four days that I would know him.
Secondly, class is everything in other cultures. Experience of this came when we asked Ami to be our remork driver for day trips to the Temples of Angkor. He would stay with us throughout the day, until it came to lunch. For when we stopped at the restaurant, and ordered our food, Ami, despite being invited to join, went and ate out back with the other drivers. This may have been because they were his friends, which was most likely; but at the same time, if he were to sit at our table to eat with us it was clearly frowned upon.
Thirdly, Ami taught me about the life and culture of the Khmers. Since, like a majority of Cambodians, Ami was a Buddhist, and in his words, this was because “it suits my way of life”. This made me realise what religion meant out there; as for them, religion was a part of their everyday life. It fitted in with their lifestyle, as well as their means; an outlook quite different to here, where religion is sometimes perceived to be getting in the way of someone’s way of living.
My talks with Ami, amid the environment that I found myself in, were truly remarkable; and so I can only encourage other travellers to go to the same places, and hope that they meet people as good as Ami, who can make their trip that bit more special.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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