Yesterday’s adventures once again were filled both with adversity and the overwhelming kindness of the local Cambodian people.
A week ago I met a monk at Angkor Wat and a few days later he invited me via Facebook to visit him at his monastery. This invitation was a rare opportunity to enter a remote Cambodian sub-culture in the rural countryside. Cambodian locals will frequently invite one to their homes and even their weddings. But to get invited to stay in a monastery is not one’s typical invitation.
The monastery is so remote that the monk was unable to give me an address or even tell me what town he was in. He could only give me the name of the nearest city, and then the nearest district. From there he told me I simply needed to ask the locals to point me in the direction of the monastery. He assured me that they would all know where to find it. This was not so simple.
From Siem Reap to his district, my motorcycle kickstart fell off, the gear shifter came loose, and the bike chain came off. Each time a mechanic was relatively close and it was not too long be before I was on the road again after a $2-$5 repair.
By the time I reached his district, I’d lost all sunlight (due to stopping for the first two repairs and frequent bouts of heavy rain). It wasn’t until I had been pointed down the final road to the monastery that my bike chain fell off. I showed the westerner a photo of the monastery and he assured me that it was about 1000 meters down the dark side road.
I began to push my motorcycle through the darkness while searching for my destination. A few times I stopped and showed the photo to a local, who looked back at me in confusion. Mostly pointing down the road and nodding their heads. I continued on until I saw a blue chalkboard with squares filled with numbers. It looked like a classroom. I decided that if any locals spoke English, it would most likely be a teacher. I put my motorcycle on the side of the road and again asked for directions.
The man knew no English whatsoever, but took out his flashlight and led me to the side of the road. I thought for sure that he was going to use his flashlight to point out the monastery. It was that close. Again, I was wrong. Instead, he led me to the neighbor’s house in search of someone who spoke English.
Altogether, about 10 men came to help (and their wives and children as bystanders). Each arrived with an increasing knowledge of English, but communication was still nearly impossible. They called friends. They tried to add my friend on Facebook to message him. They each studied the photo closely. No progress was made.
Finally, two young men came who spoke fluent English. I explained to them that I was trying to get to the monastery in the photo. I was told that everyone who had tried to help me recognized the place in the photo, but none of them understood what I was saying. Despite my showing them the photo and repeatedly pointing out my destination, none of them understood that I wanted to go to the place pictured.
By this point, I realized that the place I had parked my motorcycle at was the house of a police man (not a teacher). It was his son, also a policeman, who spoke English.
His son, Lalin, invited me to stay at his house behind the police station for the night. He bought me a drink, brought me to his house, and let me sleep in his bed while he slept in a hammock. He offered to bring my bike to a mechanic in the morning and then show me the way to the monastery which was about 1 kilometer away.
I write this to the sounds of roosters crowing and to the sounds of the Muslim call to prayer which both started at 5 am as I lay here wondering what adventures I will meet today.