• Tara B. Vasi

Day 8: Ferry Yoga, Durian! Mini Grand Canyon, Homestay

I woke up in a similar fashion as the day before, sweating and tangled in my bug netting. We had to catch the early ferry back to the mainland where we would take a bus to our homestay for the night. The idea of the homestay is that you stay in the home of a local Cambodian family and experience their lifestyle.

The ocean is calm. We load up on the ferry and can already tell this ride will be way more pleasant and dry than the previous. I go to the upper deck and tie down my belongings. The rooftop of the ferry is mostly flat and I think it would be a perfect spot to practice yoga. I have been bothering the group since the beginning about allowing me to teach them yoga, so when I asked if anyone wanted to join me, I was expecting laughs and head shakes. To my surprise, Joe stood up and in his english accent said, “I reckon I could use a good stretch,” and so, Ferry Yoga was born.

I started teaching him Sun Salutation A. Kenny and Louu came up at that moment and decided to join in, too.

I felt like that was a win for yoga, and for me, too.

The ferry ride was two hours and I prayed there wouldnt be children playing in the trash when we docked, but when the ferry tied up, sure enough there were children jumping off of the metal frame of something into a collection of floating debris.

We rode on the bus for a few hours and stopped for lunch.

We rode on the bus for a few more hours and stopped at a fruit stand.

I was finally going to try Durian!! The fruit is spikey on the outside and rancid. durian is banned in most airports, resorts, and taxi cabs. It didn’t smell as bad I was expecting. The texture is similar to a creamy avocado and I could tell it was high in good fats. Sochea loves Durian!

We drove a few more hours and then turned down a narrow bumpy road and took that for a few miles until we arrived at our homestay.

We were divided into three different houses adjacent from one another.

Our bedroom had six thin mattress pads with bring pink sheets and fleece blankets. It was so hot that day, the ideal of needed fleece seemed absurd. The bug nets were even pink and I noted that it looked like little girls princess themed slumber party.

They loved Hello Kitty.

The squat toilet was not attached to the house, but around the back by the chicken coop.

Our host was a 20 year old woman who was 5 months pregnant. Her husband worked in the city center giving tours. They were married three years ago, when she was 17, and were gifted the house by her parents. When she had visitors like us, she slept in the hammock hanging underneath the stilted house. We asked her what she did for fun, and she said she liked to watch Cambodian soap operas on the TV, and then pointed to a small television set propped up in the corner of the open garage. She also said she enjoyed feeding the chickens, cows, and dogs for fun.

We dropped our bags quickly and gathered again to go to what Sochea referred to as the “Mini-Grand Canyon.” We took a few photos with the G Adventures flag and learned our transport to the MGC would be similar to a tractor. Sochea joked for us to enjoy our “butt massage.”

I was all smiles at the beginning of the ride.

He was not wrong. We sat on wood panels and rode on the bumpy road and sometimes it would hurt so bad the pain would travel all the way up into the pit of your stomach. We all stuck it out, because there was no other option, and we got a great view of the “neighborhood.” We passed by families lounging outside. Children and naked little babies would wave to us with huge smiles on their faces. We saw so many stray dogs, cows, chickens, cats, and roosters. The nicer houses were on stilts and brightly colored and we could tell they were used as homestay too.

We popped a tire on our tractor so had to stop. The next motorbike that passed stopped and asked if we needed help and we sent him back to the homestay for another tractor. The other tractor arrives quicker then AAA when you tell them you are broken down in the middle of an intersection.

We make it to the MGC and its pretty spectacular. Erosion and flooding.

We get back on the tractor to go to the community center for dinner. I can barely handle the bumpy ride and switch to each seated posture option that I know, until finally I lie down on my back hoping it will be better. With each bump, my body is pounded and tossed about and my head is forced into the wood. I want to cry out, but am stung into silent. I am reminded of my first sexual experience and all I can do is close my eyes, brace the edge with my hand, and hope it is over soon.

I open my eyes and see lightning bugs speckled in the darkness of the night. Just then, we arrive at the community center and the violent ride is over. I am told we have a bus to take us home. I silently rejoice and hope to god I am never forced to take another ride like that again.

We learn briefly about the community center, but I cannot really make out what the man is saying. He English is good but his accent is thick and I am too focused on rubbing my lower back. I do learn that he is 22, married, and has a five month old daughter who they have not given a name to yet. The really religious Cambodian families wait for the monks to name their children, and less religious families in the recent years give their children western names. I also learn that the community center is a trail head for multiple hikes to different waterfalls in the area.

We have a jewelry making class and learn how to make rings and bracelets out of twine. We can hear dinner being served on the other side of the open community center. There isn’t a kitchen, just an open fire for cooking and a big tub of water for washing. The women seemed overjoyed to be serving us.

We separate into two tables, meat eaters and vegetarian. I am not vegetarian but I sit with the vegetables. I realize then that I have been eating mainly vegetarian since I have been in SEA except for a few meals here and there. I also haven’t consumed delicious cheese since a little bit was added to my omelette back in Krabi during the retreat.

The women proudly served us enough food to feed a small army. We had all my favorite things, rice vegetables and curry.

We all buy a bottle of water on the way back and take the bus back to our homestay. We cozy together in the room and underneath our pink bug nets, and I fall asleep feeling just like a princess at a slumber party, excluding the bruised sit bones.

I wake up in the middle of the night having to pee and use my flashlight as a torch to guide me to the squat toilet in the backyard. A stray dog starts to walk towards me from the darkness, and I think, “PUPPY!”

It starts to growl and inches closer and closer, and my thought process quickly shifts to, “Oooh Shit!” I run to the toilet and it is covered with bugs and ants. I am escaping an angry puppy, so I lock myself inside, slamming the door and startling all the bugs. I squat to pee and the pee bounces off the porcelain and all over my ankles and legs. I can’t hear the dog outside anymore but that doesn’t mean he isn’t there. I try to clean myself up with the toilet paper I brought with me and pour a few scoops of water on the loo to “flush” my urine.

I exit swiping at the bugs and don’t see the dog anywhere so scurry back up to my slumber party. I feel a little less like a princess this time around.


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