Photos courtesy of K Kelly
We just wanted to go for a walk to get some air, after two whole days indoors through several ceremonies. We attended a Buddhist ceremony in Kampong Cham for a friend’s grandmother who passed away 10 years ago. This is the province with the beautiful women, according to many Khmer men in Phnom Penh. It might somewhat be validated by the recent legislative crackdown on weddings to foreigners, to prevent trafficking of women. Apparently Korean men looking for a nice obedient wife tend to look for one to buy/marry in this province, until several miraculously escaped abusive relationships in S Korea and reported it upon return.
But I digress. This couple were guests at the event, and we inadvertently followed them home. When we indicated through various gesturing and mimings that we wanted to walk around the village a bit, they wouldn’t have that– “dangerous”, they said. “Come with us to our house.”
There they served us up some tea and cashew fruits. The lands to and around Kampong Cham are dedicated to farming cashews and rubber plantations. The soil is particularly good for growing very high quality cashews, but they are mostly grown for export to Vietnam and Thailand. The Khmer in turn imports Vietnam’s sub-par cashews to sell to its own people. Rubber is exported to China. It fetches high prices, but not high enough to compensate for the damage it renders the soil after a few years of high yield. The agriculture policy is still not effectively implemented, and besides, there’s very little regulatory capacity not to mention intense corruption when it comes to land and land use. Small farmers are pretty much left to their own devices and vulnerable to the demands of neighbors and subsequent market imbalances.
They eat the flesh of the cashew fruit here, not just the nut. The older folks especially love it (maybe cuz it’s soft?) dipped into a sauce of palm sugar and water.