First Day of the Field Trip to Kratie Province – From Phnom Penh to Kratie

The following is my account of the third field trip to Kratie province. This trip took place some weeks ago and at this point it is already getting difficult to remember the details. However, experience tells me that I won’t do it later if I do not write it now. This is going to be a general report. Although I would like to incorporate details of my work and the research findings I won’t have the time at this point. In case somebody reads that and is interesting in an in debt account of my field work I am still more than happy to provide detailed minutes of my interviews. However, this is a tremendous amount of paper and most likely not very exciting for the average reader.

We decided to go to Kratie by mini bus, which is the way I got there for previous field trips as well. The way it works is that I get picked up with a moto by somebody who is send by the company which operates the mini bus. This is about 6:30 in the morning at Hun Sen Park, where police is still maintaining increased presence.

This is Hun Sen Park opposite from the Hong Kong center. Khmer people tend to get up very early and many of them exercise in the morning. In the picture is a group of young people practicing I do not know which fighting sport.

This is the square in front of the National Museum where people play soccer. To the left and not in the picture is the compound of the Royal Palace.

View from riverside into one of the neighboring streets.

This is at the entry to the port. It is not so much the beauty of the picture that makes it interesting. It is rather interesting because it is characteristic for a particular situation in the traffic of Phnom Penh: turning left. The small car upfront is departing from the port and trying to turn left. But he driver does not and cannot go straight to the other lane of the road. Rather, he turns left immediately and drives directly into the upcoming vehicles. He continues driving on the “wrong” side of the road unless somebody is kind enough to let him pass to the other side. For the time being this maneuver causes major interruptions in the upcoming traffic, forcing drivers of all sorts of vehicle to reduce the speed or stop entirely. And this is the way it works everywhere in Phnom Penh as well as outside the capital. Whereas most of the conventions involved in traffic in Cambodia start to make some sense to me I keep thinking this is not the most efficient way of turning left. And I still have major difficulties turning left the Khmer way.

We have to wait for some time because one of the passengers forgot his cell phone and is waiting for somebody else to bring it. This delay does not seem to bother anybody. Moreover, we learn that the common road to Kratie is currently flooded and we have to take a detour. Of course, we have to pay additional money, too. This brings the price of this ride up to $20 for the two of us.

This is when we pass the Japanese bridge. People here tend to overload their vehicles tremendously and almost seem to make it an art to pack incomprehensible amounts of good on rather small vehicles. This is most likely due to the fact that more capable vehicles are not easily available.

The road to Kompong Cham, the most populous province of Cambodia, is among the best roads I have seen in this country, including a number of modern bridges.

This is one of the police post along the way. I am not exactly sure what those police men are supposed to do here but it might involve preventing weapons and drugs from being smuggled into the capital. What I do see them doing is collecting bribes. This apparently happens systematically. Here is how it works: the taxi driver approaches the checkpoint and reduces the speed. In his hand he has a prepared amount of notes. The officer comes to the window. He does not need to request money. The most he has to do is to say “ba” (ja). Then he takes the money and the taxi passes.

The landscape in Kompong Cham provinces looks different from what surrounds Phnom Penh. In addition, the landscape within Kompong Cham itself is quite diverse.

Those are rice fields. The trees are worth mentioning, too. I keep hearing that those trees are to be found in Cambodia. So it is said that Cambodia is where those trees can be found. I do not know the name of those trees and I did not entirely understand the meaning. However, putting myself in the shoes of Cambodia (if this makes any sense) I would not base territorial claims on the population of those trees.

This is when we pass the Japanese bridge in Kompong Cham town.

To my knowledge the truck in the left half of the picture is manufactured in my homelands. I have to mention that.

I keep taking pictures on the way. This is a garage/petrol station.

Those are wealthier houses.

Then we pass the junction where we would have turned left to reach Kratie provincial town on the shortcut. However, the road is flooded and we take the longer route.

The road is pretty decent.

This is wood which is being transported here.

In times we see those huge military trucks, which I believe are made in Russia. I recall having seen many of them in my homeland before it was reunited.

This is in the middle of the day and for obvious reasons, not many people hang out in the sun at this time.

At this point the road is not paved anymore. This sort of road is very common all over Cambodia. It very acceptable as long as it does not get wet. We stop to have a short break. The car does not start when we won’t to continue the journey. So we get out and push it.

Abundant vegetation and rivers all over the place.

Water buffalos are pretty common, like almost anywhere in Cambodia.

This is shortly before we reach Kratie.

When we reach Kratie town we check in first. As it happens, the driver stops at a hotel close to the port which looks luxurious. However, I learnt I can get a nice room for just $5. So I decide to stay here and enjoy the comfort of a modern and clean bathroom and the nice view from the windows. Reaksa, the translator, decides to stay with a friend who used to be his student.

Later we meet people from the provincial authorities. They are very helpful and provide willingly answers to any of our questions. We learn that there is a number of communes with indigenous groups in its constituencies. However, some of them are not readily accessible during the rainy season, that is to say right now. We have lengthy discussions about the ethnic composition of various communes and the associated councils and it is difficult for me to figure and match all those information. The indigenous population of two districts is accessible only by one of those huge military trucks. Or by moto, but this is uncertain and depends on the weather conditions.

So we have a hard time to decide. Finally we fix a schedule which is open to changes. Most importantly, since we cannot afford renting a truck we will have to find out whether or not a truck is that allows for durations compatible with the schedule.

This is the provincial office, presumingly where the governor’s office is located as well.

Kratie is located at the Mekong.

This is the bulletin board outside the office, with pamphlets praising Hun Sen and the ruling party.

This is afterwards in town.

Riverside, where people come in the morning and afternoon.

The place where speed boats approach Kratie.

This is where I live for this time.

In the late evening from the terrace of the hotel.

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