“Five tourists (one South African, one Russian, one Spanish, one French, and me, surely the only Bosnian in Cambodia) on our bikes, alongside the Mekong river, for two days. We ride through “isolated” villages or at least villages where tourists don’t come often. The Cambodian people are very warm and welcoming. All the villagers say hello to us, with big smiles. The children run behind us… Our jaw is actually hurting from all the smiling, but our joy is immense. We gladly play along and answer back “HELLO”.
To ride a bike on muddy roads paved with a thousand potholes is quite tiring, hunger strikes fast. Here’s the deal though, Cambodia is a poor country and as soon as you sidestep the tourist routes, it becomes hard to find a ‘restaurant’. After an hour or two, we come across a place that could very well be one. We ask if we can eat and we can indeed. We think about placing our order when we are served the same as everyone else. We are just happy to be eating at last!!! During the meal, we observe our neighbors and we are intrigued as they all seem more or less inebriated… There are no women, no children, just men.
Once we’re done, we ask for the check. Out of the blue comes this man that we hadn’t seen before. He sits at our table and says to us in a sad voice: “Please go, my wife is dead today. No don’t pay, just please go.” We are shocked! Did we understand this correctly? Did he use the adequate English words? What should we do in this situation, in a country that you barely know?… Covered in shame, we can’t think of anything other than “Sorry” and we leave immediately. I think some of us leave a little bit of money, me, I feel so out of place. I feel so bad that I can’t think of anything else, but get on my bike and go. I look back and see, up high, a white sheet cut up in the shape of a human, like a flag… Does this mean the house was in mourning?”
Place Kratie, Cambodia