Our Khmer New Year 2013

Well, Khmer New Year 2013 is finally over and life is back to normal. Every year, my family goes to at least one wat a day and then we have a Big Day Out. After going to a wat outside of town, we proceed to a picnic spot. This year, we did a grand tour, starting with a wat far outside of town. From there, we made a loop, first on a little-used road to Steung Hau and then a back road to Kbal Chhai waterfall.

Buddha on hill

I love this wat because it’s on a hill and there are lots of mini-wats scattered up the hillside until you reach the big Buddha that looks down over Route 4 and sweeping views of the countryside. There are no groomed paths – you have to pick your way up the rocky hill – and there are even some wild monkeys. By wild, I mean wild. Some little boys chased one and it bit one of them on the hand. Poor kid.

Khmer New Year was good to us this year. After too long without rain, the rains came around the beginning of the celebrations and hung around throughout the week. At the same time, we got our power back; almost full-time. After the reservoir went dry, they had to use the power to get water from the big reservoir near Kbal Chhai and we were without power about 12 hours a day.

new power grid in Steung Hau

Of course, throughout that period the expat rumour mill was going full tilt. There’s a vocal minority of Sihanoukville expats who say with all the authority in the world that there’s some mysterious corrupt official in charge of the power generator who shuts it off to save money and pockets the savings (or something like that). I know, it doesn’t make sense because:

  1. Shutting it down and starting it up is more costly than keeping it going and
  2. It’s not just us peons who are inconvenienced by power outages. The port facilities, Sokha Resort, the brewery and other influential enterprises have to fire up their generators.

Making sense doesn’t really matter to these disgruntled individuals. Complaining is a way of life for them. It would be funny if not for the fact that they love to go on forums and boast about their “inside knowledge” about corruption in Cambodia. Unfortunately, naive readers take the bait and the rumours are taken at face value. “Hey, this guy has lived in Sihanoukville a long time. He must know the score!” No he just hangs out in bars, swaps rumours with other unhappy expats and passes them on to newcomers.

Anyway, as the photo above shows, that shadowy figure’s days are numbered, because our current generator is soon to be replaced by a real power station. As we drove up the road to Steung Hau, I followed the new power lines from Kampot and not long after passing the entrance to what will become the Steung Hau SEZ (Special Economic Zone), the power poles came to an abrupt halt at that maze of poles in the distance.

back road tro Kbal Chhai waterfall

It seemed like we were taking the long way to Kbal Chhai, but a left turn down this tree-lined dirt road took us to a back entrance on the other side of the river. The river was flowing nicely thanks to the rains and the hordes of Cambodian families were making the most of it.

Kbal Chhai waterfall near Sihanoukville Cambodia

Finally, it was time to go, but everyone in our rented truck were in jovial spirits, so we went for a loop of the back residential roads of Sihanoukville, where groups of children and teenagers were waiting for passers-by to throw water bombs at. Our driver got into the spirit of it all and slowed to a crawl to make sure everyone got thoroughly dowsed.

As it is every year, it was a great day.



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About Rob Schneider

Rob Schneider is a writer based in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where he has lived since 2006.

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