Kitty R. and Sir Last have been on their way since long enough to adjust to many Asian innovations, they became their everyday life. High-fives with children as natural as having every day breakfast, tough-refusal-with-a-smile to tuk tuk driver’s offers, chopsticks they could use with covered eyes, and they even started to give names to their room-mates: cockroaches and geckos. In connection with the above, Kitty R. and Sir Last decide to go to Kratie.
Kratie is a small city in the north of Cambodia, where life revolves around the Mekong River (the population feeds primarily on fish), fruits (cows feed on mango), and Kitty R. and Sir Last are fascinated by the village life on the river island (in terms of food they are like cows, they prefer mango to fish).
For Kitty R. and Sir Last Kratie primarily means a technical break; they indulge in doing nothing, that is, lying down, reading, swinging in a hammock and watching the sunsets. All this in the best room that Kitty R. has managed to live in up to now; its two walls are made of glazed doors that can be pushed together and thus Kitty R. and Sir Last can be simultaneously in the bedroom and outside so the sunsets come to them. All this with a view over the Mekong River and within the Kitty’s financial limits. In the package, there are 3 geckos with them, which Kitty R. loves to bits (for their ability to fly on the walls and ceilings usually faster than mosquitoes) and one cockroach, which dies on the 4th day (turned on it’s back in the massive heat of the sun).
As for the inhabitants, Kitty R. maintains that the Khmer people she meets have exceptionally beautiful smiles; from bus drivers, to people who pass by in the countryside or people working on the street and in roadside eateries. Kitty R. has the impression that despite the huge, ubiquitous poverty, encountered Khmer have an enormous joy of life. She often hears them singing (to themselves) or humming hilarious melodies (as well to themselves). The language barrier in the simplest situations does not exist. Oh and that smile! It is often simply, disarmingly honest.
Kitty R. observes that in this part of Cambodia, free green tea with ice appears on the tables. In restaurants, Kitty R. orders one (pointing with her finger), and she gets something completely different. In the meals, the animals are still shredded, and Kitty R. finds in the ordered soup all their internal organs, ears and parts which she is not even able to define. The pleasure of eating therefore ends for Kitty R. in a bowl of morning fruit and a delicious, freshly roasted coffee.
One morning Kitty R. and Sir Last go to the nearby market. This is not a market for visitors; there are no souvenirs, t-shirts with ‘I love Cambodia’ or buddha miniatures in various poses. Here Kitty R. is surrounded by a million various actions; everyone everywhere squeezes by on scooters, on the sidewalk the vendors slice and process fish, salesmen surrounded by baskets with various vegetables and fruits at bargain prices, somewhere at a second glance, a woman with a tiny baby at her side, US dresses from around the 50s, blanching in the scorching sun. Nobody is calling after Kitty R., she is not being tempted by salesmen to get the best deal of her life, but Sir Last draws her attention every now and then to women who almost always follow her with their eyes, and their looks are hard to figure out. When Kitty R. catches young girls doing this, they look down and smile shyly. Tough adult looks Kitty R. does not fully understand; they are extremely strong and piercing, but they do not have anything of the typical look at a fair-haired visitor.
One day Kitty R. and Sir Last get on bicycles (again Sisyphus brand) and go to the pier. From there, they switch to a wooden boat that regularly transports passengers to the other side of the Mekong, meaning the island - Kaoh Trong. The engine of the boat, after winding with a solid crank, shakes incredibly (so that it does not fly away it’s tied with strings to the boat floor), and its sound reminds Kitty R. of a yellow tractor from her childhood. Kitty R. and Sir Last leave to shore, get off together with the villagers who come back from the market (laden with vegetables and large cubes of ice from town market).
In the middle of the island are cultivated fields, now they look poor in the dry season. Around the island leads a path among coastal palm trees, bamboos and fruit trees. Under the latter are grazing cows; yes, the cows are eating mango straight from the tree and arouses in Kitty R. a cultural (?!), funny surprise. Houses set on high stilts bring a pleasant surprise too; they are beautifully tidied and cleaned up, there are not tons of plastic garbage scattered around, like Kitty R. has been observing everywhere in Cambodia. Men along the path work on long bamboo sticks, and women deal with leaves in wicker, flat baskets. All of them interact with ‘Hello’ or just smile with passing by Kitty R. and Sir Last. On the island, Kitty R. is also happy to reverse stereotypical roles; instead of taking photos of ‘poor Khmer children’, she gives her camera to one boy and teaches him basic functions. The boy, fascinated, vividly takes pictures of Kitty R., Sir Last, a stick, fruits, houses and his younger brother. This last, complete toddler, stands half-naked and looks with his huge, beautiful eyes; with a slight surprise, but completely calm as if he was hypnotized. Of course, Kitty R. has parents’ permission for photos; the mother of these boys after a while watches the first photographic successes of her son on the camera screen. The boys approached Kitty R. and initiated the whole fun by themsleves.
After a week spent in Kratie, Sir Last thanks the owner of the hostel for the work-together offer, he packs things and together with Kitty R. gets on the bus. Time to conquer Vietnam!
The end of technical break and boredom. In the next episode, a real Saigon, and so much happens there!