Life in a Cambodian village

Kate Giles
I went to Cambodia for a holiday with my husband. Our guide and driver was Davuth. He took us to meet his wife and two children. His home was small but it had a tin roof. This helps to keep it dry when it rains heavily. We took many photos of the children and other villagers. Davuth told us amusing stories about snakes and spiders. But he also told us his family gets sick and it is expensive to see doctors and get treatment. Davuth would like to be a teacher. We promise to try and help Davuth and his family.
Posted by: 
Kate Giles on 27/02/2012
A picture of Davuth, his wife and two girls.

Davuth and his family.

Our driver desperately tries to make our journey more comfortable as the wheels of our tuk tuk hit yet another pothole. We are again catapulted around the carriage.

Davuth apologises and explains the road is poor because of recent floods. He asks us to hold on tightly.

If the floods have caused this much damage to the road, I wonder how the shanties to the sides of us fared.

We are in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We've seen photos of a beautiful country. We've read about the devastation under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. And we've observed the poverty and scanty living conditions on TV. But we find it's a totally different thing to witness all this first hand.

As we turn down a narrow lane, little faces peek through washing strewn across the fences to dry. I wonder how anything could dry in such humidity.


We stop in front of a small thatched hut. This is my home, Davuth proudly announces. And with a huge smile and a low bow adds, Welcome.

Sopheap, Davuth's wife, comes forward to greet us. Sopheap doesn't speak English, so along with being our guide and tuk tuk driver, Davuth also becomes our interpreter.

Should we take photos or should we not? Davuth assures us it's OK. Our camera soon becomes the centre of attention with Davuth and Sopheap's two daughters, Nacy and Jane. Before long, more and more villagers emerge to see their own images in the camera's replay.

As we are ushered inside his single roomed home, Davuth proudly shows us he is more fortunate than many. Their home has a tin roof. It keeps them dry when the rains come. Many places have only a thatched roof and in a heavy downpour will eventually leak.

Village realities

We hear how it can be very uncomfortable during the wet season. Not only is the heat repressive but it's inescapable. With the heavy rains, every living creature lobbies for shelter. We shudder at recounts of snakes under beds and huge spiders covering the dirt floor. But to the locals this is the source of countless amusing stories.

The diseases here tell a different story. Many villagers, including Sopheap, suffer bouts of malaria. Each year, outbreaks of typhoid cause many fatalities. Rabies is another concern. Davuth shows us Jane's scars. She almost lost her life after being ravaged by an infected dog. Jane was lucky to survive. Medical attention is expensive and health problems can be disastrous. It can plunge a family into debt and feed an ever increasing and ongoing cycle of poverty.

Good luck

As we explore village life, Davuth again explains his good luck. He has a job. His $60 a month wage allows him his one-room home. Many don't have this luxury.

The people here have very little. Yet there is contentment that absolutely amazes us. They concentrate on what they have and are extremely proud of their achievements, however small they may seem to be.

Davuth would like to be an English teacher one day. You can see the sparkle in his eyes as he talks about his ambitions and a better life for his family. But for now, survival is his main focus.

On the way back to the comforts of our hotel, we promise to help Davuth and his family. In the meantime we hope the large food hamper we left brings some welcome relief, if only for a while.

Comment on this article