Escape the Familiar: Rural Homestay Surprises in Isanborei
Did you ever think one day you would like to change your lifestyle? I guess there are many things we can try to go outside of our comfort zone and escape the familiar. Some people may think about the chance to go stay in a luxury resort or a beautiful hotel. In my country, I would recommend travelers to experience a homestay.
It is a very basic accommodation but it is also a unique opportunity to learn more about the host family and what they do in their daily life in a rural village. You will also get to support the local people and the host communities directly. The communication will be a challenge, of course, but I guarantee that you will have some fun learning a few words of the Khmer language to chat with the local people. Homestays, actually, are not that different from my own lifestyle. However, I can still find something valuable to experience such as the style of the house, the peaceful village, the warm welcome by the house owner, or the new things I learned about food and how to cook.
In Cambodia, every family has an interesting story of their life from the past or present.
A few weeks ago I went to a homestay at the Isanborei Community in a village called O’Kru Kae, as part of my visit for Khiri Reach program. This Khmer house, located about two kilometers from the village temple, was made of wood with a tile roof. When I arrived, I got a very warm welcome from the old woman who owned the house. She invited me to come in with a nice smile. After I exchanged greetings with her family, I went to my room. It was very basic with a mattress and mosquito net canopy. There wasn’t any air conditioner or a fan, but the open window provided airflow and brightened the room. Walking outside behind the house there was a big pond surrounded by fruit trees making a very nice garden. In rural villages, the houses are not far from each other. We passed by other villager’s houses to say hello and talk a bit. Some of the villagers raise pigs or chickens or the family makes rice wine. We asked if they saw travelers often and if they were happy to have them in their village.
It’s really great to see they replied with a very warm smile. They love the travelers because they are proud to show their home and temples. The travelers bring in extra income and a sense of pride. I was gratified to hear the villagers endorse Khiri Travel Cambodia’s idea of developing community-based tourism. The village is located along the river with a nice view. Most of the residents own small businesses such as selling noodles or handicrafts in the local market or out of their home. Some of the products are also sold in other markets and souvenir shops. These are also the things we strongly support. Khiri Reach hopes that our initiatives can increase this kind of trading more and more.
In the evening I joined the family to prepare our dinner. I was surprised to see their kitchen with the old style clay stove for cooking. The house owner’s 35-year old daughter told me that she still cooks with a pan that her mother used as a child. I estimated this pan was over 50 years old—way older than me! We cooked a very simple meal. It was very delicious because the vegetables were freshly collected from the garden and the fish was caught fresh that day from their own pond. We ate our dinner below the family photos decorating the wall. I was surprised that they also served cold soft drinks and beer. Very nice evening indeed.
One time I guided a foreign student group on their home stay in Cambodia. Some of the students were scared to take a bath in local style. I am not sure what they were afraid of. I reassured them it was different but more fun. There was no hot shower like a modern bathroom but the house had a room, separate from the toilet, with a big tub and buckets of water. I was happy to inform them how to take a shower by using the bucket and dipper in the tub.
It was like the ice bucket challenge in real life!