My favourite day so far outside of the temples. The day began with a strawberry, coconut water frappe and a morning of exploring the town of Kampot. Obviously with that kind of start it was hardly going to be a bad day and of course we got a little turned around, but there is no better way to see a city. Through our wanders we ended up at the local “everything” market. The one for the locals. There were seamstress’s sewing on beads and sequence on intricate dresses or lines of cloth, local DIY’s and a food market where all I wanted to do was ask questions. Palm sugar, vegetables, sweets, meat of all variations including some live ducks, chickens and fish. The neatest part was the jewellers section where one could buy recently made silver or gold jewellery and see them melt, shape and carve the metals! Pretty impressive.
Our afternoon continued with the local vibe being taken out to see the salt fields which is all harvested by hand. Hard and long work. I can only imagine how dry their feet must get as they do it all in bare feet. Our last stop on the tour was “The Palm Sugar Family”. A Muslim family who make palm sugar for a living and they were kind enough to let us watch the process and sit and talk with them. The mother of 7 or grandmother of 12 was lovely. Gabbing away to us in Khmer, me trying my hardest to magically understand and her doing the same with me. Thankfully, Chase, was able to do most of the translating. We tasted the juice that they had collected from their 20 trees that morning, then they set to boiling it over an open brick fireplace. While we waited we sat and they offered us sticky rice which they had got from a wedding earlier that day and we bounced questions back and forth – families, lives, are you not scared to travel? My nose was admired And of course the subject of the Pot Pot regime came up. The mother of the family, our host, was 54 and her family had all been moved from their land to outside the city. From a family of 8, she was the only one not killed and had come back reclaiming her fathers land. One in four people in Cambodia were killed.
Onto happier subjects, the syrup was ready to be churned and we got to test it at various stages. First a caramel consistency, then toffee then the palm sugar which resembles maple sugar. By the end I was sweetened out but it was delicious. Hard to beat warm freshly made palm sugar. The kids all stood around hoping for a taste before it was put into containers to be sold.