Pchum Ben is Cambodia’s buddhist ancestor festival, a fifteen day celebration during which families visit the pagodas to make offering to monks and their “prett” ancestors. “Prett” souls are those who have been unable to ascend after death and are therefore trapped in a kind of purgatory. During Pchum Ben, the offering of food and money placates these souls and deters them from haunting their living relatives. Pchum Ben culminates in a three day public holiday, and this year I enjoyed the five day weekend at the beach with three fellow expats: Ruth, Lizzie, and Hannah.
Sihanouvkille is Cambodia’s most popular beach destination, with beautiful beaches, clear water for kayaking and snorkelling, and many traveler and tourist restaurants and bars to frequent. I try to get down there as often as possible to enjoy the fresh air, swimming in the sea, and delicious coconut shakes! The tanning conditions aren’t too bad either!
We actually only spent one night in the town itself before catching a speed boat to a small, underdeveloped (for now) island, 20km from the coast called Koh Rong. We stayed at Palm Beach Resort, the only development on the North side of the island and a great place to spend a few days relaxing and unwinding from the stress of living in a hectic city like Phnom Penh. Our days consisted of slow, exploratory walks, swimming, kayaking, badminton, frisbee, reading in hammocks, and building sandcastles (Lizzie thinks she’s still a child). You could literally see us physically unwinding as the hours drifted slowly by, enjoying our break without a care in the world and no thought for the work which awaited us upon our return to reality.
Our evenings were filled with delicious cocktails, poker, and laughter. It was also a time for us to get to know each other, form closer friendships, and share stories. I’ve barely been in Cambodia a month and already I have three great friends in these girls.
Now I’m back in the city and already in the swing of work once more. I do love my job and the children but it was fantastic to get away for a while. I’m already planning my trip for the water festival in November!
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