Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Slow and steady in Cambodia

ANN/PHNOM PENH POST – As international tourists return to Cambodia, one village is celebrating by taking it slow.

Visitors to Kampong Tralach Leu village – in Kampong Tralach commune and district in the Kampong Chhnang province – are offered an authentic rural experience.

Up to 100 guests a day have taken up its unique traditional ox cart service, going on relaxing rides and exploring Cambodia’s storied cultural heritage.

Guests not only get the pleasure of a slow paced journey through tranquil green rice fields, but are treated the chance to explore a fascinating 300-year-old temple, five kilometres from the village.

Many locals feared the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic would bring an end to the income opportunities their traditional mode of transport and their proximity to the Wat Po Rukkharam pagoda – with its beguiling paintings – have brought them since the ox cart association was established in 2007.

Now, they said they are welcoming more and more visitors, giving them not only the chance to support their families, but also preserve their prize oxen and customary carts.

A DRIVER’S PERSPECTIVE

Khieu Sopheap is one of 48 members of the Kampong Tralach Leu Village Ox Cart Association, and owns a pair of oxen.

He noted that in addition to his fellow villagers, their association contributes to the well-being of the residents of Tahang village.

The 52-year-old said his cart can carry two passengers at a time, and generally makes two or three trips per day.

Sopheap added that most of his guests arrive from far away locations like the United States, France or Japan, and marvel at the lush green fields, the traditional way of life and the wonders of the Wat Po Rukkharam.

Each of them pays just USD7 for a relaxing ride on his cart, and he can earn between KHR30,000 and KHR50,000 (USD7.50 and USD12.50) from the association.

He explained that the global pandemic had a huge impact, with dwindling business forcing the association to close down in 2020, and many members having no option but to sell their oxen.

Fortunately, the re-opening of the country saw the return of tourists, and Sopheap is once again able to support his family.

“Personally, I enjoy the work of driving an ox cart. It is not tiring and we do not use much of our strength. I’m always happy to speak with my passengers, and I think we learn a lot from each other,” he said.

Sopheap said that while he does not earn a fortune, he makes enough to provide for his wife and children. He is also pleased to work with his animals.

“I think it’s important to remember that although there is very little demand for oxen or buffalo in the agriculture sector nowadays, they have provided us humans with centuries of service, so we should celebrate them,” he added. – Kim Sarom

Tourists on an ox cart ride. PHOTO: PHNOM PENH POST
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