Kampong Thom Market
January 27, 2019
Hello from Central Cambodia,
Kampong Thom may be a small city. But it’s also a city of lively contrasts.
A constant flow of determined traffic crosses the steel arch bridge that spans the Steung Saen River. In the shadow of the bridge, a lone fisherman silently casts his net from a tiny wooden boat.
The traffic across the bridge is brisk. Vehicles vary in size and speed. Yet without the assistance of traffic lights at the four-way intersections, the trucks, buses, cars, vans, and motorbikes sort themselves out, effortlessly, courteously and safely.
Life along the riverbank is quiet and “tasty.” From their motorized pushcarts, vendors provide snacks and salads and dried fish. An enterprising young woman grinds sugarcane into fresh juice while adding a bit of lime to spice up the mixture.
A construction project along the riverbank employs both efficient machinery as well as manual labor.
On a peaceful side-street, high up in a tall leafy tree, thousands of Giant Fruit Bats chatter amongst themselves as they wait for dusk, then to sprint out to locate their dinner.
The folks in the fruit and vegetable market are happy to meet me and pose for a photo. Happier still are the ladies enjoying a snooze. Even more “happiness” may be attained by the purchase and chewing of small red items. (Anyone remember the lyric from South Pacific, “Bloody Mary’s chewing betel nuts”?)
I watch the parking lot attendant collect his fees ….
…When down the main street there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the market to see what was the matter.
Dozens of grown men are crammed into a small shop, screaming at a television screen. Sitting and standing, jumping up and down like a spastic jack-in-the box, arms gesticulating hither and thither, voices rising and falling according the action on the screen.
I know what “was the matter.” These Cambodian guys are engrossed with Muay Thai or Thai Boxing, a boxing and kicking and clinching match.
I don’t understand a word. But clearly, they are challenging each other and shouting out bets, the odds changing and the crescendo rising and abating as the match progresses.
Finally, the noise subsides, “paper” is exchanged, and the peaceful Sunday afternoon returns.
Until the start of the next match.
PS If I were a betting man, I would have won a bundle on February 3. I picked the underdog New England Patriots over the Los Angeles Rams to win the Super Bowl outfight, never mind the point spread. Which they did. I also predicted the margin of victory. “Pats by ten.” I was right on the money! Imagine if I had also chosen the Under. Would have been a trifecta.