Mekong Journals: 27

January 31, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)


[In January 2003  I accompanied an expedition that was conducting a survey of river dolphins on a stretch of the Mekong River in Cambodia. The expedition was led by Isabel Beasley, who was then a PhD student specializing on Orcaella brevirostris: also known as the ‘Irrawaddy Dolphin’ this species is found in many Asian river systems and deltas. The journal I kept during the expedition will appear on this site as a continuous series of posts. This is part 27 of the series.]


January 10, 2003


Arrived in Stung Treng this afternoon.



We left the village where we’d stayed at 7 a.m. The night was a horror: there was some kind of festival in the village maidan and this meant that there was very loud music blasting on loudspeakers until very late at night (well past midnight). When I first set eyes on the hut, I thought to myself: ‘What a peaceful, starry night this will be.’




Because of the festival there were drunks coming up to goggle at us (strangers and foreigners!) all evening. The food was awful – rice and some fish that Mr Somany had bought – but the fish was boiled in a tasteless green liquid and the rice was lumpy and inedible.











My stomach revolted and I had to go into the jungle. I found a tree burning – it had become ashes when I went back this morning. The village is evidently burning a part of the forest to clear it for farming.




The others said there would be ‘dancing’ when the music started. I said: ‘Traditional dancing?’ They fell about laughing – there is no traditional dancing any more; it’s all modern. After dinner we went to look; a line of boys and girls (teens and twenties), arranged in pairs, was going slowly around a field, making wiggly gestures with their hands, taking tiny steps.


It was certainly not ‘traditional’ Cambodian dance, but I don’t know what exactly it was. Mr. Somany said that this is also how people dance in Phnom Penh, just a little more ‘modern’. He added, rather sadly, that his wife won’t let him go out dancing and she gets upset if he stays out late with his friends.



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