(A Homestay is an opportunity for local people to share their culture and way of life with you by offering you bed and board in their own home and you’ll find them all over South East Asia.)
Experiencing a traditional homestay in Cambodia was most one of the most memorable moments from my trip to South East Asia – being entirely pulled out of my comfort zone by staying under a local families roof for a night! While a lot of places within Thailand and Vietnam seem to be designed for tourists, Cambodia stands out as one of the least adapted countries in South East Asia for tourism so I recommend anyone who is really interested in understanding the culture and how people live in this country to participate in an overnight homestay. Not only will you get to know the locals and how simply these people live their daily lives but the money you give to the families for staying with them goes straight towards helping them make a living and to the local community who are so appreciative of tourists visiting.
Chambok Homestay, Cambodia
The stilted house we stayed in overnight.
We did one overnight stay at local Cambodian family Homestay in Chambok. There are around 37 Chambok homestays in the area and they form a big part of the the Chambok ecotourism project which has helped to support the local community. Chambok is a rural countryside area in Southwest Cambodia not far from Kampong Cham where cows roam freely along the orange dusty dirt tracks and the cutest Cambodian children playing on the road greet you with some of the warmest smiles and ‘hellos’. What struck me was how simply this Cambodian family live yet seem so content. The facilities in their home were extremely basic and a far cry from the materialistic, western world which was an adjustment for many of us. We stayed in their wooden stilted house which comprised of a single room with 3 thin mattresses lining the floor with mosquito nets overhead and just a single outlet allowing us to charge our phones. As our host family spoke absolutely no english, our guide did the translating and informed us that they did not have electricity available to them up until about 5 years ago and the family would rely on a car battery to provide power for just one hour every evening. We were shown the outhouse bathroom which we were invited to use located away from the house close to where the family cows were tied up for the night. Inside lay a hole in the ground as a toilet (bring personal toilet paper with you everywhere you go in Cambodia, it’s not always readily available) and a very basic bucket of water as the shower which, despite the heat outside, none of us braved. As I hope you can grasp from my descriptions, one gains a new appreciation for the western toilet while traveling Asia!
As an evening activity we were invited to the local community center, for a Cambodian meal for dinner cooked by a local volunteer followed by a traditional dance performed by the local children of Chambok village. Once back at the Homestay, it was a restless night from the majority of the group, with the first Cockerel sounding it’s alarm at 3:08 am, and continuing throughout the morning, until the sun had fully risen and the noises of all sorts of wildlife were now in full swing before we had even lifted our heads – something that needs to be embraced after spending the night in the Cambodian jungle.