On the second day of our Mondulkiri trip we spent a lot of time visiting schools and the second school we visited is located in the village called Putang where there are tribes living. You’d easily get seduced with the surroundings, grassy hills, valleys, pine trees, and cool breeze. I envisioned a village that is rural and lacking the trappings of modern life but I was surprised that the houses were modern enough but still constructed in traditional Khmer style – held up on stilts and some are concrete. The photo below is what a typical rural Khmer house looks like. Though the roof is already made of tin. I’ve seen roofing made of clay tiles and I find it really fabulous.
I assumed before that this style was because of the frequent flooding in the lowlands but then traditional houses in the uplands are the same so that must be really the traditional style. I asked a couple of Cambodians why traditional houses are high up and help up on stilts and they said its mostly because farmers and families in rural, agricultural areas usually have oxes or cows for farming and they are sheltered under the house. The extra space down below also give them extra space to do housework with a lot of breeze. That made sense to me.
Minority tribes here are very welcoming and when we went to the village school they even prepared a welcome dance and prayer in their own tribe dialect. The tribes elders all gathered around in a circle with a big jar with bamboo straws for drinking. I was curious about the contents and I was later told it was a traditional wine and since the place was an upland and cold at night so they like drinking wine. It also part of their tribal ritual. After the tribesmen said their prayers and extended their welcome to us, they all took out their simple “gong-like” instruments. It looked simple but they could definitely whip up some good rhythm out of it. Then they danced in simple steps in a circle.
I was fascinated by their colorful cloth, the women’s hair accessories and the earrings. Check out the photos, you’d obviously see why.. This visit to the minority village certainly added a different, eye-opening aspect to our trip. For a foreigner like me things like this brings valuable insights about Cambodia culture. I really hope that though these tribes embrace modern conveniences, immigrant as well as foreign influences, they’d still be able to hold on to their beautiful and unique culture.