We met this adorable little group of kids while exploring the Veun Sai Chinese village in the eastern countryside of Cambodia. This region of the country is significantly less popular with tourists, which is one of the reasons we decided to check it out. After a month bouncing from island to island in Thailand, we needed a serious break from the tourist trail. We ventured over to Banlung to experience some of the outdoor activities they had available. On our second day we rented a motorbike and cruised out to the Veun Sai Chinese village (Voen Sai). We took a short ferry (more like a raft) across the Tonle San River and found ourselves in a tiny rural village, where this area has a mix of Cambodia, Laos and Chinese inhabitants.
As we were riding our motorbike along the dusty dirt road through the village, we were greeted by children shouting “hello!” from their front yards. We didn’t see any other Westerners in that area, and certainly no hostels or hotels, suggesting that these kids rarely see foreigners. As we drove, more and more children ran out of their houses to wave and shout, making us feel like a parade coming through town. We stopped a couple times to have a chat with the kids, but as soon as we stopped, they ran nervously back to their parents. Their interaction with travelers was obviously limited to shouting “hello” at passersby. We don’t think many tourists have ever stopped before, and certainly not without a tour guide to translate. We finally found this group of kids pictured above, who were brave enough to hang out with us for a bit. Even though their English was limited to “hello” and our Cambodian doesn’t go past “how are you,” we had a fun time taking photos and laughing along with their shrieking giggles.
After we said goodbye, we drove off thinking about how different locals react to us in Cambodia than in Thailand. In our experience, the children in Thailand were so used to seeing tourists, they didn’t seem interested in us. Even though breaking free from the tourist trail can be challenging, it was more than worth it to venture off to the Cambodian countryside to see how locals live, completely untouched by tourism. We left the Veun Sai Chinese village feeling a newfound sense of adventure and appreciation for authentic travel.