Svay Rieng, Cambodia
March 14th 2011
It was an opportunity to experience something new and unique on my travels so I had to finally say yes to an invitation to check out a Cambodian wedding. The girl sitting beside me on the bus, Li Na, asked me once or twice and each time I said I wasn’t too sure about crashing a wedding. She said it was ok and before she got off, she asked one more time and I thought why not and hopped off as well instead of continuing another 4 hours to Saigon.
We arrived mid-afternoon and got picked up at the side of the road by one of the bride’s cousins. While I sat behind the cousin, Li Na rode with a hired moto. We were 10 minutes into the countryside when we finally pulled up at the residence of the bride/groom (I really don’t want to butcher their names by trying to spell them out, it’s not easy) who greeted us warmly and assured me it was no problem to attend. They had gotten married the day before and today was the reception where all the family, friends, and neighbors were invited to eat, dance, sing, and generally just party Cambodian style.
Since the festivities weren’t going to start until the evening, I followed one of the groom’s cousins back to his place to wash up and hang out. All the homes in the village were extremely simple, wooden, and built high above ground with all the space beneath used for lounging and motorcycle storage. The bathroom was a shed outside that was mixed parts storage facility for some kind of oil and a shower + squat toilet. Very primitive and what you would expect from a rural village. It was a bit scary to use it when I took a shower. In fact, it’s not a shower per say. I scooped water from a pool of water that didn’t look that clean but at least it was cold and refreshing.
Sohpeap, the cousin, took me around to run some errands and also have some coffee along with a game of Cambodian chess at a local coffee-shop. Cambodian chess is like normal chess but the movements of the pieces are different and confused me immensely as a result.
That night, the music played so loudly and continuously that it was deafening. The bride/groom stood at the gate of their residence for picture-taking and greeting guests, dressed in traditional Cambodian attire. I stood in some of the pictures and since I did not have anything nice and formal to wear, I stood out. Everything was outdoors. When I say residence, I mean a compound with three village homes housing several family members of the groom’s. There was an area behind which had several cows and chickens and shit everywhere that it seemed like a minefield at night for any person who wanted to take a piss out back. There weren’t any toilet facilities that I saw. I guess there might’ve been an all-in-one shed somewhere but it was best to hold your business while you were there.
The food was traditional Cambodian fare. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was eating. There was meat, there was rice, there were vegetables, there were soft drinks (no hard liquor, just beer) and that’s all I noticed. The music could be heard in Phnom Penh, I was sure of it, as it was so deafening but the real problem was that it was continuous. There wasn’t a DJ, just a CD or DVD player set up with many tunes playing on several massive junky-looking speakers. At times, I took a walk away from everything and my ears thanked me. The Cambodians seemed to love dancing. They have their own brand of dance and it was difficult for me to learn it. I seem to have no coordination with my hands and feet when trying to keep up with the rhythm of the Cambodian tunes.
The party didn’t end until 11 pm or so. Before I left, I decided to leave a wedding gift for the family because of their hospitality. It was a nice experience that I will not forget.