Sunday, October 10, 2010

'The Cham' the other side of Kampong Cham

One of the live bands at the Leo Beer promotion
After the rollercoaster of week between Phnom Penh-Kampot-Phnom Penh. It was strange and exhausting to find myself sitting on bus for the second time in 24hrs. Well I thought I had Kampong Cham sussed out as relatively quite town with not a whole lot going on, I was wrong between the Pchum Ben Buddhist festival and Leo Beer promotion by the river side sleepy little Kampong Cham was transformed into 'The Cham' a town bustling with life and many people who had imbibed a bit to much beer which led to some very funny moments. 

As I say there were two factors in Kampong Cham changing into 'the Cham' the first was Pchum Ben. This is a religious ceremony which occurs during September/October when everyone remembers the spirit of dead relatives. For fifteen days, people bring food to the temples or pagodas. On the fifteenth and final day, everyone dresses in their finest clothing to travel together to the pagodas. Everyone says prayers to help their ancestors pass on to a better life. According to Khmer belief, those who do not follow the practices of Pchum Ben are cursed by their angry ancestors!!! As Pchum Ben involved returning to the family home-place this in effect means that Phnom Penh is deserted as people return home thus sending the population of 'the Cham' through the roof. 

The second factor which has changed forever my attitude to 'The Cham' was the LEO beer promotion which kicked off on the Wednesday and continued every evening till Sunday. It took a while to figure out the run of the thing but as you can see from the video we got there in the end. The format was essentially cheap beer and food, with live music, and karaoke and dancing competitions. There was also some version of bingo which gave us a chance to practice our Khmer numbers. 
Enjoying a beer with the lads
Let me just explain the accompanying viedo 1 , viedo 2 and viedo 3. On Wednesday curiosity got the better of me with regards this mysterious LEO promotion which had set up just down from out hotel, so naturally I went to explore with a few others. Once we had a beer in hand we started to chillax and enjoy the entertainment, then a group of very friendly Cambodians invited us to join their table. This worked out really well as we got to practice our Khmer, they got to practice their English and we all had some beers and various bits of food. Towards the later part of the evening a competition started to see who could sing the LEO theme song and hold a not for the longest. After watching some efforts I was prevailed upon to enter by both my new Khmer friends and my fellow volunteers. The result you can see for yourself.
Discussing what to do differently in order to win!!
All in all after this week all I can say is that Kampong Cham certainly as dark-side you just have to stay out late enough to find it. Oh one last thing all of this occurred while I still managed to make my Khmer lesson each day although we did end up with Thursday and Saturday off. 

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