Slept in we did, but when we crawled out of our hotel late in the morning and got our first look at Ratanakiri in the daylight our enthusiasm for doing any exploring at all was snuffed out.
Despite the fact that the main roads in town are paved, rust-colored dust covered every building in sight. It’s clear that the government is currently investing in paved roads, sewage pipes, and new sidewalks, but still the town of Ban Lung is run down and dismal. It is in this part of the country, much more than in the cities or popular tourist areas, that you can really see Cambodia as a poor developing nation. As far as we could tell there is little to no trash collection service in town. Bottles, wrappers, and refuse litter the streets.
When we finally crawled out of our hotel at 10am, we got breakfast at a foreigner-friendly restaurant, used the painfully slow internet, and headed back up to our hotel room to watch TV. Inspired, we were not.
After a couple of hours, we summoned up enough motivation to leave our hotel room – planning to grab some lunch and then go for a swim – but what we found instead was an experience unmatched thus far in our travels: the local market.
This was the filthiest market that we had ever been to.
The ground was covered in garbage and flies were everywhere. Unlike markets in Taiwan, where most of the meat and fish are displayed out on ice, here in Ban Lung, everything was just sitting out in the heat on cardboard.
The meat was a veritable breeding ground for flies, and very few shop keepers were doing anything to keep them away.
Clams were just sitting out, baking in the sun
garbage pile in the middle of the market
a look "behind the scenes" of the market
In a town with no grocery store (that we found) this is the place where people purchase their everyday food. This is the state of affairs for many people in Cambodia. It's hard to imagine how people survive in these conditions, with food contamination so high and medical resources to scarce. But not only that, they survive with plesant dispositions and many with smiles on their faces.
For me, walking through the market was shocking more than anything, but reflecting on it now is both sad and disheartening. I can only hope that with the improvements in paved roads, sewage, and sidewalks, will come an improvement in sanitary conditions in this town and others like it in Cambodia.