MY TIME AT RUN TA EK ECO VILLAGE, SIEM REAP
By Lily Freeman
Run Ta Ek Eco Village Homestay is a really interesting place to get an understanding of what village life is like. Run Ta Ek was built in the 2000’s as a home for families moving out of the UNESCO land around the Angkor temples. Families were given a new hope and good farmland if they wanted to move. The village is very self contained. There is a school and hospital there, as well as a local shop and a village restaurant. One of the first things that struck me when I arrived at Run Ta Ek was how green it was. When it was built there was a big emphasis on making sure the village had lots of shared spaces for flowers and trees to grow. There were women whose job it was to maintain these areas, which meant that there was a real sense of community in this village.
We went the village restaurant that is a large covered seating area with a kitchen at one end. This is where we were met by one of the leaders of the project. He was very welcoming and made sure we had tea whilst he told us a little about the village. It was slightly surreal because from the restaurant we could see a film set. He told us one of the village houses was currently being used for a Chinese action film, so there were lots of crew and actors wondering around the place!
We then walked around the village so I could get my bearings. There was a huge pagoda on the side of the lake that was decorated with lots of bunting. It had steps down to the water and as I went down these I saw lots of fish swimming around. It was late morning, and the children were coming out of the primary school and going home for lunch.
OX CART TOUR
After walking around the village, we set off on an ox cart tour. This was really interesting as it took us along small paths out of the village and into the fields. There was a significant amount of land around the village that was all set aside for the 100 families that moved to Run Ta Ek to farm. We saw lots of different vegetables growing, such as rows and rows of long beans, which are ubiquitous throughout Khmer cooking. There were also much larger fields were farmers were attending to the rice. Although rice fields are common throughout Cambodia, I do think the bright green of the rice shoots emerging from the water is an amazing sight. People were friendly and waved at us as we travelled around. Travelling on the back of an ox cart, although it isn’t super comfortable, is a great way of getting through any terrain and gives you a privileged insight into every corner of the farms around Run Ta Ek.
Next we took a cooking class to learn how to make Kralen. Kralen is sticky rice mixed with coconut and black beans stuffed and sealed into bamboo canes. I had seen it being sold before and always wondered what it was. It was really fun mixing the ingredients together and packing it into the bamboo canes to cook – I have never made anything like it before, and it was absolutely delicious. Although I think our teacher gets most of the credit for how it turned out, she was definitely very experienced and I didn’t really have a clue!
After that we returned to where we would be spending the night. The guest houses were larger and solid, and very clean. After freshening up and relaxing on the small balcony, we headed back to the village restaurant for dinner. We had a good Khmer meal and headed back to the guesthouse, exhausted after the long day. The mattresses were really comfortable and there was complete silence there which was perfect for a great night’s sleep.