Gabriele Orlini

The silence I didn’t listen to

Silence in Cambodia is not just a lack of noise, it is much more. The friendliness of people is a form of silence.
Woman praying, Krong Krachenh Pagoda, Kratie | ©2019, Gabriele Orlini

This post is also available in: Italiano

Cambodia Journals | Kratìe, 29 August 2019

We left the noisy, busy streets of Phnom Penh days ago and, heading east into the Mondulkiri mountains, we knew we would encounter a very different situation than in the capital.

But it was only a few days later that I realised that this diversity was not just the people or the geography of the places. The difference was the lack of noise, such a lack that one could call it… silence.

In Cambodia, silence is not just a lack of noise, it is much more.
The friendliness of people is a form of silence. Toothless old people proudly smiling as if they still had them. Of the harmless shyness of the girls who serve you food and, although they do not understand a comma of what you say, continue to listen to you because you are a guest, not a customer.
It is also the silence of children who know only one word in your language and say it over and over again when they see you: hello!

House in Kampong Cham | ©2019, Gabriele Orlini
Interior Khmer village house, Kampong Cham (Cambodia) | ©Gabriele Orlini, 2019

Cambodia is also called the Country of the Stone Forests, referring to the thousand thousand temples dating back to the magnificence of the ancient Khmer empire. And maybe this is precisely the reason for the silence in the air even before one’s ears: the proud Khmer people, who are now descendants of that empire, have a calmness and openness in their hearts that has been lost in many other peoples. Perhaps.

Or is it just an impression that cheats those who walk through the bewitching green of this land.
But, in the end, who cares?

We are travelling in the land that made me realise the lack of noise, and, in a few days, we will arrive in the mountains where elephants become legends.

Text: Gabriele Orlini 
Original text in Italian - In house translation
Kratié, Cambogia
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