The wooden house on stilts of Ye Yian, pictured with her sister and two great grandchildren
The effervescent Ye Yian (left) and her younger sister, Ye YeutAn encounter with the island of Koh Paen is a popular side-trip for those visiting the fairly sleepy Mekong riverside city of Kompong Cham. Koh Paen is easy enough to spend a couple of hours cycling around, meeting the locals and enjoying mingling with the fruit and tobacco growers and fishermen of this giant sandbank in the middle of the Mekong River. Access is via the amazing bamboo bridge during the dry season, or by ferry in the wet season. And you can meet people like 80 year old Ye Yian and her sister Ye Yeut. They live in two traditional wooden houses on stilts and sell fruit to get by. In fact, the first thing they did was offer me a bowl of fruit and a toothless smiling welcome when I stopped to say hello. Their parents were born on the island and their lives have been spent there except during the turmoil of the '70s. Ye Yian's husband died a long time ago and she doesn't see much of her four children but having her sister next door and her fruit-selling job helps her stay fit and active for her age, and as is typical throughout Cambodia, extremely welcoming to anyone that takes the time to stop and say hello.
A view of the Kizuna Bridge taken from the bamboo bridge to Koh Paen
The sun is setting on another day at the sleepy backwater of Koh Paen near Kompong Cham