Koh Trung is a small island off the mainland in North Eastern Cambodia, near the town of Kratie, a popular tourist stop partly on account of the Irrawaddy dolphins you can watch nearby. The islanders live off their crops and rice paddies: there are large buffaloes working the fields and barefoot children playing in the dust, chanting the usual ‘hello, hello’ to foreigners. The cauldron-like ‘Toil & Trouble’ bins are typical of Cambodia and are donated by aid organisations. These are still very present in this country where poverty is rife and children regularly approach tourists supposedly to practice their English, but in reality to ask them for money for their school.
The bins we saw outside Phnom Penh, the capital, were often made of recycled tyres and sit above the ground on a clever assemblage of tyre parts, presumably to keep clear of small animals and of water during the monsoon. Throwing things away in a specific place is still not part of the culture here. Perhaps some villagers first assumed that this was a cooking pot donated by aid organisations, and got an unpleasant surprise when they realised its true purpose.
On a three-day country hike later on in my Cambodia visit, in the Cardamom mountains (no cardamom to be seen and no mountains, to my dismay) we stayed in a house on stilts, in the lower part with the stilts, where animals are normally kept. Toilets and dustbins were anywhere you chose. To be honest we often found our way around the place by using bits of rubbish as landmarks. Outside the cities there hasn’t presumably been that much to throw away until recently, when mass produced goods brought in, in part thanks to tourists, investors and NGOs, have started to make an impact on household buying habits.