(Written by Her)
We set off in what was most likely the hotel receptionist's brother's the car! Our first clue that this was not a legitimate taxi was plain to see in the back window. The rear view was completely obstructed by boxes of WiFi hot spots, no doubt moved from their usual spot on the back seat. Presumably our "driver" flogs these as a day job when he’s not lucky enough to bag a couple of eager tourists! Just five minutes outside Phnom Penh we got our second clue.
An hour in and we had reached Skun. A tiny village in the Cambodian countryside, Skun is well-known for producing the best fried spiders, crickets and maggots. Before we had closed the car door behind us we were surrounded by a group of children, mostly girls aged between 6 and 10. They were selling fruit (bananas and pineapple), ready chopped by the children themselves. One girl even showed me a gash on her hand where she had cut herself that morning.
All of a sudden there was a big, black, long-legged wriggling spider inches from my face! I jumped back. "See I have a live one" she announced proudly. "Want to hold?". It was the older girl who had returned to show us her pet. Delighted to chat she told us that her spider lives with her and she placed him roughly on the front of her top. Amazingly content, he stayed there unmoving for the duration of our conversation.
She spent almost 10 minutes telling us all about him, explaining that it is a poisonous spider but she had removed its poison (i.e. it’s tail) so she could keep it. While it was shocking for us to be told such a creature was a pet, it was clear that the girl and the spider had a mutually beneficial relationship. She had a pet whom she loved, and the spider was saved from the frying pan. It was also a reminder of the circumstances in which these children live. Although incredibly happy, smiling and bright, they have a hard life and will put huge value on anything that they can call their own.