Everyday I wake up at 5. In Cambodia, the sun rises at 5:30, and by then most of the communities I’ve stayed in are already bustling. Roosters crow, dogs bark, and music plays. Combined with a humid sweetness, it is the perfect orchestra to wake up to.
Later, we travelled to a community on the river which focuses on mangrove protection. There the sounds were different, with Muslim prayer songs beginning at 4 in the morning. Awoken, I tiptoed my way outside and on to the end of the dock. I closed my eyes and heard different sounds. Water rocking boats back and forth, the creak of wood and sway of trees. Here the soundscape was different, but equally beautiful and rich.
Hearing all these sounds reminded me of a lesson in marine ecology. You can tell if a coral reef is healthy purely due to the distressed sounds it does or doesn’t emit. On some level, I think this exists for humans too. In the bustling city I live in, I can’t draw out pure sounds in the same way; it is a cacophony rather than an orchestra. You hear man-made machines in just about every environment, and natural sounds are drowned out by the speed at which people are constantly moving. One thing I love about Cambodia is that it has taught me to listen and pay attention. Just lying on the dock at 5 in the morning can have infinite intricacies and sounds, all of which feel pure and real.