My husband and I have decided to spend the kids' inheritances to see as much of the world as we can. Our bible? A Thousand Places to See Before You Die. Join us as we explore. |
Rollin', Rollin', Rollin Down the Mekong
|Tonight we had a special dance performance onboard by children from the Cambodian Light Children’s Association Orphanage. According to their director, Mr Pat Noun, “We are a Khmer-run orphanage and school, taking children off the street and other poor children on the condition that they attend school every weekday. These are the poorest of the poor, but also the light of Cambodia. Our mission: to alleviate the poverty of the poor and street orphans by feeding, housing and preparing them well for a better life, through love and education.” In addition to regular school, they also have an opportunity to learn kick boxing (boys) and apsara dancing (both)
Children normally stay at the orphanage until the age of eighteen when they must leave. The exception is if they continue to university, then they can stay until their program is finished. This orphanage gets no funding through NGO’s – it is all private funding, typically provided by individuals.
There are lots or rules for apsara dancing. Originally it was a female only dance form, but since the girls must take small steps, not show teeth when they smile and not move about violently, boys were admitted to do the famous Monkey dance. This group of dancers was from the Italian Association for Aid for Children, School of Art in Siem Riep. The little fellow on your left was a cheeky little beggar, absolutely radiating charisma as well as technical talent. He’ll go far.
To see the video's and the rest of the post see here
February 24, 2014 at 8:34am
|We headed to Prek Bang Kong, a silk weaving village, to examine the local family workshops and see the process of silk looming. Once again we hike up a steep embankment. Wooden logs have been placed to create steps and the ship’s crew is on hand to grasp elbows and offer assistance. It feels a bit like ‘pass the parcel’. Once at the top, we were greeted by a throng of children. None look older than 12, the youngest wore a heavy diaper.
To my left, plastic sheets were laid out on the ground and were covered in luminous silks.
“Hello, hello,” a boy rushed up to me, beaming. “What’s your name? Where are you from?” He had a big gap where his two front teeth were missing.
I told him and asked him his name.
“Hello, Kirsten,” I’ve had native English speakers mangle my name more. I smiled, this young lad was charm on wheels. “My name is John. Will you buy from me? My mother makes beautiful things.” He gestured to one of the makeshift ‘stalls’.
I shook my head. We were just starting out, I explained. “But I have to come back this way,” I assured him.
‘You’ll buy from me, though. No one else,” he pressed. I shrugged noncommittally and we rushed on. Read more here .
February 23, 2014 at 1:31am
|I forgot to put on mosquito repellent one night - one lousy night - and I wake up looking like bubble-wrap! Go Benadryl!
We were using a paved road to make the steep climb up the hill to the Wat Hanchey temple complex when I asked Q why he had persisted in taking English when it was illegal for so many years.
He nodded and explained.
"Just before 1975 there was a Buddhist prophesy that the country of Cambodia would be emptied of its people. My father's father, my grandfather, was a Buddhist priest and his wife, my grandmother, a Buddhist nun and they told my father the Buddhist priests predicted that the cities of Cambodia would be emptied. The roads would be empty and the sun and the moon would rise on empty fields." He gestured to the sky and the island rice paddies on the islands in the Mekong below us. "They also predicted that when Cambodia recovered, a lot of foreigners would come - particularly to Siem Riep province, to help restore the country.
Now, at this time, my father spoke French and we learned French in school. After the Khmer Rouge fell in 1979 and we went back to school, my father reminded me of the prediction that a lot of foreigners would come. So I needed to learn another language than French, I needed to learn English. They had to pay a fine because I was learning English, it was a multiple of my body weight! That is why we moved in secret from house to house to study. Read more here
February 22, 2014 at 1:52am
Snake Soup and Ships
|As we entered Kampong Cham, Q's story continued, “Everyone ate anything during the Khmer time and now they can’t give up- crickets, water beetle (tastes like mint) and tarantula (eat the legs first, the body last). Tarantula tastes a bit like chicken,” Q mused. “Well nothing really tastes like chicken, does it,” he laughed. “When you eat tarantula it is also a medicine for arthritis. Trick is to deal with the venom. If you get bitten put ice on it.”
“These insects are economical. Crickets are eighty cents a can. Tarantula $1.50 each. We also eat water snake from the Mekong River, over five million are caught a year. Crocodiles are raised by feeding with water snake. People buy dried snake. Cobra soup is more delicious than water snake.
Here is a recipe for cobra soup. Read more here .
February 20, 2014 at 4:47am
I Have a Lara Croft, Tomb Raider Moment
|I’m Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, sleek, lithe and dangerous as one of the tigers that inhabited this area as I race through the magnificent ruin that is Ta Prohm. My quarry – an elusive Cambodian girl who flickers in and out of the sinister doorways that surround me. She appears for an instant to point me to this tree.
Here. I find the jasmine I’m seeking, I turn and the girl has disappeared, then the earth opens beneath me and I drop into a ...
"Got it!" Q exclaims as the camera shutter snaps. I blink. My faithful sidekick stands beside me and Q is talking again. "It's a good shot," he says, returning the camera.
“What is this tree,” I ask, pointing to the writhing roots that surround me. It’s hard to avoid writerly excess when describing these trees. Suffice it to say, I’m imagining that if I am unwary, they will wrap, serpent-like, around my neck and body and I’ll remain here for all time and –
“It’s called silk-cotton tree, or kapok in English. In Cambodian we call it ‘sprung’.”
Q nodded,” Yes, that’s the sound it makes when you whack the trunk. The sound carries very far. You can use it if you are lost in the jungle. Someone will hear and rescue you.”
We stride on, over fallen slabs of bricks and columns. Read more here
February 18, 2014 at 11:10pm
A Tomb With A View
|What if you were a king who had murdered his way to the top and now struggled with a) establishing the legitimacy of his reign and b) felt a teensy bit queasy about his fate in the hereafter?
If you were 12th century usurper Angkorian king, Suryavarman II, the first thing you would do is nail down your legitimacy by finding an astrologer who could link your fate and the fate of your country to the dragon, the most sacred and powerful of animals as it represents the power of water and the power of land. If you could harness the power of water, and provide ‘rain on demand’ you would be declared a holy person and have the right to be king.
You couldn’t believe your luck when an astrologer found the constellation Draco (the dragon) appearing in the Angkor sky area and a silhouette of the dragon appearing on the Angkor area ground. (Weirdly enough, the vast majority of the Angkor temples do line up along the shape of Draco). Read more here
February 14, 2014 at 11:28pm
Siem Riep (Siam Defeated!)
|“Welcome to Cambodia, my name is Q.” (I have changed the name of our guide to maintain his privacy). Our guide, a tall man with high cheekbones and thick dark hair, pressed the palms of his hands together and bowed to us in greeting at the airport. “And welcome to Siem Riep, let me tell you a little history of this place. First, we do not call ourselves Cambodians, that name was started by the French who called it Cambodge and translated into the English Cambodia by the British. We call ourselves the Khmer, we speak the Khmer language and we call the country Kampuja. Ninety percent of the people living here are Khmer the rest made up of various smaller groups.”
After we were all seated on the bus he stood at the front and said, “My name is not really Q. I had to change it. Would you like to hear the story of my name?”
You can read more here
February 6, 2014 at 6:10am
|“The Ho Chi Minh mausoleum is the holiest site in the country for the Vietnamese because he is revered not only as the liberator from the French but also because of his communist ideology.” Han swept an arm to encompass the massive structure, built with help from the Russians in the same style as Lenin’s tomb in Red Square (but many times the size). It is situated on Ba Dinh Square, the biggest square in Hanoi.
“Ho Chi Minh wanted to be cremated when he died, as is our custom. But, when Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, the civil war was still going on. The generals were afraid that if the people knew he had died, they would lose heart and stop fighting. This was just after the North had suffered a terrible defeat during the Tet Offensive of 1968 and already rumours were circulating that he died because of the stress. But I think he died of old age. He was 79 and in those days, people didn’t live as long – although 79 is no age at all now. Millions of people come from all over each year to pay their respects and, perhaps to pray.” He gestured to the long line of people snaking across the square. “They come as early as 6:00 in the morning and it can take two and a half hours to actually get to the mausoleum. There, if you go inside, you can still see his body, preserved by nitrogen in a glass sarcophagus.”
“It is very difficult to become one of Ho Chi Minh’s body guards,” he nodded to the guards in their snowy white uniforms posted on either side of the door and every five feet thereafter. “It is a very prestigious position to hold.” More here
February 4, 2014 at 8:19am
The Importance of Red and Yellow
|“Walk slowly and keep moving. Don’t stop and don’t run.” The words of Ha, our tour manager ring in my ears as I gingerly step out into the swirling traffic, affecting a confidence I’m inwardly afraid I don’t feel. “In a city with few traffic lights, that is the only way to cross the street,” Ha continued. “The traffic doesn’t move quickly, but it won’t stop for you. If you walk slowly, the driver can judge your speed and how to maneuver around you. Besides, it is still Tet, instead of 2 million scooters and motorbikes on the road, there are only about 800 thousand. If you still feel frightened, find some locals, insert yourself amongst them and cross with them.”
It works. Traffic moves in an orderly fashion – there is no one trying to get anywhere in a New York minute. Hooting is only to advise one’s presence – not to scare the daylights out of other drivers or make unseemly displays of aggression. Scooters, many carrying entire families, smoothly flow around me as I cross a wide street to enter the old quarter.
You have to get used to walking on the street. Sidewalks, when they exist at all, are for parking vehicles and displaying the wares of vendors. Pedestrians don’t signify. Read more here.
January 23, 2014 at 9:42am
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