Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Part Three

As an American studying music in the 1970s, I heard bits and pieces about current affairs in Asia, but I really didn't understand that a genocide was taking place in Cambodia.  The Khmer Rouge and its leader Pol Pot came into power and wanted to bring the civilization back to "Year Zero."  That meant ridding the country of all of its businesses, brains, arts, religion, everything except poor farmers. They killed everyone who would talk back or resist.

Now, with the help of other nations and non-government agencies (NGOs), the country is coming back and rebuilding.  The restoration of the temples, taken on by groups from India, Japan, Germany and others is making a big difference.  Expats who have come and started restaurants and hotels, training locals to take over, are building the economy.  In Singapore there are several groups that have provided training and small business loans (Tabitha) and built many schools (Caring for Cambodia) - both of these groups have branches in the US - amazing people doing amazing work.

So much for my civics lesson.  Back to the tour....

One of our Must-Sees was Artisans of Angkor, a French-based art training center.  They select talented disadvantaged young people and train them in the arts: painting, wood carving, stone carving, silk farming and weaving, fashion, and more.  We had a delightful tour, awestruck by their work!

  Each artist crafts each piece from start to finish; from a block of stone or wood, to the finishing polish. Here is a small soapstone seated buddha:

 An wooden elephant before the details:

Stone buddhas and guardians

A bas relief reproduction. from stone

John wishing he could do it

A young woman making a buddha head

A stone carver working on a water lily installation for a hotel

Our last morning there was spent visiting the "floating" village of Kampong Phlok.  We took a tuk-tuk about 30 minutes away to the shore of Tonle Lake.  Since it is rainy season, the lake was probably twice its normal size.  There we boarded our "private" boat 

and set off for the village on stilts.  I think that during the dry season it may be accessible by land, but now the water all around it is about 3 meters deep. Here are 2 sights along the way:

And the village school (the boat is delivering lunch)

And the homes:

A floating pig sty

Some of the villagers:

These boys were using the pole to get fruit or something from the tree.  And why bother with clothes if you are going to get wet anyway?

This little girl was so cute... she smiled for the photo and then jumped straight up in the air and into the water!

 Around the bend we saw this - I looked it up and found out it is a Christian medical and dental mission ship - check out Ship of Life on the web for more info.

Our "captain" brought us to a dock where we disembarked and were offered the chance to tour the mangrove with a local guide.  We took a graceful ride with this young woman and her young son:

He was quite an oarsman.  Here are sights along the way:

We alighted at a cafe...decided not to have anything...the menu:  Spicy Crispy Frog with Lemongrass, Stir-fried Minced Snake... I couldn't read the rest, except the bottom of the board says "this is special recipe of high water season." 

By early afternoon we found our way back to Siem Reap, spent some time at the National Museum (which was incredible, by first rate curators) and then by tuk-tuk through the flooded streets to the airport.  Why use a limo when you can experience this??

Farewell, Cambodia!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

3 Days in Cambodia - Part Two

After a morning of temple roaming, we stopped for a quick lunch at a local restaurant - a cinder block, open-air place, filled with tourists like us and all their guides and drivers waiting outside.  I wondered where they had their lunch, but didn't really want to find out... I was a little nervous about the food, as we know we can't "drink the water" here.  But all was well.  Wok-fried noodles and rice with chicken and vegetables are pretty safe everywhere.

 We drive along flooded rice fields and saw the simple local dwellings...

I had read about a very early temple nick-named "Citadel of Women" and asked our guide to take us there.  It turned out to be the best of the bunch, art-wise.  The nickname stems from the intricate and delicate carvings and the pink color of the stone that makes Banteay Srei so beautiful. Historians believe it must have been designed by women.

After entering through a small doorway (gate) we crossed a stone bridge lined with "linga."  Early Hinduism used this symbol for Shiva - it is really a phallic symbol but the guide called it a lotus blossom (!).  

The first amazing lintel - these carvings were done in the 900's... un-restored and open to the elements! Also note the intricate columns, both square and hexagonal along the sides.  The many doorways and window openings are still completely square.  ???

One of the few inscriptions 

Just feast your eyes:

A short video to put you in the place:

Old and restored monkey statues guard the complex:

A look from the back side of the complex, and a bit of the moat that is left.

Local children taking advantage of the swollen pond...I don't want to know what is under that water!

We had been seranaded by local music as we walked, and this is where it came from.  Several of the temples had these traditional bands, made up of victims of land mines that still litter the countryside:

On our way back to Siem Reap, we passed so many flooded areas and so many interesting sites...I couldn't catch any photos in focus, so I just pointed the camera out the van window to record the sites.  You can see the houses, the cattle, water buffalo, bicycles, kids swimming, people bathing, everything...

Back in town, we decided to attend a buffet dinner with traditional music and dance show.  I love gamelan music.  The dancers were perfect and held amazing yoga-like poses with those flexible fingers... 

What a day of contrasts...

I have a few more things to share about our trip, but I am going to put them on the next post.  I hope you will continue the journey with us!