Monday, January 31, 2011

Preah Vihear Trip in Photos

The bus left at 5am.  We were awake before 4.

Our friends, Yan and Chandy on the bus.
They arranged for us to join their university field trip.

The bus was equipped with a TV monitor
Cambodian Karaoke played the entire trip
All the songs are tear-jerkers

Teacher of Khmer Studies giving trip details
All in Khmer.  I had no clue what he was saying, but it sounded important

Pit stop.  Guys & gals got out to pee in the bushes...
And we got to watch the sunrise.  Awesome

Singing songs on the bus

The class 'entertainer' - plays flute, sings, tells jokes

Huts like these dotted the countryside on the way to the temple
No electricity, no running water.

Nearing the mountain.  Preah Vihear is on top

The bus only goes to the base of the mountain.
We took 4WD trucks up the slope.  15 people per truck
Gordon & I sat in the truck bed.  Very bumpy ride

Also a very STEEP ride!

Near the top is an army encampment
We gave food & treats to the soldiers


First set of stairs up to Preah Vihear
Try to imagine these are about 1000 years old!

Amazing carvings on the lintels

The roof would probably have been made of wood

Lintel carving of 'The Churning of the Sea of Milk'

No Graffiti

But there was lots anyway

An exquisitely carved doorway

The temple was scattered with soldiers

An ancient 'soldier' guarding the temple doorway

Soldiers in one of the doorways

Vaulted ceiling all made of stone
How did they ever do that?

Monks bestowing a blessing on a petitioner
The soft drinks and cigarettes behind belong to them
I didn't know that monks smoked...

This is where the stone for the temple was quarried
right out of the mountain side
Hard to imagine the manpower it took to build these temples...

A soldier stands guard with his gun
The Thais are only a few hundred yards away
and conduct military 'exercises' regularly

A small temple with a tree growing out the top
The root system was all along the insides of the temple

Spetacular view from the mountain top

Most members of the group posing outside the temple
Can you pick out Gordon and me?

At the army base below, there were warnings for landmines 

Gordon with the Colonel
He painted his beard with shoe polish! (honestly)
Cracked me up!

Reservoir at the temple
Dry season, so the water level is low
Soldiers are using this as a water source

Road construction going on up the mountain
Many hairpin turns - quite a hairy ride
Not for sissies....

On the return trip, we stopped at Tamok House
Tamok was a Khmer Rouge commander
Read about it here:

Many intricate murals on the walls of the house
Note the mural is painted right around the wood pillar

Beautiful view from the 2nd floor of Tamok House

The bus trip back was a riot
Singing, drinking beer, karaoke, jokes
All in Khmer.
I had no idea what they were saying, but I laughed at their antics

Singing the 'girl's part' of the song

A good time was had by all!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cambodian Artisans Craft Fair

This morning, we struck out for the Angkor Handicraft Fair right after breakfast.  It was the 5th and last day for this annual event, so I prepared myself for sparsely stocked booths and leftover merchandise.  Instead, we discovered we’d arrived a bit early and many of the booths were still setting up.  We had to go around the booths two or more times to make sure we didn’t miss anything, which thrilled me, but didn’t exactly get Gordon’s blood stirring (oh dear!).   Let me just say this: Women go out to shop.  Men go out to buy.  And I was there to shop.  After the second loop ‘round, he left me to ‘shop’ and went across the river to sit and wait and Rosy’s.  I rest my case.
We’d been to the same craft show last year, so I had a good idea of what to expect.  This year there were a few more tents, about 35 in all, mostly with silk (woven, batiks, soft and ‘hard’ (natural?) fabric, scarves, clothing, purses, etc.), and a variety of ceramics, jewellery, basketry, quilting (yes, quilting!), painting, wooden ware, sculpture, and gemstones.  Unfortunately, the Cambodian Knitters Guild was not there this year.   All the products were excellent quality, and few items were out of our budget range.  The best thing is that every item was Cambodian made, not the ‘Made in China/India’ stuff they flog at the markets in town.  
Beautiful Quilts

Many tents with amazing products

Demonstating silk production

These guys just beg you to be taken home

Gorgeous art work

Custom tailored silk clothing
Ready in 24 hours

Choosing was difficult.  I was seeking unique items at good value.  I’d unwittingly set out with only $50 in my wallet, and wasn’t counting on there being any Visa machines on site.  I bought a few lovely gifts (you’ll find out who the lucky winners are when we get back).  Of course, I got a few special things for myself….a funky purse and bracelet made from recycled magazines, a smoky quartz Buddha pendant wrapped in silver, and a silk scarf (yeah right, like I need another scarf!)  The sales lady wore this fabulous silk scarf wrapped around her head (as did her sister and her young daughter).  They all looked soooo beautiful… and, naturally, I asked her to demonstrate how to wrap the scarf around my head, and had to buy one so I could look gorgeous too!  
I’m not sure I pull it off as well as they do….  Gordon thinks it kind of makes me look Romanian (like a gypsy), and he says all I need is my crystal ball.  I’m betting that wasn’t meant as a compliment, but hey, there’s a man for you!

On second thought, maybe he's right......

Life in Cambodia- Part 3- Cats & Dogs

Many of you are pet owners, and I thought it might be interesting to report on my observations about pets (cats & dogs) on the other side of the world. 
Last year a British volunteer for the Ponheary Ly Foundation made the following blanket statement:  “All Cambodian dogs look alike.”  Take a look at the following pics, and you decide. 

We nicknamed him 'Earmuffs'

I will grant you her one thing….all Cambodian dogs act alike.  Almost anywhere you go, chances are you’ll see one sleeping - dog-tired and lazy from the heat.  I’ve even seen one sleeping in the middle of a main road at 3 am.  They invariably find a place in the shade or a cool pile of sand, or under a table… and they snooze.   
Cambodian dogs are either too tired (or indifferent) to raise their heads or move aside.  Occasionally, I’ve encountered a sleeping dog in the middle my path, and had to step over it…. and it neither blinked nor moved a whisker.  I still carry the caution of my youth about strange dogs, so if I see one with food, I give it a wide berth.  Still, in the entire time we’ve been here, I’ve yet to be challenged by any dog defending its territory or young.
Interestingly enough, all the female dogs we see have long teats, so they've obviously whelped several litters, but until a few weeks ago, we’d never seen puppies - never.  The puppies we’ve seen recently are either a special (pure?) breed, or found out in the countryside…. which leads me to wonder what happens to all the puppies?  Just saying…..
Even rarer than puppies are cats.  I don’t know if they’re just all out somewhere catching mice (or whatever vermin happens to be available), but I doesn’t seem to me that cats are generally kept as house pets here like dogs.  The first time I saw a Cambodian cat, I thought its tail had been slammed in a door, because it was short and all bent out of shape.   When most of the cats I saw after that had the same tails, I realized it must be some strange dominant gene.  They do look SO funny.  Occasionally I’ll see a long-tailed cat, but up till now, I’ve never seen a long-haired cat.  Maybe long hair just doesn’t cut it in this heat. 

OB Joyful - notice the crooked, cropped tail

Longer crooked tail

Normal tail 

The two orphanage cats at Honour Village are very different, and very special.  OB Happy(male) and OB Joyful (female) are still in the late kitten (or early teenage) stage.  They are house pets, in the same sense as we in North America have them, except they are so used to being constantly held and carried by children and staff alike, they have become totally spoiled.  OB Happy especially has to be part of the action, and insists on being cradled like a baby.
Khanit with OB Happy

I find it amusing to see cat and dog products (food, treats, shampoo, toys, etc) in all the stores.  These are obviously aimed at ex-pats, sinc there’s no way the average Cambodian could ever afford such lavish extravagance on a pet.  (Keep in mind the average Cambodian makes about $1/day, which often has to support an entire family.)  
Price = $6.00

Anyways, it is refreshing to see that OB Happy and OB Joyful are surviving well on the same thing we eat… rice, fish and vegetables.   Yum, yum!