Thru Children’s Eyes

•November 10, 2009 • 1 Comment
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One of the kids shot this expressive photo of Vannak.

While in Siem Reap I gave Savuth and Sopiee’s three oldest kids – Odam, Kong Kea and Vannak – single-use cameras. Odam, a son, is about 8 or 9; Kong Kea, a daughter is about 7 or 8; Vannak, a son is around 6. I am a big believer in the value of encouraging creativity and am always curious to see what interests kids when they have a camera in their hands. Here is a selection of what they came up with: lots of friends, schoolmates and of each other, Mom and Dad, some nature and as you will see, it seems boys everywhere love power cars.

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Kong Kea celebrates at the fun fair and her baby sister Srei Kong cries

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Odam took this nearly perfect composition of his Dad, two sisters and other drivers

The full album:

Thru Children’s Eyes

(Thinking of visiting the temples of Angkor Wat? Don’t forget to check out my friend Savuth’s tuk tuk services!)

Angkor Future, Angkor Past

•October 29, 2009 • 10 Comments

Neak Pean5

"Neak Pean is a tiny temple and was built by Jayarvarman VII. The King ordered the construction of a vast baray (reservoir) east of Preah Khan temple to provide water to its hundred-thousand support workers."

Some people may be wondering why there has been so little mention of the temples as that is the primary reason the vast majority of people visit Siem Reap. For one, there is so much information devoted to the temples that I don’t feel like I have much to add to that body of information and experience. The other reason is that we didn’t really visit many temples this time. I did go to see my favorites which included Banteay Srei (which I previously wrote about in The Lingas and the Lady), Angkor Wat, Bayon, Preah Khan, and Neak Prean. Unfortunately the visit to one of my real favorites, Ta Prohm, fell victim to my conviction I was leaving on Sunday when on Friday I discovered I was leaving on Saturday.

There were three distinct differences to my visits this year
Continue reading ‘Angkor Future, Angkor Past’

Beautiful Kompong Khleang

•October 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment
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'Main Street' Kompong Khleang

(Note: due to the slow Internet here in Laos the posting has less pictures in the body. At the end is the usual link to the full album which I thankfully uploaded in Siem Reap)

On each of my three trips to Cambodia I have visited a new place on Tonle Sap. On my first trip I started as most people do with the floating villages at Chong Khneas. Last year we did Kompong Phluk and this year I made it to what I thought to be the best of all three, Kompong Khleang.

Since I had never seen anything like any of these places before, I found the floating villages I first visited to be really interesting. Last year we visited Kompong Phluk which is a stilted village in a flooded forest as they say. I found that more interesting than the floating villages from the previous year because it was much less touristy with no floating cafes annex souvenir shop annex crocodile farm. I also had the impression, admittedly as a completely uninformed outside visitor but with decent intuition, that there was more sense of community there. And that would be logical as Kompong Phluk is a permanent village versus the floating villages that relocate with the ebb and flow of the lake.

So this year, Continue reading ‘Beautiful Kompong Khleang’

Education is the sweetest revenge

•October 25, 2009 • 7 Comments

Ponheary Ly-0 Meet Ponheary Ly, one of the most remarkable women I have had the honor to get to know on my visits to Cambodia. Ponheary can best be described as teacher, tour guide, human being and tireless fighter extraordinaire all in one. A survivor of the Pol Pot terror regime who lost many family members and experienced the suffering of those indescribable terror years first-hand, Ponheary has made it her life’s work to rebuild Cambodia thru education.

In short,

“After surviving the Khmer Rouge regime, she returned to Siem Reap with what was left of her family. During the time of the Vietnamese installed regime, Ponheary became a teacher and in secret learned how to speak French and English, a crime punishable by imprisonment. In 1998 when Cambodia held its own elections and the country once again opened up to Westerners, Ponheary became a much sought-after tour guide. But she never forgot her students, especially the disenfranchised village children who had no opportunity to go to school. She began leveraging her relationship with those who toured with her and accepted donations to get these rural village children into school.”

In 2005, one of Ponheary’s clients, the Texan Lori Carlson, was so moved

Continue reading ‘Education is the sweetest revenge’

The Lingas and the Lady

•October 21, 2009 • 7 Comments

The road to Banteay Srei and Kbal Spean passes through lovely countryside

The road to Banteay Srei and Kbal Spean passes through lovely countryside

It’s a day off today to catch my breath and to catch up on my blogging. After using most of last week to prepare a workshop I gave to a group of great university students, I have been back on the touring trail. So much to do and just not enough time! More than a week ago, on October 12 (wow, has it been sooo long!?), we headed off to Kbal Spean and Banteay Srei. I am so lucky that Chov, the university student I sponsor, has been able to join us almost every day as long as we get him back in time for his classes which take place six days a week from 18.30 – 21.30. As always, my friend Savuth is our trusted chariot driver.

Kbal Spean, also known as The River of 1,000 Lingas, is about a one hour and 45 minute tuk tuk ride from Siem Reap. The road is a perfect quality paved road all the way and passes through some great countryside and along many rural

Continue reading ‘The Lingas and the Lady’

Krom and Chong – What a Day We Had!

•October 12, 2009 • 5 Comments

(Note: a link to the photo essay of the day can be found at the bottom if you want to skip directly to that)

more Chong13We took advantage of Sunday, the day the kids are off from school, to put together another fantastic family day. We were joined by Mau and Pul, two driver mates of Savuth’s along with Pul’s wife and their two charming kids. So all in all we were 12.

The day started with a picnic style lunch at one of the ‘hammock clubs’ in the picnic1shadow of Phnom Krom. Along the way we stopped at some local markets to pick up grilled chickens and fish and some boiled shrimps. We had brought along the salads, sauces, rice and drinks in order to put together a huge and delicious festive meal. The lakeside setting was really nice with lots of stuff to see happening around the chill-out club.

Continue reading ‘Krom and Chong – What a Day We Had!’

A family visit – in pictures

•October 10, 2009 • 6 Comments

Today was spent visiting with my friend Savuth and his family. After three emotional and physically tiring days I am going to let some pictures tell today’s stories (Let’s see, 24 pictures, should be worth about 24,000 words if my math is correct). The drive out there and back also gave me my first chance to see the condition of some nearby countryside.

It was great, albeit tiring, to see the kids again given their enthusiasm for my visits and naturally nearly boundless energy. I always love the food his wife cooks and it was very exciting to see the plot of land Savuth has recently purchased to move his family from tenants to landowners, a status which in a place like Cambodia still means a lot to an individual, his family and the society at large.

It was cool when he showed me the sale and registration documents which still bear thumb prints versus signatures as the primary proof of identity. And I discovered today that kids all over the world do love Dr Suess’ “Cat in the Hat” series even if they don’t quite understand the words. I guess my gestures and acting was better than I thought. Maybe a second career on Sesame Street?

Enjoy the stories.

October 10 – Family visit

(Thinking of visiting the temples of Angkor Wat? Don’t forget to check out my friend Savuth’s tuk tuk services!)

Getting here, first reunions and a recovering Siem Reap

•October 9, 2009 • 13 Comments
Some reading and one movie later is as good a time as any for some sleep as we fly over either Georgian Republic or Ukraine.

Some reading and one movie later is as good a time as any for some sleep as we fly over either Georgian Republic or Ukraine.

Hello friends! Well I am here in Siem Reap. The flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur went well enough. I was able to get a seat by an exit door so had plenty of legroom which was nice, especially the way KLM packs ’em in. Read a bit, watched “State of Play” with Russel Crowe and Ben Affleck then slept for about four and a half hours thanks to a sleeping pill with a Valium chaser. That all got me through about 7 of the 12 hour flight and then I watched Star Trek XI, read some more and dozed here and there which got me to Kuala Lumpur.

My bag was one of the last ones to appear on the carousel which can get a bit nerve racking. As  the number of people surrounding the carousel kept shrinking and I didn’t see many new bags appearing I found myself looking around for the baggage service office trying to recall the compensation maximum for lost luggage on my travel insurance. But of course, they did finally appear.

They are really into H1N1 here in Asia, maybe due to their experience with SARS and the bird flu. At both Kuala Lumpur airport and here in Siem Reap you have to walk by a heat sensing camera with a battery of face-masked people watching the thermal imagery. Many of the Asian travelers look like runway models at a surgical trade show with their face masks. And here in Siem Reap they have added a third form to the immigration and customs forms: a health questionnaire asking if you have sneezed in the last three days or have experienced a host of other symptoms. Who hasn’t had a sneeze in the last 3 days?

Continue reading ‘Getting here, first reunions and a recovering Siem Reap’