Vignettes From Phnom Penh’s Riverside

Carrying salmon and ivory-colored lotus blossom offerings, the Buddhist worshippers entered the crowded courtyard in front of a small temple along Phnom Penh’s riverside. Once inside, they left their spiritual contributions.

The green, pink and white pile of offerings inside was apparently growing so vast that officials periodically tossed the decorated green coconuts and buds through an open window – landing into a receptacle outside the tiny temple.

I wondered where the spiritual buds in the growing pile would next journey having had such short-lived residency inside the temple?

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An Afternoon at Angkor Wat

During my maiden (and solo) visit to Angkor Wat, I glimpsed the majestic Cambodian structure at sunrise. Seeing the inky sky gradually awaken over the site and then illuminate it with a shrimp-colored hue was a magical experience. But in the years since, I’d read that the sunrise experience had lost some of its luster, due to massive crowds.

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The Devatas and Apsaras of Angkor Wat in Black & White

The 1,796 female figures rendered in sandstone on Angkor Wat’s pillars and walls have weathered war, and a harsh tropical environment for more than 800 years. I was first struck by the beauty and individuality of these devatas in 2009, during my first visit to Angkor Wat, which is the largest religious building in the world. During a subsequent visit to Cambodia last month, I was just as intrigued.

How many artisans did it take to carve these bas-relief figures? Are they modeled after real women of centuries past? If they could speak, what stories would they tell?

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Angkorian Dress-Up in Cambodia

The silken costumes with gold embellishments transform these Angkor Wat models into winged creatures, apsaras, and other mythological beings from Angkorian times. They position themselves in a prime location within Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat complex.

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Learning the Fine Art of Sericulture & Weaving on a Cambodian Silk Farm

With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown. – Proverb

Throughout Cambodia, marketplace stalls overflow with mounds of beautiful shimmering silk. There’s everything from scarves and chic purses, to fabric designed for tailor-making shirts, dresses, and jackets.

As someone who is often tempted by these lovely accessories, I was eager to learn more about the silk-production process. So, we hopped on a tuktuk to travel to the Artisans d’Angkor Silk Farm, a social business. It’s just 16 km (about 10 miles) outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia, making it a great day trip if you’re visiting the temples of Angkor.

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Photo du Jour: Smooth as Cambodian Silk

For centuries, Cambodians have been producing silk and creating woven masterpieces with it.

Once the silk has been carefully extracted from the silk worm’s cocoon, it is washed, twirled on to bobbins and boil-dyed either via a natural or artificial coloring technique.

I’m not sure if the silk samples featured here were colored naturally or artificially. Either way, the resulting colors are vibrant!

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Threshing Rice on Christmas Day in Cambodia

T’was Christmas Day in Cambodia… The sun shone brightly overhead. Golden grass and towering palm trees danced in the strong gusts of wind. Cows mooed and baby chicks tiptoed about.

Though we were far from our family and friends who are scattered throughout the world, we yearned to have a special holiday.  And indeed we did, surrounded by our new Cambodian friends, as well as an adventurous and kind couple from France.

On Christmas Morn, on a family compound in Cambodia’s Takeo Province, we learned how to thresh rice. Following our bed & breakfast owner’s cousin’s cues, we thrashed the dry bundles against a table comprised of thin wooden slats.

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Bridging a Divide on the Backroads of Cambodia’s Takeo Province

It was on the dusty backroads in Cambodia’s Takeo Province that a well-travelled toy fish found its way to a new home. To get there, the little fish literally had to bridge a divide.

One morning, we packed our borrowed bikes’ baskets with bottles of water and a purple plush toy. The toy fish, with its big eyes and soft fur, had travelled with us for two months in our limited and cramped luggage space – from Germany, to Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and finally, Cambodia. For weeks, we had been waiting to find the perfect young recipient. This morning, we were sure we would find him or her on the provincial back roads. Eighty percent of Cambodians live in the rural provinces.

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