April 2009 Archives

Cambodia - Coconut Palm Farm

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Just down the road from the pottery village was a coconut palm farm. The young lady is boiling the coconut milk to concentrate the sugar.

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A couple of the ubiquitous skinny white cattle are getting a meal.

Cambodia - Pottery Village (2)

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In another part of the village, some men were using molds to produce clay cookers.

Cambodia - Pottery Village

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After the Kampong Chhnang market and temple, we went to a small village where the residents specialize in making pottery. They don't use a wheel; instead, they walk around the pot.

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There's always a bunch of kids: some shy, some hamming it up.

Cambodia - Kampong Chhnang Figures

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After walking through the Kampong Chhnang market, we went to the grounds of a temple, where we saw these figures of a guardian and a deity.

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We also noticed these onlookers, more attuned to the 21st century, I think.

Cambodia - Kampong Chhnang Land and Water

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From the street market of Kampong Chhanong, one has a good view of the water, reminding one of how this town depends so heavily on the river. I suppose the barber, whose shop is right at the end of the street, has to turn his back to keep from getting distracted.

Cambodia - Kampong Chhnang Produce Vendors

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Some of the produce vendors look traditional, some have a modern touch. The produce looks uniformly wonderful.


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Cambodia - Kampong Chhnang Market (3)

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Walking down the main street in Kampong Chhnang, one encounters the same businesses as in most other towns: a hardware store, a grocery, ...

Cambodia - Chickens in the Market

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Chickens are dealt with unsentimentally in the Cambodian and Vietnamese markets. Sometimes they're ignored spectators, more often they're tied up and awaiting a pot. One can see why bird flu might be a big concern in Asia.

Cambodia - Kampong Chhnang Market Water Views

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You can see the water from gaps between the stalls in the market. People here seem almost amphibious.


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Cambodia - Kampong Chhnang Market (2)

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Nothing goes to waste. Dry palm fronds and straw become roof thatching and baskets.

Cambodia - Kampong Chhnang Market

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For the next few days we'll take a stroll down the main street of Kampong Chhnang. Today we see the monks with their begging bowls marching down the street and a mid-morning coffee break.

Cambodia - Kampong Chhnang

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Journeying down the Tonle Sap toward Phnom Penh, we disembarked at several villages. The first was Kampong Chhnang (yes, it is spelled correctly), which has a bustling, crowded waterfront. The second photo, which captures the scene up the riverbank and compresses perspective, shows just how crowded it seemed.

Cambodia - Floating Village

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Life in the floating villages on the Tonle Sap seems so different from ours, and yet so familiar: a commute, a trip to the grocery store, and a protective dog.

Cambodia - On the Tonle Sap

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Leaving Siem Reap, we boarded a small motorboat and journeyed for several hours across the Tonle Sap lake (too shallow at this time of year to accommodate a larger draft vessel) to board our "hotel" for the next ten days or so, the riverboat Toum Teav. We saw many scenes like those in these photos: a couple of people in rowboats fishing or traveling on the waters that constitute their home.

From Wikipedia:

"The Tonlé Sap ... is a combined lake and river system of huge importance to Cambodia. It is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hot spot that was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997.

"The Tonlé Sap is unusual for two reasons: 1) its flow changes direction twice a year, and 2) the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons. From November to May, Cambodia's dry season, the Tonlé Sap drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh. However, when the year's heavy rains begin in June, the Tonlé Sap backs up to form an enormous lake.

"For most of the year the lake is fairly small, around one meter deep and with an area of 2,700 square km. During the monsoon season, however, the Tonlé Sap river which connects the lake with the Mekong river reverses its flow. Water is pushed up from the Mekong into the lake, increasing its area to 16,000 square km and its depth to up to nine meters, flooding nearby fields and forests. The floodplain provides a perfect breeding ground for fish.

"The pulsing system with the large floodplain, rich biodiversity, and high annual sediment and nutrient fluxes from Mekong makes the Tonlé Sap one of the most productive inland fisheries in the world, supporting over 3 million people and providing over 75% of Cambodia's annual inland fish catch and 60% of Cambodians' protein intake. At the end of the rainy season, the flow reverses and the fish are carried downriver."

Cambodia - Fancy Silk Weaving

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Some of the silk at this factory near Siem Reap gets woven into elaborate pieces of fabric.

Cambodia - Spinning and Weaving the Silk

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Following the process at the silk factory near Siem Reap.

Cambodia - Getting the Silk Threads

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"If the animal is allowed to survive after spinning its cocoon, it will release proteolytic enzymes to make a hole in the cocoon so that it can emerge as a moth. This would cut short the threads and ruin the silk. Instead, silkworm cocoons are boiled. The heat kills the silkworms and the water makes the cocoons easier to unravel." (Wikipedia)

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I like the way old bicycle rims are used to wind the silk threads.

Cambodia - Silk Factory near Siem Reap

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Silkworm larvae feeding on mulberry leaves (click to enlarge)

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Silkworm pupae in cocoons on a frame. The cocoon is spun from silk threads. (click to enlarge)

From Wikipedia:

"After they have molted four times (i.e., in the fifth instar), their bodies turn slightly yellow and their skin becomes tighter. The larvae enclose themselves in a Cocoon of raw silk produced in the salivary glands that provides protection during the vulnerable, almost motionless pupal state. ...

The cocoon is made of a thread of raw silk from 300 to about 900 meters (1,000 to 3,000 feet) long. The fibers are very fine and lustrous, about 10 micrometers (1/2,500th of an inch) in diameter. About 2,000 to 3,000 cocoons are required to make a pound of silk. Based on 1 kilometer (about 1,100 yards) per cocoon, ten unraveled cocoons could theoretically extend vertically to the height of Mount Everest. At least 70 million pounds of raw silk are produced each year, requiring nearly 10 billion pounds of mulberry leaves. According to E. L. Palmer one pound of silk represents about 1,000 miles of filament. The annual world production represents 70 billion miles of silk filament, a distance well over 300 round trips to the sun."

Cambodia - Siem Reap Old Market: Sows' Ears and Silk Purses

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Actually, the silk purses come from silkworms, as we'll see in the next few episodes.

Cambodia - Siem Reap Old Market: Sitting with the Merchandise

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Space in these markets is so limited that the vendors must share it with their wares.


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Cambodia - Siem Reap Old Market: Simplicity and Excess

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Shoes in these markets seem always to be displayed in great heaps. Contrast with the small bunches of vegetables. Does this say something about the transition from agricultural to industrial society?

Cambodia - Siem Reap Old Market

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The markets in Cambodia and Vietnam were among the things that struck me most strongly. The Old Market in Siem Reap was one of the best: dark, crowded, seemingly disorderly but actually orderly, multitudes of individual shopkeepers with tiny stocks, sanitation standards far from our own but probably adequate. Great tourist fun!

Rural Cambodia - Near Siem Reap

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Most of the houses in this region are built on stilts: to guard against floods, to provide access to cooling breezes, and to provide shade for people and animals.

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Two things we frequently encountered on our trip: motorbikes and skinny white cattle.

Cambodia - School Visit (2)

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Two more photos of young students at the school near Siem Reap in Cambodia.


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Cambodia - School Visit

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Elderhostel tours often include visits to schools. This one is supported by an American couple who recognize the great need for education, especially in rural areas, if the kids (and the country) are to have a viable future.

Cambodia - Apsaras Ancient and Modern

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The stone apsaras are from Angkor Wat, the modern beauties from Angkor Thom, where they pose for photos with tourists.

Cambodia - Angkor Wat Apsaras

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The walls of Angkor Wat are covered with bas-reliefs of apsaras: supernatural, beautiful dancing girls.

Cambodia - Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat is not only the largest of the ancient Khmer temples, it also struck me as the most geometrical. Lots of straight lines and right angles, albeit richly decorated.

Cambodia - Angkor Wat at Sunrise

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Angkor Wat is the largest temple complex in the world. It's surrounded by a great moat, and the reflections in the water at sunrise are a photographer's dream (and cliche, but that's OK). One has to elbow one's way through many other photographers to get to the water's edge.

Rural Cambodia

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On the drive back from Banteay Srei to Siem Reap, we passed a group of water buffalo grazing their evening meal.

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We stopped at a village that specializes in basketry. This stand also sells petrol in one-liter bottles, right-sized amounts of fuel for the ubiquitous motorbikes.

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This mother was happy to pose with her young child. We found people in Cambodia and Vietnam generally very willing to be photographed.

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