Please note the disclaimer re VSO at the top of this blog.
Please also credit Matthew and Beth with some of the (better) photographs!
We had an extra day in Kampong Cham to allow Joan to recover from her tummy bug. She settled enough to take the bus to Siem Reap on Thursday 30th, arriving in the evening. We must have had the best bus driver in Cambodia.. not a single dangerous overtaking, never over 80km/h and only one emergency brake in 6 hours. The delay allowed us to see a bit more around Kg Cham, after a lazy breakfast. In the morning we headed North to Phnom Hanchey (by the way, ‘phnom’ means ‘hill’), a peculiar collection of the ancient and modern, with the remains of 6th Century temples vying for attention with the monastic living quarters and refectories of the modern pagoda and a collection of (person-sized) concrete sculptures of fruit and vegetables. The local wildlife, namely a number of scurvy dogs and unwashed orphan kids, took a great interest in us! The pagodas provide a kind of social safety net for some of those without families.
In the afternoon, we went south again. We saw handloom weaving underneath the house in the shade (didn’t the British handloom weavers of the late 18th / early 19th Century used to put their working room at the top of the house, with extra windows for light?) on a traditional loom. When we arrived the weaver was on her own, but we attracted a lot of local interest so half the village came round. Beth and Jo bought a few scarfs. Later we saw some mechanised weaving in a ‘factory’ that the early factory masters would have recognised, except for the electrical power and unsafe working environment (yes the working environment of the early factories would be slightly safer than the one we saw, with several small machines under the house on uneven flooring with no guards, kids and animals all around… ).
Later we saw a performance of traditional Apsara dancing from some of the orphans being looked after by the Buddhist charity in Kg Cham (see: http://www.bsda-cambodia.org/ ), thus ending the day with the colourful costumes and disciplined dancing of the youngsters, in the atmospheric Wokor Not temple. First was the ‘blessing dance’ followed by the ‘knocking dance’ (with coconut shells!). The mp4 extract which follows is a little jerky and the movements seem to be slowed down relative to the music, but it still gives you an idea of what was a fabulous end to our day.
The next morning Joan was feeling better so we took her out to the Lotus Field (see yesterday’s post) and she had a little bit more of the KC experience!