Other Stories and “facts” from Cambodia

 

Lingas in Kbal Spean

Lingas in Kbal Spean

A Linga is a cylindrical piece of rock which is said to represent the reproductive organ of the god Raja. On the mountain there is a waterfall. The water from this waterfall forms the river that flows through Siem Reap. 1,000 Lingas have been placed in the bed of the river above the fall, so all of the water throughout the valley is considered to be holy water.

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House on stilts

House on stilts

Why do people here build their houses up on stilts as high as they can afford, even when they are not in an area that floods? The reason is to keep the snakes from climbing up into the houses. In the rainy season particularly, the soil everywhere is very moist and the snakes want to be in dry places.

The Hindu god Brahma is responsible for creation, which you’d think would make him popular, but he isn’t. The problem is that he supposedly mated with his daughters and he lied. He used to have 5 heads but the other Gods cut off his top head.

Carving of the stiring of the milk legend, resting amongs the rubble, Prasat Beng Mealea

Carving of the stirring of the milk legend, resting amongst the rubble, Prasat Beng Mealea

A very popular Hindu story tells how the Gods churned an ocean of milk into elixir. The elixir was a substance which, if consumed, made one stay forever young. Demons were on one side, Gods on the other. Vishnu was in the center. The tug of war continued for 1,000 years until the ocean of milk turned into elixir. Toward the end, they were grinding down into the earth. Vishnu manifested himself as a turtle, and the activities carried on on the back of the turtle in order to protect the earth. When the elixir arrived, Vishnu made a wind which blew the elixir in the God’s direction. Also, there were dancing ladies above them all which distracted the demons. While they were distracted the Gods drank all of the Elixir.

The king’s palace is in Phnom Penh. During Pol Pot’s occupation of Phnom Penh he put the King under house arrest and Pol Pot sat on the thrown for a week. After a week he got a stroke. We think our guide was saying that this was heavenly intervention.

Emerald Budhha

Emerald Buddha in the King’s palace.

We went into a room in the king’s palace where they keep the kingdom’s riches. One item was a golden Buddha weighing 90 Kg, bedecked with numerous jewels. Another is the emerald Buddha. There is a collection of golden statues depicting events in Buddha’s life. The entire floor is paved in silver tiles. We understood our guide to say that there are 3,000 tiles, and each weighs a kg. We wondered at the apparent lack of security in this room.

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If a reclining Buddha’s feet are even with each other, then he is dead. If they are not then he is just asleep.

Long ear lobes mean long life. Our guide said we have long ear lobes. Now we just have to keep our feet uneven.

Experiences from Cambodia

The beginning of silk thread.  Cocoons are boiled in water. Workers can extract the fiber from 8 to 20 cocoons and combine them into a thread.

The beginning of silk thread. Cocoons are boiled in water. Workers can extract the fiber from 8 to 20 cocoons and combine them into a thread.

We took a trip to a silk farm where we saw all the stages, from worms eating mulberry leaves, to cocoons to emerging, then how they take the cocoons and process the raw and refined silk (by boiling the cocoons in water and drawing out the threads) , dye it, and then make silk thread.  Then there is all the weaving on looms. It’s very intricate in some cases. There is a way that they block off color from dying the threads so that when they weave it in it will make specific patterns in the final cloth. A weaver will use 10 shuttles, each with a different pattern of blocked off thread. It is further complicated by the use of about 8 different devices that lift and drop sets of warp threads before the shuttle is thrown across.

Riding the bamboo train.

Riding the bamboo train. When a car came in the other direction, the driver had to disassemble the train

Riding the bamboo train. When a car came in the other direction, the driver had to disassemble the train

In Battambang we went for a ride on a Bamboo Train. It seems that during the colonial period the British installed a train of some sort. It fell into disrepair, and the villagers devised a way to make small bamboo platforms on top of the old rail car wheels. 4-5 people would ride on each one. They were propelled by a guy with a bamboo pole, poling along the old rail road bed. Eventually they figured out how to power them with lawn mower engines, and sell tickets to tourists. Generally two tourists and a driver ride on each one. What’s most remarkable is that when one “train” needs to pass another, the two drivers disassemble one of the trains, carry it’s wheels off of the rails, and re-assemble it on the other side. As you ride along at about 16 mph you stare at the warped and disjointed tracks, wondering when the contrivance will crash. A 30 second video is here.

Houses when the lake is low.

Houses when the lake is low.

Lake Tonle Sap is one of the largest lakes in Asia. In the rainy season, the Mekong River flows in, the lake fills up, and the water comes “in” sort of running up river. In the dry season the water flows out and the water drops. Tons of fish grow in this lake – their protein is one of the reasons the Angkor Wat empire was able to grow so big. The interesting thing for tourists today is the people living in villages around it. People live in houses up super high on stilts. In the dry season they walk to them and climb up stairs to get to their house. In the wet season

A house the floating village

A house the floating village

they boat to them and have a lot fewer stairs to climb if any. So their lives are dominated by the ups and downs of the water. Some people live in houses that the people move up and down depending on the water level. Sometimes they just abandon a house for the rainy season and move to another house. If you continue into the lake, you get to floating villages. These are mostly houseboats, not quite so fancy as in Sausalito, but houseboats none the less. We were told many Vietnamese live on them and fish. When the lake level goes up, the entire village of houseboats raise their anchors and move in a flotilla close to land, or even in among the flooded trees. When we visited they were far out in the lake as it is not really terribly deep. The day was very picturesque.

More photos of Tonle Sap are in a slideshow below.

 

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