Tuesday, 26 January 2016

^^ to the hills

 mornings are the best time to make visits
the humidity is 70% and more
the temperatures soar to 35degrees
we drive 35km North to 
 Kbal Spean
The River of a Thousand Lingas
it's a 1600m climb 
through the jungle of the Kulein Hills
over tree roots and packed earth
we pass piles of stones
considered to be lucky if yours is the highest
the river beds are carved with Hindu Gods and Deities
four headed Brahma
reclining Vishnu
and linga
thousands of them
these holy phallic symbols represent the supreme
essence of the God Shiva
the lingas sanctify and fertilise the water as it flows 
downstream to the Angkor temples and settlements
lotus flower motifs
the light was beautiful
butterflies, dragonflies
and tiny fish in the river
we find calm and rest awhile
water cascades
over the sandstone
carved by hermits in the 11th century
way up here

Saturday, 23 January 2016

~~~~ lake living

we drive to the remote floating village of 
Kompong Khleang
dusty red roads are replaced with fresh water
teetering homes on stilts
steep steps and high balconies
with dogs, bicycles, clothes and all
manner of things precariously hanging on  
and floating boat houses
there is a class divide
those with floating homes tend to be poorer
everyone is busy
setting nets to catch many of the 200 species of fish
that swim in the waters
nearly half the fish eaten in Cambodia
come from this lake
at 7,400 square miles
the Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake
in Asia
green islands of morning glory 
bob and float along the waters edge
tended by their owners
picking the best stems to cook
in Khmer dishes
fishing boats whizz past
young passengers wave
it's a timeless pocket of the planet
we drive onwards to Beng Mealea 
probably the most untouched temple of all
40km east of Angkor
the sandstone walls and carvings
have been left where they fell
twisted vines and tree roots 
carvings of Vishnu being borne by the bird god Garuda
and the Hindu story 
among the many tumbled stones
that we climb over and think about 
all those people who made these temples
the work, the devotion
Cambodia leaves you feeling very humble

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

💣 minesweep

every now and then
the roads are lined with stalls 
selling all kinds of things
for locals
for passing tourists
curious, we stop here
these are little golden nuggets of palm sugar
used in cooking
palm flowers are squeezed
the juice heated to a thick paste
then dried in the sun
 we drive past Khmer homes
people harvesting rice in the paddy fields
water buffalo basking in the sun
you often see these signs
and boards declaring that the site is cleared 
of landmines
this museum was founded by Aki Ra
a former child soldier with the Khmer Rouge
named a CNN hero in 2010
he really is a man to be admired 
spending 25 days each month in the minefields 
removing devices 
then dedicating the rest of his time to his family 
and the children at the school supported by 
the Landmine Museum
up to 20% of rural Cambodia is still contaminated with landmines
over 3.5 million have been removed since the 1990's
there are around 40,000 amputees in Cambodia
the museum serves to educate the public of the dangers 
that landmines still present in Cambodia today
  it shares the property with a school for 
landmine victims and their children

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

♀ delicate hands

we travel to East Baray
to Banteay Samre
one of the smaller temples of Angkor
it was named after the people who lived here
 intricate carvings tell Hindu stories 
dedications to Vishnu
every temple has the same carved coverings 
for the windows and false windows
in threes, fives and sevens
we hear the music of a local band
a sweet sound of traditional instruments
as we leave the temple grounds
we drive on to Banteay Srei
the citadel of women
built around 967 
and devoted to Shiva
intricately carved red sandstone
by women, for women
beautiful arches
the inner sanctuary guarded by 
monkey sentinels
tiny doorways only 1 meter high
lotus flower motifs
and sanskrit carved door jambs
a thousand years old and more
hidden away for centuries
uncovered in 1914

Sunday, 17 January 2016

∏ while you were asleep

we get up early to be picked up by Borreth
and his driver Mr Don
it's 5:30am and we are on our way 
to Ta Phrohm
it's still dark but we have a torch
there's a heady resinous scent of bark
and the sounds of birds and animals
in the tall trees
we walk along the dusty pathway 
we are the only humans
 the sun rises
the temple is revealed
huge limbs of fig and silk-cotton tree
weave through the walls
it's otherworldly 
beautiful carvings 
false doorways
devatas peering through roots from a spung tree
flocks of parrots above our heads
it was magical 

we head back to our hotel for breakfast
then Borreth is waiting for us for the next temple visit
Angkor Thom {the Great City}
at it's centre, the Bayon
52 towers
each with four peaceful faces
mysterious smiles
some 2 meters high
at Baphoun, the Reclining Buddha
9 meters high, at rest
at past midday it is 37 degrees
70% humidity
time to start our way back
past the Terrace of the Elephants
to the gate
where another elephant waits to go through
faces line the bridge over the moat
a Christmas day to remember