Thai Traditional Dance
As we took the tuk-tuk from Siem Reap to Chong Kneas, we could definitely see the landscape change. From the city, hotels and restaurants turned to shacks on stilts. I’m shocked people live in these structures, they seem to offer no protection against the elements, but there were people in them and once in a while I’d see a tv playing.
We traded our tuk-tuk for a boat to get into the town. The townspeople are predominately Vietnamese, who fled Vietnam during the war. Everything in the town, including our boat, is handmade. Despite the many tourist boats going through the town, there is nothing touristy about it.
Three boys were entertaining the tourists by jumping off the top of this boat. Every time another boat went by, they were sure to entertain. They never asked for any money, but a Chinese tourist with a telephoto lens gave them each a few bucks. Then she made requests for more backflips!
I noticed that some of the buildings had solar panels. My guide said that without them they wouldn’t have electricity. They used to have to take batteries to get charged up for $1/day. Now they can buy solar panels for $300 on a 20-year payment plan.
My guide gave me a two minute history lesson, and included some of his own personal stories. He was born in 1982, and every day on the way to school, he’d climb the trees to pick fruit because there wasn’t enough to eat. Even at 10 years old, they slept in ditches instead of their homes because of nighttime bombings. His village was hit, and all the building were destroyed except for his home because a bag of rice stopped the fire from spreading.
During the Khmer Rouge’s regime (1975-1979), a quarter (about 2 million) of Cambodia’s people perished to mass execution, disease or famine. Now, 75% of their population was born after 1979.
“Artisans Angkor is a Cambodian social business whose purpose is to create job opportunities for young people living in rural areas, while at the same time reviving traditional Khmer craftsmanship (stone and wood carving, painting on statues and on silk, lacquering, and silver plating).“, says Wikipedia. Huh. I did not get that from my private tour. I just got that it was a school for artisans.
My Artisan Angkor guide showed me various materials used for carvings, included soap stone. I told him that Canadian aboriginals also made carvings from soap stone. I lost him at “aboriginals”, so I said “Indians”. “From India?”, he asked. Uh-oh, how am I going to explain this? “No, the Canadians who have always been in Canada.” “Red skins?”, he asked. “Yes”, I laughed because I knew I could not explain political correctness. “I’ve never seen that before,” he told me. “Well, they’re like you.”, I said pointing to his skin, “and me.”, I added. I don’t think he believed me. “But the language is the same as India?” Oh dear.