In 2012, my first stop on a trip through southeast Asia was Cambodia.
Phare Ponleu Selpak circus school is a multi-arts centre for disadvantaged children located in Battambang.*
Koh Paen is a rural island on the Mekong River attached to Kompong Cham by a bamboo bridge in the dry season or a local ferry in the wet season.*
Bokator or labokatao is a very old martial art originally conceived for battlefield confrontations. Weapons include bamboo staffs and short sticks, as well as the krama in certain situations.*
I came across these people praying at a temple.
Angkor Thom is the last great capital of the Khmer empire. It was built in part as a reaction to the surprise sacking of Angkor by the Chams, after Jayavarman VII (1181-1219) decided that his empire would never again be vulnerable at home. At the city's height, it may have supported a population of one million people in the surrounding region.*
Regular traditional shadow-puppet performances and occasional classical dance and traditional drum shows are held at the Sovanna Phum Arts Association.
The creation of leather sbei tuoi (shadow puppets) is a traditional Khmer art form, and the figures include gods and demons from the Reamker, as well as exquisite elephants with intricate armour.*
Cambodian dance is performed in a number of different styles. Khmer classical dance is the oldest style, used to pay homage to members of the royal court and guests. The elaborate costume portrays the invocation of deities and spirits, honouring them with the performance. From a young age, girls are chosen based on their beauty and physical talent to become Cambodian ballerinas. Each year, artists are blessed and protected in a ceremony commemorating their talents.
The hand gestures and movements the dancers use must be precise. In Khmer classical dance, each movement of the hand, head and body has a different meaning; in order to tell the story correctly, each movement must be correct.
The acrobats are part of a program offered in Cambodia called Phare Ponleu Selpak. This program trains young, vulnerable people living in poverty to use performance and art as an outlet for their psychological needs.The circus school now has students working around the world, and the current members of the troupe put on shows each week for locals and tourists. The school offers arts in the form of music, dance and acting, educational programs and social support.
I came across this wedding ceremony and the hosts invited me in to videotape the event.
The famous floating village of Chong Kneas is now extremely popular with visitors...*
I came across this temple on the island of Koh Paen, a rural island in the Mekong River.
The Khmer Rouge's assault on the arts was a terrible blow to Cambodian culture.*
...musical instruments, books and anything else that served as a reminder of a past it was trying to efface.*
It hosts internationally acclaimed circus performances.*
The bamboo bridge is an attraction in itself, totally built by hand each year and looking like it is made of matchsticks from afar.*
The Khmer Rouge's assault on the arts was a terrible blow to Cambodian culture. Despite this, Cambodia is witnessing a resurgence of traditional arts and a growing interest in modern arts and cross-cultural fusion.*
Cambodia has a long musical tradition all of its own. Customarily, music was an accompaniment to a ritual or performance that had religious significance.*
Alternative performances of classical dance and folk dance are held at the Apsara Arts Association.*
Angkor Wat is the early representation of Mt. Meru, the Mt Olympus of the Hindu faith and the abode of ancient gods. It is the perfect fusionof creative ambition and spiritual devotion. The Cambodian god-kings of old each strove to better their ancestors' structures in size, scale and symmetry, culminating in what is believed to be the world's largest religious building, the mother of all temples.*
The most heavily mined part of Cambodia is along the Thai border area, but mines are a problem in much of Cambodia. More than 40,000 Cambodians have lost limbs due to mines and military explosives.*
The style of Cambodian craft has been laced with influences from religion and culture. Indian stonework carving techniques and style with gold leaf can be spotted as well as Chinese, Japanese and Thai oil painting and woodwork techniques. Statues and stonework of both Hindu and Buddhist symbols represent the country's ancient history as both a Hindu and Buddhist state. These religious symbols provide inspiration for various works seen throughout the country.
The artists at work are an important part of Artisans d'Angkor. Artisans d'Angkor uses their status as a social business to improve the lives of the unemployed living in rural areas of Cambodia. The company promotes education, well being and self respect to the workers, providing them with specialized training to revive ancient Khmer artistic skills while improving their lifestyle and offering them a form of employment. The organization also promotes equal opportunity in the workplace, and offers medical care to their employees.
The Vietnamese village of Tonlé Sap rests in the Northwest region of Cambodia. On land, villagers build their homes on stilts to cope with rising water levels and flooding. Villagers living in Tonlé Sap Lake live in semi-permanent floating wooden homes and move with the water. Canoe shaped boats with a thin wooden paddle are used as the main source of transportation in the village. Vendors will row with their product from home to home selling necessities to the villagers of Tonlé Sap, but villagers can always visit the market, floating with the rest of the community.
The village moves depending on the season ...*
Fishermen along the Mekong near the southern reaches of Kompong Cham seek a living.
Indeed, for a number of years the consensus among Khmers was that their culture had been irrevocably lost.*
The temples of Angkor were spared as a symbol of Khmer glory and empire, but little else survived.*
During the day, it's often possible to observe circus, dance, music, drawing and graphic-arts classes.*
For a supremely relaxing bicycle ride, it's hard to beat Koh Paen, a rural island in the Mekong River, connected to the southern reaches of Kompong Cham town by an elaborate bamboo bridge.
During the dry season, several sandbars, the closest thing to a beach in this part of Cambodia, appear around the island.*
Kompong Luong has all the amenities you'd expect to find in an oversized fishing village -- except that here everything floats on water. The result is a partly ethnic-Vietnamese Venice without the dry land. The cafes, shops, chicken coops, fish ponds, ice-making factory, crocodile farm and karaoke bars are kept from sinking by boat hulls, barrels or bunches of bamboo.*
Musicologists have identified six types of Cambodian musical ensemble, each used in different settings.*
Cambodia's royal ballet is a tangible link with the glory of Angkor. Its traditions stretch long into the past, when the art of the apsara (nymph) resounded to the glory of the divine king.*
Bayon is the state temple of Cambodia's legendary king, Jayavarman VII. It's a place of stooped corridors, precipitous flights of stairs and a collection of 54 Gothic-style towers decorated with 216 enormous faces of Avalokiteshvara.*
ttambang's bamboo train is one of the world's all-time classic rail journeys. From O Dambong, on the east bank 3.7km south of Battambang's old French bridge, the brain bumps southeast to O Sra Lav along warped, misaligned rails and vertiginous bridges left by the French. Each bamboo train consists of a 3m-long wooden frame, covered lengthwise with slats made of ultralight bamboo, the rest on two barbell-like bogies, the aft one connected by fan belts to a 6HP gasoline engine. When two trains going in the opposite direction meet, one car is quickly disassembled and set on the ground beside the tracks so that the other can pass.*
ngkor Wat is Cambodia’s pride and joy. Khmer King Suryavaman II built the massive structure in the 12th century as a Hindu temple dedicated to the deity Vishnu, but later, under the ruling of King Jayavarman VII, it was converted into a Buddhist temple. The city was abandoned in the 15th century, and although nobody knows exactly why, historians have theories. Angkor was sacked and looted by Autthaya invaders around the time of abandonment, although historians also consider the possibility of natural disaster, war and erosion of religion as being additional reasons for abandonment. Angkor Wat was designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas. Adorning the walls are many devatas, or Hindu deities. The name means “Temple City”, and it continues to be one of Cambodia’s most sacred places, its image even adorns their national flag.
The bas-reliefs on some of the monuments in the Angkor region depict musicians and apsara holding instruments similar to the traditional Khmer instruments of today.*
The Khmer Rouge not only did away with living bearers of Khmer culture but also destroyed cultural artefacts, statues,...*
Despite this, Cambodia is witnessing a resurgence of traditional arts and growing interest in experimentation in modern arts and cross-cultural fusion.*
*These captions are from Cambodia -- Lonely Planet's travel guide.