These bunch of postcards arrived in the mail just a week after my father-in-law’s mega holiday in Turkey in September. He and his travel companion enjoyed their tremendously. From Istanbul where they stayed for a few days, they traveled to Kuşadası, Ephesus, then to Fethiye to explore the ancient ruins and majestic temples, the local bazaars and food, the lovely beaches, and just soaking in local culture as much as they can (and as long as their legs could take them!).
I’m so happy with the gesture and I appreciate that he took time to buy me these postcards.
Yes, you read it correctly – this is the third time we are celebrating the new year! The whole Kingdom of Cambodia, as well as Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and other Buddhist countries are celebrating the new year. It is the third time this year that we are celebrating the new year – first was in January 1 (International New Year), followed by another celebration in February 19 (Chinese New Year). Here, and in other Buddhist countries mentioned above, the new year is based on astrological calculations. When the old year ends and the new year begins, is also based on these calculations.
In Cambodia, the three-day celebration begins tomorrow, April 14. The first day of the new year is called the Maha Sangkran and, according to Cambodian beliefs, it is the time when new Thevadas, or angels, come down to earth to replace the old ones in watching over the earth. The second day is called the Vanabot, or the day when Cambodians go to the wats or temples, offer charity and give alms to the poor to gain merit. The third day is called Leung Sakk, when Cambodians wash images of the Lord Buddha with scented water.
Almost all of the population in Phnom Penh have already gone home to their provinces, as is the tradition, to be with their loved ones and relatives. As expected, taxi and bus fares hiked up to three times the normal price. Still, this didn’t faze travelers as hundreds of taxis and buses packed with excited passengers left Phnom Penh starting last week. I think Filipinos and Cambodians share the same anticipation and excitement, of going home and being with the family for the holidays.
It is a welcome change here in Phnom Penh where the usually busy streets will be quiet and still. But days before the KNY, it was pure madness as almost, if not all, locals descend upon markets to shop enough food stuff to last the celebration period as well as presents to family and relatives. Markets were teeming with shoppers spilling out to the pavements. Imagine how the traffic was like?
Expats, like us, who opted not to go away for the holiday will enjoy the empty, quiet streets of the city. No traffic! It is going to be a great time, really, to be able to ride my bicycle around the city without having to fear about reckless drivers. On the other hand, in the towns, I can imagine the merrymaking and revelry. The Khmer New Year, after all, it is the biggest and the happiest holidays in the Cambodian calendar. There will be lots of food, drinking, and, of course, dancing, too! So expect loud Khmer karaoke clashing in the airwaves as well as lots of traditional games played from today till Thursday, night and day.Oh, and don’t forget the water fights – banned in the city but still a traditional practiced in the towns
I is for the Independence Monument! In Khmer language, it is called the Vimean Eikareach.
The Vimean Eikarech monument is located right smack in the city centre, on the intersection of Norodom and Sihanouk Boulevards. It’s a reddish-brown monument that’s in the form of a lotus-shaped stupa, a style or design that is seen in the temples of Angkor and other historical sites. There is a pedestal in the middle where a ceremonial flame is lit by a royal or high official during important occasions.
From afar, it looks like a giant fireplace. At night, it is beautifully lit and locals stop to enjoy the light show for a moment. Also, in the above postcard, take note of the tuktuk (left) and the moto-dop, or a moto-taxi (right), in the foreground. They are two of the common modes of transportation here in the Kingdom.
Norodom Boulevard is one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city and it is a rare treat to be able to take a photo of the monument (above) with only a few vehicles coming and going.
Yes, that’s me. I’m just an ordinary girl who’s on the look out for a good bargain. I descend upon the many thrift-shops and garage sales from time to time. I love it so much! Why? Because it saves me money on a whole lotta things.
Here are some of my finds:
There are lots of thrift shops in Phnom Penh nowadays, especially those coming from Japan. Plus, Cambodia has a big expat community and there is always an organisation holding a garage sale as a fundraising activity for charity, or a leaving expat community. So there is really no shortage. It is not a surprise that young Cambodians have now developed a liking for secondhand clothings and are flocking the many thrift-shops around Phnom Penh.
I used to be a regular shopper, you know, buying stuff in a department store or a mall but after reading about ways of saving the environment (secondhand stuff do not come with excessive packaging anymore) plus, in this economic situation, garage sales, thrift shops and red tags are the best way to stretch your dollars.
No, not the A to Z blogging challenge. I’m referring to the letters and postcards that needed writing.
I’ve put it off for weeks now as I wasn’t feeling the mojo. But last Sunday, the weather was great – the sun was shining, there was a lovely breeze and no karaoke singing in my neighbourhood (this rarely happens!). It was a perfect setting for letter and postcard writing, and finish my half-done handmade cards and envelopes.
E is for Elephant. Today I’m going to introduce you to one of the lovable and enduring figures for locals as well as visiting tourists in Phnom Penh.
Friends, this is, Sambo. Ermm, just a back-view, lol.
Sambo’s touching story is known to most Phnom Penhois and one that could be made into a Hollywood movie. Her siblings (yes she is female) were killed by the Khmer Rouge when she was young. A nine-year old boy took care of her but were separated during the civil war. After the end of the war, they were reunited and were inseparable since then.
The Story of Sambo starts all the way back in the 1970’s when he was split up from his owners during the civil war and Khmer Rouge takeover and Sin Son. the boy who had raised Sambo had feared him to have perished along with so many others until after surviving the brutal Pol Pot regime he returned to his old village to find his only remaining neighbor who informed that Sambo had survived the Killing Fields but was now across the other side of Cambodia.
I first met Sambo in 2009. That was the time when she and her mahout works in the city with Sambo carrying tourists and locals on her back for a short walk around Wat Phnom, to the detriment of her health. And, between 4-5pm everyday, Sambo and her mahout are seen walking along Sisowath Quay as they head home. While I wasn’t really keen on getting a ride on poor Sambo, I had the opportunity to see him up close one afternoon. I was waiting for a tuk-tuk when I spotted her ambling along the riverside. She stopped at La Croisette, just a few meters across me, and patiently waited for treats from the restaurant employees, customers and bystanders. She returned the kind gesture by entertaining them.
After years of carrying tourisnts on her back, Sambo, with the support of several wildlife conservation organisations and government departments, finally retired in November last year and resettled in the Elephant Valley in Mondulkiri province. An elaborate Buddhist ceremony was held in celebration of her retirement and locals and tourists joined to send Sambo off.
In my years of living here in Cambodia, one of the things that keep homesickness away are my dogs. I have three – Maxx, Joe, and Red. Aren’t they cute?
Since my husband and I do not have kids yet, our pet dogs keep us on our toes. The first two, Maxx and Joe, were bought at a local pet shop here. Red, on the other hand, is an offspring of Joe from a summer fling last year. All three dogs were properly vaccinated and trained. They are well-behaved dogs, not picky eaters and they keep us company – and a great one at that – whenever I or my husband is away on a trip. The love their morning walks, ball chases, belly-rubs, and always get excited with their treats.
One dilemma we face every holiday is that, for the past three years, we have avoided going away as we do not have anyone to mind the dogs. Good thing there are now kennel facilities, or pet-sitting services, in the city.
Last year, I was contemplating on sending handmade cards to family and friends. I was browsing through the Internet to find some inspiration when I suddenly came across a simple yet beautiful design. It only had a drawing of a Christmas tree in watercolour accompanied by an elegant calligraphy. Oh, I fell in love with the swirls and flourishes that just scream beautiful! The lettering geek in me got envious and prompted me to teach myself how to write like that.
I bought stuff (online) to begin writing practices. To my utter horror, I feared somebody would throw rocks at me once they see my first attempts! I think the use of computer has changed my handwriting into its deteriorated state now. So I practiced more and more. I was delighted to discover a treasure trove of tutorials and free downloadable practice sheets over the Internet. Thank you, generous people! That – and a good friend who’s learning calligraphy on her own – inspired me to go on. I practice writing an hour in the morning and another in the afternoon, and one more hour before I go to bed, for weeks. If that’s not commitment, I don’t know what that is.
After so many wasted paper and spilled ink, I think my hard work is paying off – I am seeing improvements!
Ready to practice. These are the basic tools - dip pen, ink and dotted pad.
Getting bolder every day. Here I used mixed gouache paints as ink for the henna-ish effect.
Getting bolder every day. Writing spiral text with mixed gouache paints.
Getting bolder every day. Silver poster colour as ink and written on a black card stock.
Getting bolder every day. Silver poster colour as ink and written on a black card stock.
Getting bolder every day. A birthday card I made for a friend, with a simple calligraphy and flowers.
I am still far from being an expert, I know that, but practicing calligraphy is very therapeutic and relaxing. I’m going to hone further my skills, and think of other ways where I can incorporate calligraphy into my snail mail hobby. While I do not expect to have any wedding commissions to deal with or make money out of this, I think calligraphy is a lovely, personal touch to handmade cards for any occasion. And boy, oh boy, it feels really good when you create something by hand. What was the last thing you made by hand?
Bokator, or more formally Labokkatao, translates as “pounding a lion”: “bok“, to pound and “tor“, a lion.
This martial art has techniques that mimics animal movements while incorporating diverse kicks, knee-kicks, punches, elbow smashes, ground fighting, and many others, into its attacking postures. When fighting, the Bokator practitioners still wear symbols of the uniform of the ancient Khmer army. A krama (scarf) is tied around their waste and magic sangvar (silk cords) are tied around their heads and biceps for increased power and stamina. Ropes are also tied around their hands and wrists. The kramas also show the fighter’s level of expertise, very much like the belts used in most martial arts. White, green, blue, red, brown (lower levels) to black. The highest is the gold krama which is awarded to a grand master.
However, during the dark days of the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot, Bokator was almost lost as practitioners were sort out and exterminated along with other educated Cambodians, as they were perceived to be a threat to the society. However, Bokator is enjoying a revival these days. San Kim Sean, the grandmaster of Bokator, survived the genocide and fled to the US where he settled for many years. But because he love his country so much and he had a burning passion to revive the Bokator, he returned to Cambodia in 2001.
There was a renewed interest in reviving Cambodian culture after years of a repressive regime and San Kim Sean found followers of Bokator, young and not so young as well. Even foreigners sought him to learn this ancient martial art. It has gained a lot of popularity since then and there are a lot of Bokator Clubs all over the country. These days, too, there are national and international Bokator tournaments held in the country and they are televised on national TV. It is a beautiful and exciting martial art, albeit it looks brutal to most, as any other martial arts there is. I have never seen a tournament yet so I’m keeping my fingers crossed to see a live match soon, and not on TV.
Chum riep soo and welcome to my blog, Postcards Crossing.
This is my first time to join the A to Z Blogging Challenge and I’m quite excited about it. My blog covers mostly my hobby of collecting postcards, stamps, letters and a bit of my life as an expat in Cambodia. This, I think, provides me with plenty enough to choose from to cover the whole month of April.
So let’s start the ball rolling, shall we…
A is for Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat (Angkor Temple) is the most famous of all the temples found inside the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It was built in the 12th century by King Suyavarman II (Jayavarman). Angkor Wat’s architectural details – from the bas reliefs carved on the many gallery walls around the temple to the enormous barays (water reservoirs or systems) – clearly showcase Cambodian history, tales and legends, as well as, the incredible feats of Khmer engineering and architecture. International experts say that the temple’s balance, composition and beauty make it one of the finest in the world.
Angkor Wat is the main tourist attraction in Cambodia. Millions of foreign tourists (as well as locals) visit to see it with their own eyes – and rarely leave disappointed.It truly is a world wonder. It is the highlight of every tourist’s visit to Cambodia, and, arguably the most photographed in all of Cambodia. I’ve been to Angkor Wat many, many times before (5-6hrs by bus from the capital, Phnom Penh) and it never fails to amaze me every time. It is an epitome of classical Khmer architecture and a world heritage site.
NB: My apologies for posting this late. Earlier in the day I could not access my blog and, due to time differences between me and my tech support, the issue was fixed later in the day (night).