While I was visiting Battambang and the Green Mango Cafe & Bakery, I had the chance to go on the infamous “bamboo train” outside the city. Alan and many of the Green Mango girls went along with me (Katy decided to sit that one out with her baby in utero in mind). The bamboo train uses old railroad tracks that were used for trains during the time of the Khmer Rouge on tracks left by the French. According to my Lonely Planet book, the rail line may be upgraded in the future and the bamboo train may lose it’s usefulness. However, for the time being, many 3 meter long wooden frames covered with bamboo and resting on two barbell-like bogies make the trip up and down the rickety tracks daily. One bogie is connected by fan belts to a gasoline engine. You can fit about 10 people on the bamboo frame and take a 15 km/h ride down the tracks (though I’m sure they’ve managed to fit many more). The best part is that it’s so easy to take apart, so when you run into a group coming the other way, one group can just get up and take the car off the tracks to allow the others to pass. You can thank Lonely Planet for that detailed explanation of the train. 🙂 It felt like a very rustic amusement park ride to me.
We had quite an adventure on our ride down and back up the tracks. I enjoyed the gorgeous Cambodian countryside until we saw a group stopping up ahead. We slowed down to find a few “cars” disembarking on a bridge. It turns out it was a wedding party that stopped on the bridge for a photo shoot among the rice fields. It seemed they were a bit surprised to see a group of Cambodian girls in green shirts and two Americans on a car come barreling through, but they were quick to step out of our way to allow us to continue our journey. We broke up our trip with a stop at a roadside rest stop where we could buy treats and scarves and check out a brick-making kiln. We then headed back to where we came from, with a stop on a bridge to get some photos of the breath-taking view of the green rice-field expanse. I haven’t figured out how to post the video I took of the ride, but I hope you enjoy the photos!
Click here to see the rest of my Cambodia posts in succession.
The day after I went up the mountain to the Killing Caves outside Battambang, I was able to visit the Battambang market with a kind woman from the Green Mango Cafe & Bakery on her daily market run. She has a very efficient system to her market run, which includes visiting regular vendors who she knows and having the Tuk Tuk driver appropriately parked and ready to come assist in retrieving the good when they’re ready. She has friends with whom she leaves some of her buys to pick up on the way out, so she doesn’t have to carry everything around with her. I appreciated her willingness to slow down a bit so I could capture some of the many sights of the market with my camera. Please note that if you don’t enjoy the sight of raw meat, you may not want to proceed to some of the final photos… don’t say I didn’t warn you! 🙂
First, a photo of the lovely, kind woman who took me to the mountain and allowed me to tag along with her at the market the next day:
As promised, it’s time to share about the great things happening in Cambodia that I was able to see this past June and July when I visited. (Click here to see the previous posts from my trip, in succession.)
The Center for Global Impact has a fantastic thing going on in the city of Battambang in northern Cambodia. Their website describes it well, so I’ll quote them here: “The Culinary Training Center (CTC) is the largest project undertaken by CGI to date. Students are enrolled in a two-year training program that will prepare them to enter into the most distinguished kitchens in Cambodia. The CTC plays a significant role in establishing a successful strategy for developing future employment opportunities for orphans, at-risk, and formerly trafficked women .”
My friends, Katy and Alan, and I were able to spend a few days in Battambang seeing The Green Mango Cafe & Bakery in action. It was so fun to hang out with the head chef and teacher, Ryana, and get to know the girls in the school a bit. During those days, we ate a lot and I had a fun adventure at the market and on a bamboo train that I’ll post about in the future. The food was SO delicious and the atmosphere was very comfortable. It was fun to see how much business they were getting after the few short months they had been open. Check out their website here.
I hope you enjoy a look at this great project that is providing work for some wonderful young women in Cambodia! Oh, and since you probably can’t stop by for a food sampling anytime soon, please check out the Green Mango Cafe & Bakery Cookbook available for purchase here. You won’t regret it!
As promised, this is the last post about the negative things I saw in Cambodia, with many beautiful and hopeful posts coming soon about all the great things happening there. 🙂
As I’ve mentioned before (click here to see previous posts), I was a bit surprised to find that Cambodia wasn’t as much like Thailand as I’d expected it to be. There are a lot of similarities, but I didn’t expect Cambodia to be as underdeveloped as it appeared to me. After learning about the effects of the Khmer Rouge’s rule on the country in the 70’s, it made more sense to me. Cambodia has had a lot to overcome.
Below are some photos of some living conditions I was able to see in Phnom Penh. It is known that some young women from this neighborhood have been sold into prostitution to help earn money for their family. I was able to see some organizations that are working with people from this exact neighborhood, so that was encouraging. I’ll be posting about that organization soon. This web page explains Cambodia’s poverty situation in an understandable way (over 30% of Cambodians live below the poverty line). The rural areas are even more affected by poverty as their traditional agricultural methods that don’t produce for quick profit.
Another sad part of Cambodia’s story is its high rate of human trafficking. Last fall, my friend led a book study on the book Not For Sale by David Batstone. This book is very eye-opening to the problem of present-day human slavery all over the world. The projects I visited, associated with the Center for Global Impact, and many others are working to fight against this problem. Specifically in Cambodia, there is a problem with children being sold into prostitution. Of Cambodia’s 15,000 prostitutes, 35% are under the age of 16 (click here for the source of this statistic and more information). Here are some of the sights I saw that opened my eyes to this heart-breaking problem.
So, poverty and young women being sold into prostitution… sorry about the downer post. However, there’s good news! Organizations like Center for Global Impact, Hagar International, International Justice Mission, and many others are working to both help prevent and rescue women from this modern day slavery. Just last night I heard an amazing woman, Somaly Mam, speak here in Indianapolis about her own experience of being sold in Cambodia’s sex trade as a little girl and now she’s helping save and assist in the recovery of thousands of girls. Learn more about her organization by clicking here or read her book, The Road of Lost Innocence. Stay tuned for more photos of beautiful Cambodia and the great things going on there.
Sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve posted about the trip… I continue to struggle with figuring out how to balance teaching full-time, editing photos, sleeping, sharing about my experience in Cambodia, etc. I might figure this out sometime in the near future. 🙂
As you can imagine, sharing about a culture and travel experience through photos is a challenge. It’s difficult to present a cohesive narrative, so I appreciate your willingness to follow along with the randomness of some of my posts. Click here to see previous posts from my trip.
When I was given the opportunity to go to Cambodia, I told my friends who live there that I wanted to experience as much as I could of life there: including the good, the bad, and the ugly (knowing that all countries and cultures have good and bad to discover). The day I’m presenting to you on this post included all of those things. While in Battambang, I was given the opportunity to visit the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau. A lovely Khmer woman from CGI came with me in the TukTuk and helped me find my way there. I experienced a lot of the good of Khmer culture and country and some of the bad and ugly too… a typical Camobian pop bottle gas station, a moto ride, nice and helpful people, seeing beautiful artistry and a beautiful view of the countryside, and a very sad visit to a cave where thousands of killings took place in the 70’s.
Once arriving at the bottom of the mountain (or some may call it a really big hill… it’s about 12 km from Battambang), the next leg of the journey involved riding a moto up to the temple (with apologies to my father who is not a fan of such unsafe transportation!). We had to stop for gas from the roadside “gas station” (aka old pop bottles filled with gasoline of varying types for easy moto fill-up).
Once there, I was able to see a freshly painted Buddhist temple still under construction.
Then my guide led me to the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau. This is a cavern area where the Khmer Rouge performed about 10,000 killings of Khmer people by throwing them off a ledge and into the cave below (please be aware that some of the photos below are very sad and disturbing). The cave is now the home of a reclining Buddha and a memorial to the people killed there in the late 70’s.
It was tough to process all of my thoughts and emotions as I left such a solemn place where such horrific things happened and then go up to the summit of the hill and see this beautiful view:
I’m not really sure how to close this post. There really are no words to describe the sadness of seeing an example of what’s left behind from man’s inhumanity to man (something found throughout the world, not just in Cambodia). Knowing there will be more posts about the bad and ugly that I saw in Cambodia, I can share that, overall, I experienced such good in Cambodia that I left feeling hopeful. Stay tuned for the hopeful and thanks for bearing with me through the bad and the ugly.
Hello again! I’m finally getting a chance to sit down at a computer and thought I’d send a reflection your way via this blog.
I continue to have a really great time seeing the good, the bad, the ugly, and the hopeful here in Cambodia. It’s been an slightly overwhelming time with so much to take in in the short week I’ve been here, but really great overall.
Instead of giving you the play by play on all I’ve seen and done, I’m just going to share some fun tidbits along with some other thoughts on my brief time here. Please note that I realize that I’ve only been here one week and I am a clueless American. Being someone who loves to experience new cultures and knowing that our culture is equally foreign and strange to those who visit it, I hope these comments do not offend anyone and the non-expert source will be considered while reading.
- Gas bottles are sold on the side of the road in old Coca Cola and other clear pop bottles, but they also have regular gas stations. I rode a moto up a mountain to a temple and cave and the guy had to stop for gas. He filled it up with a coke bottle of gas and we were on our way in about 10 seconds!
- They use US dollars here and their bills for small change (no coins). I’m a pretty big fan of not exchanging money and knowing how much things are.
- Walking around a foreign country with a pregnant friend has its advantages: when people stop, stare, and talk about us, I can just assume that they’re talking about the pregnant foreigner and not me. 🙂
- It’s REALLY hot and humid here
- People wear pajama sets as normal clothes here… and you can wear flipflops with everything. This is my kind of place!
- Angkor Wat is actually a temple complex of many temples built in the 12th century and covering tons of land. We explored three temples and barely scratched the surface.
- Khmer is not a tonal language (I thought it was since Thai is tonal. I was wrong).
- Siem Reap, Battambang, and Phnom Penh have many NGO projects that are helping provide livelihoods for Khmer people.
- It’s been a privelege to get to see some of those projects in action.
- The Green Mango Cafe & Bakery in Battambang not only helps train young women in culinary arts, but it also has really good food… I had the fried pickles everyday I was there.
- Today I went to the workshops of the Daughters’ Project and byTavi (www.bytavi.com), two sewing projects of the Center for Global Impact(www.centerforglobalimpact.org). It was so great to see the place where my ID holder and my mom’s purse was made (Buy their stuff, it’s great!).
- Seeing projects like this and seeing women learning about God’s word has been an experience that has left me encouraged and hopeful for further progress in this country.
- A cultural thing that people do here is to get their picture taken at these studios… basically Khmer glamour shots. Since it’s super cheap, I decided to jump in to said cultural experience. Let’s just say that fake hair, fake eyelashes, and a tiara were involved in this process. One of the funniest experiences I’ve had in a very long time.
- Tonight my friends had teachers from their Khmer language school over for dinner. I had a great time talking with three of the young women (in English) about teaching a language and their perspective on refugees as they asked me about the refugees at my school.
- When your main purpose in being in a country is to take pictures to document it, I’ve discovered that you end up without many pictures of yourself due to your big fancy camera being too big and fancy to give to other people for self pics. However, due to the climate’s effect on my outer appearance, I think that I’m ok with this fact. The Khmer glamour shot is the best I’ve looked all trip, so maybe that’s all I need to prove I was here. 🙂
- Have I mentioned that it’s REALLY hot and humid here?
If you made it through the list, thanks for allowing me to share a few pieces of my experience. Tomorrow is going to be a tough and heavy day as I visit the Killing Fields and S21 museum to learn about some of Cambodia’s darker Khmer Rouge history. Tough stuff that I’m not sure how to take in, but I’m thankful that it’s something people are willing to learn from today in hopes that history will not repeat itself.
Thanks again for reading. Until next time…