December 2011

December is usually a wonderful month for weather here in Banteay Chhmar.  The weather is normally cool, dry and breezy. This month has been no exception. Lots of cool days (maybe too cool for some of the villagers:) It is really one of the best months to visit Cambodia and you can enjoy watching the rice being harvested throughout the countryside.

And, some good news. The road is in much better condition. The road has been graded and smoothed. It should only take about 1 1/2 hours from Sisophon.

The highlight of the month was a series of concerts during Christmas week. A few local stars came from Phnom Penh to sing and entertain the crowd. And, of course, there was plenty of food, games and drinking. We even had a Ferris wheel!

Concert night in Banteay Chhmar

Another Donation!

We are very grateful to Kim Nou and everyone  from Other Ways in Phnom Penh. Through their generous donation, we will be able to purchase some much-needed kitchen supplies and first-aid kits. We hope to have a few photos of our new supplies in next month’s update. Once again, thank you very much to all our friends, donors and supporters. Please see the Other Ways website for more information about their tour packages in Cambodia and Southeast Asia.

November 2011

Villagers buy Loy Pratip

November is one of the most important months in Cambodia. Here, in Banteay Chhmar, is no exception.  It is both the month for the celebration of the Water Festival and beginning of the rice harvest.

The flooding throughout Cambodia forced the cancellation of the national Water Festival festivities in Phnom Penh. However, except for damage to the road, Banteay Chhmar was spared from the flooding and we were able to celebrate the holiday.

The annual Water Festival (Bon Om Touk) is dedicated to the Khmer army, especially the water forces that defended the kingdom in historic battles.  The celebration takes place every November, during the full moon period.

There were a variety of events and activities including boat racing, the preparation of dalambok (flattened rice) which is offered to the monks in the pagoda during the Moon Salutation (Sampeas Preah Khe).  The finale is the floating of the illuminated candle boats (Loy Pratip).  These boats are a way of offering blessings, good luck and wishes for the next year.

Please see our Water Festival photo gallery page.

Boat racing during Water Festival


November is also the start of the rice harvest (j’rook s’rao).  Again, having been spared from the flooding, it looks like it will be a good rice harvest this year in Banteay Chhmar.  This means workers can earn more money and the rice can be sold at a higher price.

Visitors are encouraged to visit the rice fields with a tour guide and learn about all the hard work that goes into planting and harvesting rice.  Maybe you can lend a hand, too!

Rice Harvest


October 2011

As you may know, Southeast Asia has experienced a very severe monsoon season this year. Cambodia has not been spared from tragedy and damage.  Hundreds have died and thousands of hectares of rice fields have been damaged.

Road to Banteay Chhmar

Fortunately, Banteay Chhmar has escaped damage.  The temple, commune and surrounding villages are all in good condition.  Unfortunately, the road from Sisophon (Svay) to Banteay Chhmar has not been so lucky.  It has been severely damaged in several places.  It is passable, but conditions can change daily because of any recent rains.  We expect and hope the rains to stop soon.


Visitors are urged to contact us if you have any questions about travel to Banteay Chhmar.  There is also an alternate route through Oddar Meanchey which may be in better condition, but is much longer (150 km vs. 65 km from Sisophon).  Again, if you contact us we can give you the latest travel news.  Think of it as a great adventure.

Moat Cleaning Day

On a happier note, on October 27, hundreds of schoolchildren and villagers gathered to clean the temple moat.  This is an annual event and is done to prepare the moat for the Water Festival and boat racing (November 9-11).

We hope to forget all the bad weather and enjoy a few days of fun with our friends and families. Please join us. We are sure you will enjoy the hospitality and activities during this special Khmer celebration.



September 2011

Ley Moeuy, CBT cook votes

In September, CBT members gathered in the CBT office for new committee elections. Elections are held every 2 years and they also help to recognize the achievements and challenges of the CBT. This year, we had 11 candidates running for CBT President and Vice-President.  All the candidates are from the four villages surrounding Banteay Chhmar Temple.

We are pleased to announce that the CBT members have re-elected Bieng Sruon, as the CBT President.  Sang Ponlock, has been elected as Vice-President.

Bieng Sruon was born in 1974 in Banteay Chhmar Tbong village in Banteay Chhmar Commune.  In 1991, he returned from a refugee camp along the Cambodian-Thai border. In early 1994, he married  Rith Reth. They have raised 3 children – all girls. He owns a phone shop across from the Banteay Chhmar market. He has a professional job repairing mobile phones, televisions, CD and DVD players. In 2007, he decided to work for the CBT. He was quickly elected President.  He can also speak English and Thai. His ideas about the CBT are that “The CBT can provide extra income and work for villagers, share experiences with each other and tourists and protect the heritage and culture of Cambodia.”

Sang Ponlock was born in 1979 in Pongro Village, Tapou Commune in Battambang Province. in 1991, he and his family moved from a refugee camp along the Cambodian-Thai border to Sras Chray village in Banteay Chhmar Commune. in 2000 , he married Khal Sary, from Sras Chray village. They have raised 2 children – one boy and one girl.In 2007, he decided to work for the CBT. He was quickly elected accountant. He can also speak English and do tour guide from beginning the CBT project. His ideas about the CBT are that Conservation asset, improve extra income for family and development Banteay Chhmar. Local authorities from Banteay Chhmar Commune, the 4 village chiefs and CBT members participated and voted in the CBT election.

Pchum Ben ceremony

Num Ansom 'Sticky Rice Cake'

Pchum Ben is celebrated in September. It is one of the most important holidays and cultural events in Cambodia.  It is a time of prayer, remembrance and dedication to deceased relatives.  It is celebrated over 15 days from the first moon to full moon in September. Most  villagers will bring food, flowers, candles & incense to the pagoda. Food is also given to monks and the monks pray for the villagers’ ancestors. In Banteay Chhmar, villagers from each village are responsible for all the expenses on a certain day and this continues for several more days.  On the full moon day, all the villagers go to the pagoda together to pray and honor their ancestors.



August 2011

August was a special month for the CBT tour guides. Three local women joined the CBT and will take part in the upcoming Tour Guide Training program and will become licensed tour guides in Banteay Chhmar. The program will last for three months and be conducted by Khieu Thy, one of Siem Reap’s most respected tour guide trainers. The training is being funded by Heritage Watch.

We are very excited and proud to be able to have female tour guides here in Banteay Chhmar. We believe that this will be an important part of building the confidence and strength of women in the community.

(L-R) Sreymom Khoeun, Soly Raik & Sreymom Chantha

We also wish to once again acknowledge our heartfelt thanks to Brija and John Robertson, from Australia and New Zealand. Brija and John will be supporting the training costs for the female tour guides and provide some additional funds for English-language lessons for Sreymom Chantha, Sreymom Khoeun and Soly Raik. Previously, Brija and John helped the CBT with a donation for our solar panels.





John Sanday explains the conservation project

On August 23rd, Global Heritage Fund (GHF) Field Director, John Sanday, gave the CBT tour guides a presentation of the GHF conservation project in Banteay Chhmar. Explaining the conservation project is an important part of giving a temple tour. It will take some time for the guides to understand all the complex terminology, but this was a good start. The local Khmer workers from GHF will help explain the project more to the tour guides, over time.




Also, on August 26-27, all the tour guides traveled to Siem Reap to receive a tour of the temples from Khieu Thy. They all learned a lot about the history of Angkor Wat, Bayon and the other important temples of the great Angkorian period.

CBT tour guides visiting Ta Prohm Temple


Finally, we have a fantastic new discovery from the temple. A gilded bronze pinnacle was found by workers from GHF while working on Tower #18. This probably adorned the tower spire, itself.  It has been sent to Phnom Penh for further testing, study and documentation. After 800 years, we can only wonder how many more pieces are buried within the temple complex that have yet to be discovered.

July 2011

CBT members attend English class

July was a month of goodbyes for us here in Banteay Chhmar. Our English-language teacher, Andrew Marino, completed his teaching contract with Heritage Watch. Andrew spent the last year teaching English to the CBT members and tour guides. He also helped tremendously with CBT operations and capacity-building. Andrew built the CBT website, did fundraising, budgeting and reporting. He also helped the CBT members understand hospitality-related issues and ways to improve the facilities and comfort level for visitors. Fortunately, Andrew will continue to help the CBT as much as possible with website administration, monthly reporting, planning, fundraising and trying to improve the facilities and visitors’ experience. He is also interested in helping with sustainable community development and livelihoods projects.




Peace Corps volunteer Kenny Halloran (center)

Also, Peace Corps volunteer, Kenny Halloran, completed his assignment. Kenny taught mostly in the high school.  He also helped teach students at the pagoda and the CBT members, as well.  Good luck, Kenny!






CBT members visit Mebon Temple

On July 11th, a few CBT members took a trip to another one of the satellite temples. They went to see the Mebon Temple. This 800 year-old temple is located on a man-made island in the middle of the Mebon Baray (reservoir). This huge baray was the main water reservoir during the Angkorian period.  There was an intricate pattern of inflow and outflow canals connected to this baray. The baray was dug by hand during the construction period of Banteay Chhmar Temple and the laterite stone was used as building material throughout the temple complex. The baray is still used today as a water source, for growing rice, catching fish and is a good place for birdwatching and watching a sunset.



Mebon Temple

The temple, itself, is mostly collapsed and heavily covered by vines, trees and thickets.  It is only accessible during the dry season and requires sure footing and care to reach. It is definitely worth a trip for the more adventurous-minded.





Another Donation!

The CBT received another donation this month. Paul Marino, brother of our English teacher, and his wife Joyce donated a camera to the CBT. The camera will help us with marketing, reporting and help to document our activities and progress. Thank you Paul and Joyce!

Finally, we have added a Support Us page to our website to thank and honor our supporters and donors. We are very grateful to the individuals and organizations that have and continue to support us.  Thank you everyone!

June 2011

June was a wonderful month for weather here in Banteay Chhmar.  We had a cool, cloudy, windy and mostly dry month.

Mr. Pel enjoys playing his new takay (kum and khloy in front)

The highlight of the month was receiving some new musical instruments.  Christopher Brewer (CP Charitable Trust), a friend and patron of Global Heritage Fund wanted to contribute something to the CBT and the local community.  Through the CP Charitable Trust, he generously donated $650 to the CBT group. Pet Pel, the CBT traditional music group leader, travelled to Battambang to purchase a new takay, kum and khloy (flute). According to Mr. Pel, “they have a good sound, good wood.”

The CBT is very grateful to Christopher for his donation, and to all our other supporters, as well.



Chinchem Trey Temple

On June 28th, a few CBT members went to see Chinchem Trey Temple. This temple is one of the nine satellite temples surrounding Banteay Chhmar Temple.

CBT members visit Chinchem Trey Temple

After 800 years, it still has two excellent Bayon-style face towers.  This is a good temple to visit during the dry season and have a picnic at.



May 2011

Ahn and Savy (from left) with the bride’s parents and bride’s sister

May was a very special month for one of our CBT members.  Soeung Savy celebrated her wedding with her new husband, Ahn.  The wedding celebration took place May 14-15.

Everyone from the Banteay Chhmar CBT would like to wish Savy and Ahn a long, happy marriage and life together.

The wedding ceremony included the Hai Goan Gomloh (Groom’s Processional). At the beginning of the day, the bride customarily waits at her parent’s house while the groom gathers a procession of his family and friends. The procession symbolizes the journey of the prince Preah Thong to meet his bride the princess Neang Neak. The groom’s procession approaches the bride’s home bearing wrapped platters of gifts, usually fruits and Khmer desserts, and is led by a band of musicians and singers.

Hair Cutting Ceremony

The cermony also included the Gaat Sah (Hair Cutting ceremony). To prepare the bride and groom for their life as a married couple, their hair is symbolically cut, representing a fresh start to their new relationship together as husband and wife. The master of ceremony performs the first symbolic hair cut and wishes the couple happiness, prosperity, and longevity. The bride and groom’s parents, relatives, and friends then take turn to symbolically cut the bride and groom’s hair and give them blessings and well-wishes. In the old days, the bride and groom’s hair were really cut during this ceremony, but in modern times it is only done symbolically.

Please see our Gallery and YouTube Channel for a video of some of the wedding festivities.  To learn more about traditional and modern Khmer wedding ceremonies please visit: Khmer Wedding

Homestay Owners receive loans from GHF

May was also an important month for our Banteay Chhmar CBT homestay owners.  On May 12th, John Sanday, Field Director from Global Heritage Fund, presented each homestay owner with a $300 no-interest loan to upgrade their homestays.  The money will be used to upgrade the bathroom facilities with western-style toilets, showerheads and a water storage tank.  The homestay owners will do the labor themselves and pay for miscellenous building materials.  Each homestay owner has agreed to repay the loan based on their ability – about 2 years.  We hope to have some photos of the improvements next month!



Cutural Heritage Protection Workshop

Finally, on May 26th, Sok Pagna Keo, from Heritage Watch conducted a workshop on Cultural Heritage Protection at Banteay Torp.  More than 100 villagers attended the workshop.  Speakers from local and national government departments spoke about the importance of protecting ancient sites, temples and artifacts.





April 2011

April is the most important and special month in Cambodia because it is the celebration of the Khmer New Year. The new year coincides with the solar new year elsewhere in Southeast Asia. It is very much a family time. Many people travel to spend time with their families. It is also an important time to visit the pagoda and pay homage to Buddha and his teachings.

In Banteay Chhmar, the CBT group celebrated with a party on April 12th, the day before the official start of the New Year. There were speeches and gifts given to the top five students in Grades 1-6 from the Banteay Chhmar primary school. The speeches and ceremony were followed by dinner (and drinking!) among all the CBT members.

The New Year’s celebration continued in the temple for the next three days.Vendors set up food and drink stalls. There was plenty of music and dancing, and, of course, the traditional throwing of powder on faces.

March 2011

Temple moat

March was a very unusual month here in Banteay Chhmar. The weather was unseasonably cool and windy.  We had several cloudy and windy days late in the month.  The wind chill averaged in the mid 50s (about 13C) during the day and much cooler at night.  Despite the cold weather, the moat continues to fill with beautiful lotus flowers and the cassava continues to be harvested, cut and dried by the villagers.




Village elders receive presents

The highlight of the month was the celebration of Khmer Cultural Day on March 13th.  In Banteay Chhmar, we celebrated with speeches, music, dance and the giving of gifts to village elders. Excellency Sam Rang Kom San (Secretary of State of Cambodia) and Excellency Oung Uon (Banteay Meanchey Provincial Governor) were among the speakers and presenters.





Two especially beautiful dances were performed by Apsara dancers from the Kroo-a-saa T’may (New Family) organization in Sisophon. One dance is called Poung Maree (Flower Women).  A complete slideshow can be seen on the Poung Maree Gallery page.