First Day of the Rice Harvest
December is always a wonderful time of year to visit Cambodia. The rains have stopped, and the weather is much cooler. It is also the time of the rice harvest, so the villages are alive with a flurry of activity. It has been an active month here in Banteay Chhmar. Unfortunately, this year was not a good rice harvest because of infrequent rains. However, the villagers will do the best they can with the harvest. If you are interested in learning how to harvest rice, please ask one of our tour guides. They will be happy to take you to the fields where you can meet the villagers and learn all about rice.
There is an absolutely fascinating archaeological project taking place about 4km from the Banteay Chhmar Temple. Workers from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts are unearthing an ancient burial site. Heng Sophady from the Ministry believes that the remains may be around 2,000 years old. So far, workers have discovered human remains, a fire pit, some tools and pottery.
Kok Treas Archaeological Site
We had a great visit from our friends in Korea. Volunteers from the Gwang Ju Buk-gu Volunteer Center generously contributed their time and money to help clean the village, repair and paint the primary school. They also donated a generous supply of books, pens and clothes for the children. And, they still had plenty of time to play with the children!
A special THANK YOU! goes out to Travelers’ MAP Tours and the Gwang Ju Buk-gu Volunteer Center 🙂
Cleaning the village
November is, of course, a very special month in Cambodia. It is the time of Bon Om Touk – the Water Festival. The celebration takes place during the full moon period of the Buddhist month known as Kadeuk. Traditionally, the festival celebrates and honors the Khmer military – especially the naval forces. The festival has a long history, dating back hundreds of years to the glory of the Angkorian era.
This year’s festival in Banteay Chhmar was somewhat smaller than previous years. In part, this was due to the country’s continuing mourning period for the recently deceased King Sihanouk. Despite the subdued mood, the villagers still enjoyed plenty of music, food, games and one full day of boat racing.
King Norodom Sihanouk
October was, of course, a sad month here in Cambodia. King Norodom Sihanouk passed away on October 15. The king was living in Beijing, China at the time of his passing. King Sihanouk was a much beloved monarch of the Cambodian people and saw the country through many trying periods. We send our prayers and thoughts to all the Cambodian people and wish them a bright, healthy and happy future. For more on King Sihanouk’s life click here
Pchum Ben Family Offering
On a happier note, October was the celebration of the Pchum Ben Festival. This annual 15-day festival is a time when Khmer people honor their deceased relatives. Prayers and offerings are made during the entire 15-day period. The culminating celebration takes place on the 15th day of the 10th month in the Khmer calendar. On the final night, monks chant continously, Supposedly, this time represents a prelude to the gates of hell opening and a time when the spirits, or ghosts, become very active. It is believed that offering food helps the ghosts; some ghosts will end their damnation and others will temporarily escape only to return for more suffering. The offerings and prayers may also benefit those relatives in heaven. In Banteay Chhmar, some families with have a ceremony in their house in addition to going to the pagoda to give an offering to the monks.
Finally, to end on another happy note. Little Chamroun Sondey celebrated his fourth birthday on October 11th with a fun-filled party. Sondey is the nephew of Soeung Savy, one of the CBT’s cooks. All the children and adults had a marvelous time making balloons, eating cake and singing ‘Happy Birthday.’
Happy 4th Birthday to Day
Students enjoying their community library
In September, the CBT community library began the first steps of starting English and Khmer lessons for students in Banteay Chhmar. Students were informed of the lessons and given an entry test to attain their skill level. After the official state school year starts (in October), a schedule will be drafted for students in Banteay Chhmar who want to attend additional lessons and do their homework in the CBT library. We all hope to see a lot of students studying and learning!
If you have not already watched this documentary from Al Jazeera, we highly recommend you take some time to view this important episode. This documentary reviews the relationship between the UNESCO World Heritage programme and tourism development in Southeast Asia. This is an important issue facing us here in Banteay Chhmar as the Cambodian government would like to see the Banteay Chhmar temple complex become designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Yet, we want to preserve the culture and heritage of the area while improving the livelihoods of the community. The video contains footage of Banteay Chhmar and interviews with members of Global Heritage Fund and the CBT community.
New Conservation Project!
Representatives from the Ministry of Culture & Fine Arts help to open a new conservation project in Banteay Chhmar
His Excellency (H.E.) Him Chhem, of the Ministry of Culture & Fine Arts (MCFA) christened the opening of a feasibility study for a new conservation project along the west gallery of Banteay Chhmar Temple. The goal is to determine if there are still two remaining Avalokiteshvara bas-reliefs (as thought) under the collapsed gallery area and evaluate whether a conservation project is possible. This project will continue through February 2013 and is being managed by Kim Sothin of MCFA. Funding is being provided by Friends of Khmer Culture.
His Excellency, Him Chhem, (center, white shirt) visits the Global Heritage Fund conservation project
The same day of the christening (August 28), His Excellency also visited the ongoing Banteay Chhmar conservation project being implemented by Global Heritage Fund (GHF). He offered his support and congratulations to the Khmer team who have been working so hard on this project over the past few years.
Our visitors continue to show interest and support in our CBT community library project. We continue to receive generous donations of both books and cash to help improve our library and provide for more learning opportunities. As always, we would like to express our sincere thanks to all our visitors for their support. Some of our students were even treated to a violin performance this month!
Visitors play violin for students in the CBT Librray
July was a very dry month here in Cambodia. A lot of farmers are worried about having a good rice harvest this year. As you know, rice is the primary source of food and income for most Cambodians. We all hope the rains pick up soon.
Global Heritage Fund workers recently completed rebuilding this section of the East gallery.
In other news, workers from Global Heritage Fund completed reconstruction of a significant section along the east gallery of the temple. This section was precariously close to collapse. Now, it has been significantly stablilized and displays some more of the remarkbale bas-reliefs of King Jayavarman VII and the Angkorian era. We are all excited to see the conservation project progressing.
The CBT tour guides also continue their studies. They have been spending quite a lot of time inside the temple examining and learning to understand all the Hindu and Buddhist gods, myths and stories, along with learning about the architectural construction of the temple. It is a long process to understand all this, but they are all doing well with their studies.
CBT tour guides study inside the temple
CBT Member, Mao Sy, shows his voting finger on June 3
June 3rd was Election Day in Cambodia. Over 1500 communes voted for their Commune Chief. In Cambodia, the political structure is village > commune > district > province. So, these elections are very important at the local level. In Banteay Chhmar, the villagers elected a new Commune Chief.
Van Som Orn is from Banteay Chhmar’s Tbong Village. He is 44 years old, married and has 2 children. We all wish him the best of success in improving the Banteay Chhmar community!
Students read story books and play games in their new library
May was a wonderful month here in Banteay Chhmar. We celebrated the opening of our new community library. This is the first library in Banteay Chhmar. We are sure all the students (and adults) will benefit from all the learning materials and stories to read. The library was funded through the generous support of Travelers’ Map of Korea. Travelers’ Map has been a frequent visitor to Cambodia and has helped support other projects throughout the country. We thank them very very much and look forward to a long friendship.
CBT Tour Guide Training
Also, the CBT tour guides are now well into their Tour Guide Training program. This program, started in late April, is the final phase of a Heritage Watch supported grant. Through this grant, the tour guides received English language lessons for one year. Now, they are learning about Cambodian and Angkorian-era history, local culture, heritage protection and how to conduct a temple tour. In total, 12 students are participating in this 3-month long, 2-day a week training program. The lessons are being conducted by Khieu Thy, an experienced guide trainer from Siem Reap.
Finally, since they rains have recently begun, we are just starting to plant the new rice crop for the year. We all hope to reap a bountiful crop in a few months. Please ask our tour guides to give you a tour of the rice fields if you are interested in learning about the planting and harvesting cycle and all the hard work involved. Maybe you can lend a hand, too!
April is, of course, the most special month in Cambodia. It is the celebration of the Khmer New Year.when the old year and old god are gone and the new year and new god are welcomed. Every house is cleaned, and offerings such as fruit and incense are put on display. Many families will go to the pagoda to pray. And, let us not forget that there are lots of parties to attend, games to play and dancing to do!
Khmer New Year Dancing
Happy Khmer New Year to Everyone!!!
Sopheng and Sreymom's Wedding Day
March was a very special month for two of our CBT members. Khlout Sopheng and Khoeun Sreymom were married in a lovely and fun 2-day wedding ceremony on March 5-6. We all wish Sopheng and Sreymom a long and happy life together.
March was also a very good month for Sreymom and Sopheng for two more reasons. First, they will become new homestay owners. We are sure that our visitors will enjoy staying in their home and enjoy their hospitality.
And, finally, Sreymom will be the librarian for the Banteay Chhmar-CBT Library. Congratulations!
Getting the new library ready for opening
As we have mentioned previously, thanks to a very generous donation from Travelers’ Map of Korea, Banteay Chhmar will have its first community library. Please follow our progress here on our website as well as on our Facebook page.