December 2013

December has been an unusually cold month in Cambodia. Weather forecasters have not seen weather like this in almost 30 years. In Banteay Chhmar, nighttime temperatures have dipped as low as 13C (55F) degrees, with strong winds. Very chilly, indeed.

Volunteer, Amy Williams, meets the CBT library students

Volunteer, Amy Williams, meets the CBT library students

Fortunately, we do have some good news to report this month. First, the CBT is pleased to welcome another wonderful volunteer. Amy Williams was born in Oklahoma, but has spent most of her life growing up in Los Angeles. Amy served in the Peace Corps in Bulgaria. She visited Banteay Chhmar in 2011 and fell in love with the village life and wanted to come back and spend some more quality time here. Amy has also worked as an ESL teacher in Korea. She will be helping in the community library, teaching some high school students and also at the Enfants du Mekong school. Amy plans to spend six weeks here, hopefully longer if she can! 🙂

 

 

 

Another piece of good news is a new partnership with an Italian organization, Movimenti di Coscienza. Fabio and Sergio, from Milan, visited us and were very impressed with the CBT project. Their group is interested in a more conscientious way of living and traveling. They want to help support our water filter for families project.

Happy New Year to Everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

November 2013

CBT boat racing team

The CBT boat racing team in action

November is always one of the most special months in the Cambodian year. This month is when the annual Water Festival is celebrated. This important festival celebrates the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the rice harvest season. The festival also commemorates the history of Khmer naval forces in battles through the centuries. In Banteay Chhmar, we celebrated the Water Festival with the usual two days of boat racing on the moat along with plenty of drinking and eating with friends.

 

 

 

Balloon time

Balloon time

Also, this month, we had another great visit from our friends at Travelers’ MAP of Korea. On this visit, the group entertained the children with balloons and games. And, with the schoolchildren, they helped to clean the garbage along the moat and road.

 

 

 

Most importantly, the group generously donated their labor and a large financial donation toward the construction of eight latrines for the primary school. This will make a major improvement in the health and hygiene of the children, especially the female students who will be more comfortable attending school. The latrines should be fully completed in a few months.

Travelers MAP of Korea

Travelers MAP of Korea help to build latrines at the new primary school

 

October 2013

East causeway at Banteay Chhmar Temple

Flooding damage at the East causeway of Banteay Chhmar Temple

October was a slow and somewhat difficult month in Banteay Chhmar and northern Cambodia. Heavy rains from typhoons combined with the annual monsoons and swept through this area in late September and early October. As a result, there has been significant damage to the rice and cassava crops. Additionally, the road to Banteay Chhmar has been severely damaged in several areas. It is still possible to visit us, however it is always best to confirm your reservations a few days beforehand and ask us about the road conditions.

 

 

 

 

SOSTOn a brighter note, please read a recent article about the CBT that was published by Spotlight on Sustainable Tourism (SOST). We thank them for helping to spread the news, successes and challenges of the CBT project.

 

 

September 2013

Ta Moan Temple

Ta Moan Temple

Temple enthusiasts might be interested to know that it is possible to visit two temples nestled right on the Cambodian-Thai border. Ta Moan and Ta Krabey are both small, but well-preserved temples that were built during the reign of King Jayavarmin VII (builder of Banteay Chhmar). The temples are hidden in the mountains and there is an abundance of bird life – easier to hear than see:)Ta Krabey definitely has an “Indiana Jones” feel to it.

 

 

 

Ta Krabey Temple

Ta Krabey Temple

Sometimes, it is even possible to cross the Thai border and visit the local market near the Ta Moan Temple. You can visit both temples in a half-day trip. If you are interested in this tour, please ask a CBT tour guide. Travel can be arranged by taxi or moto, roads and weather permitting.

 

 

 

 

Cultural Bonding

A little cultural bonding and exchange as some visitors from India make authentic curry and chapatis at the homestay.

August 2013

Alex's farewell party

Alex’s farewell party

First, we would like to offer our heartfelt thanks to Alex Torpey. Alex spent two months here helping the CBT members improve their English, temple tour management skills as well as providing the librarians with some needed mentoring, guidance and teaching tips. We will all miss Alex a lot, but he has promised to come back in two years. So, we cannot wait to see him again!:)

 

 

 

Also, this month, the Ministry of Culture & Fine Arts began a conservation project on the south causeway. The project’s goals are the strengthen the causeway since it serves as a dam for the commune’s water supply. Additionally, there are plans to replace the remnants, as best as possible, of the statues of the demons and gods that stood along the causeway. These statues tell the famous Hindu myth of the Churning the Ocean of Milk. Unfortunately, these statues were heavily looted in the 1990s, and almost all the heads were stolen (see background in photo below).

South causeway conservation project at Banteay Chhmar

South causeway conservation project at Banteay Chhmar

July 2013

July was an excellent month for us here in Banteay Chhmar. We had great visits from two of our favorite tour operators. First, our friends from Operation Groundswell (OG) visited us from July 11th to the 15th. We had a wonderful welcoming dinner with the group and the villagers, followed by some traditional dancing. The next day, the group went on a temple tour with tour guide, Sang Ponlok.

We think the highlight was the trip to Kit Sokoun’s fish farm. The group tried their hand at fishing. After catching lunch, we all went up to the Choueng Krus Baray for a picnic of grilled fish.

As you may know from their visit in May, Operation Groundswell raises funds for the projects they visit on their trips. This time, the group decided to continue supporting their previous projects in the village. OG raised funds to provide two houses with metal roofs, gutters and rainwater harvesting jars. Additional funding is going to be used to expand the ceramic water filter project started in May. This project is getting off to an excellent start. The families are happy with the quality of the water from the filters and requests for the filters is exceeding supply.

Please view a slideshow of the Operation Groundswell visit. Hope to see you again next year! 🙂

Dinner at the homestay Khmer dancing Temple tour Temple tour House repairs Time to play Ninja Meeting the children and cows A brand new roof! Family receives a water filter Another roof gets completed! Ice cream time Let Picnic by the baray

 

 

Korean and Khmer students enjoy  a temple tour

Korean and Khmer students enjoy a temple tour

Our second great visit this month was from our friends at Travelers MAP. This time, a group of Korean students visited us for a cultural and educational tour. The group made new friends with students from the Banteay Chhmar primary school. They played a lot of games together and visited the temple. We hope we can have more bonding trips like this in future years.

 

 

 

 

Election Time

CPP members rally inside Banteay Chhmar Temple

CPP members rally inside Banteay Chhmar Temple

And, let us not forget about the national elections which were held on July 28th. In Banteay Chhmar, we had plenty of political rallies all month long. Everything here went smoothly and we look forward to continuing to see infrastructure improvements such as a paved road and 24/7 electricity service next year.

June 2013

Volunteer Alex Torpey teaching students the alphabet

Volunteer Alex Torpey teaching students the alphabet

This month, the CBT is very pleased to welcome Alexander Torpey to Banteay Chhmar. Alex arrived June 2nd, and will be volunteering with the CBT for the next 2 1/2 months. He will mostly be helping the librarians with teaching the students in the CBT library. Alex will provide some much needed expertise with teaching tips and techniques. Additionally, Alex will also be meeting with the tour guides to help them improve their English and hospitality skills. Alex hails from Liverpool, England and will be returning home to begin his career in law later this year. The entire Banteay Chhmar community wants to thank Alex for his help, enthusiasm and support!

 

 

Also, we received more help from our friends at Operation Groundswell. As you know, this excellent tour operator visited us last month and donated their money, time and energy to helping some families improve their homes and provide water filters to families. Fortunately, they had a few extra dollars for some additional donations. Two families received mosquito nets and one family received a water storage jar.

And, we have even more good news! Operation Groundswell is planning another visit next month. We are very much looking forward to meeting and working with them again.

 

 

May 2013

May was an excellent month for us here in Banteay Chhmar. The CBT was very pleased to welcome Operation Groundswell (OG) to our community. This youth-orientated tour company specializes in learning experiences and helping in the communities they visit. They genuinely aim to offer meaningful and unique travel and life experiences. Beforehand, participants are required do some  fundraising for each project they visit. We are certainly glad they visited us and contributed to helping our villagers in so many ways.

First, the OG group helped with rebuilding some of the poorest houses in Banteay Chhmar. While Banteay Chhmar certainly is not the poorest of communes in Cambodia, there are definitely some families living in less than desirable homes. Three houses were selected in different villages and their thatch roofs were replaced along with some walls.

Through Operation Groundswell’s inspiration, the CBT will be working on adding this type of project to its tour itinerary  The idea will be a “Helping Hand” tour where visitors can donate some funds and spend their time helping on a village project. It may be a house repair, preparing land for a garden or some other community project. We expect most projects to be less than $100. Stay in touch with us for more information in the coming months about this new tour and activity.

Villagers, Operation Groundswell and CBT members attend water filter training workshop.

Villagers, Operation Groundswell and CBT members attend water filter training workshop.

Additionally, OG donated $1,000 to the purchase of 20 ceramic water filters for villagers. The villagers also attended a training session for the filters during the OG visit. These filters are an easy, cost-effective and very reliable means of producing 20 to 30 liters of clean water every day for a family. This is enough water to cover basic necessities such as cooking, drinking, cleaning food and brushing teeth. The CBT members will be responsible for following up with the families monthly and collecting some basic information on usage and water-related diseases. Each household will pay $1.50 per month for the filter. This fee will go towards monitoring the project, further hygiene training, and helping to pay the CBT’s operating expenses.

 

 

We believe that this pilot project will be successful and hope to expand the project through donations from our visitors. If anyone is interested in purchasing a large quantity of filters, tax-deductible donations can be made through Global Heritage Fund (clearly indicating what the donation is to be used for). Please contact Tath Sophal or Andrew Marino for more information. Thanks.

Finally, the best part of having Operation Groundswell visit us was there genuine interest in the community and learning about the livelihoods, the village and temple history. It is always great to have a group like this visit. Thanks again!

Please view a slideshow of the Operation Groundswell visit.

Temple tour with Ponlok Temple tour Inside the temple Temple fun Sav Tong Getting ready for house repairs Lending a helping hand Building a roof A successful job! Chai Chhung Another roof gets repaired! Time for soccer Another completed roof! Water filter training Villagers take home their filters Mao Yin One more roof to repair Another completed roof! Visiting the baray Picnic time

 

On Sunday, May 26th we had a visit from the Baray Reach Dak community-based tourism group. This site is located inside the Angkor Archaeological Park and offers walking and boat tours through the village and forest surrounding the baray. The project is supported by the APSARA National Authority and the Australian government.. The group came to learn  and share ideas about conducting community-type tours. We hope that you will have time to visit them on your trip to Siem Reap. You can contact them directly at (+855) 097 9501 423 for reservations.

Baray Reach Dak CBT visits Banteay Chhmar

Baray Reach Dak CBT visits Banteay Chhmar

April 2013

April is the most special month in Cambodia. It is the celebration of the Khmer New Year (Chaul Chnam Thmey, which literally means “Enter New Year”). While the new year is officially a 3-day holiday, most Cambodians treat it as a month-long period to visit family, friends and have a festive time. This is the last good, long holiday that everyone will have before the start of the long, hard rice planting season.

In Banteay Chhmar, villagers celebrated with food and dancing in the temple and parties with friends and family. Powdering faces is a common and fun activity. There are also a number of traditional games played and ceremonies observed during the new year period. One ceremony is when people build sand hillocks around the pagoda. Villagers mound up a hill of sand or dome which represents sakyamuni satya, the stupa at Tavatimsa, where the Buddha’s hair and diadem are buried.

Also, this year a number of villagers, shopowners and local authorities made a special trip to visit the poorer villages and pagodas along the Thai border distributing food, drinks and making monetary donations to the communities. It was a special day for everyone involved.

The month was not all fun and games, though. Before the start of the new year, the CBT members met several times to begin work on a 3-year business plan. As Global Heritage Fund begins to wind down its conservation project and support, the CBT needs to become more proactive in increasing its business sustainability. The CBT is looking at ways to increase its visitor numbers and income by adding new activities and increasing market awareness of Banteay Chhmar.

If you would like to get involved in helping the CBT with travel market research, business planning, networking, or helping to create a “Friends of Banteay Chhmar” group, please contact Tath Sophal or Andrew Marino. Thanks! 🙂

Banteay Chhmar CBT members prepare SWOT analysis

Banteay Chhmar CBT members prepare SWOT analysis

 

March 2013

We had a very quiet and slow month here in Banteay Chhmar. The weather is still mostly dry, though we have had a few scattered thunderstorms. It is also getting hotter, and our visitors should be advised to wear a hat and sunscreen, and make sure to drink plenty of water while walking around the temple and village area.

Please view a few of our own images of Banteay Chhmar Temple in black and white. We hope you like the different perspective, and we encourage everyone to take some unique photos of the temple. The ever changing lighting in the temple offers an endless degree of opportunities for amateur and professional photographers.

Buddha images in Banteay Chhmar Temple

Buddha images in Banteay Chhmar Temple

 

Lintel of Hindu gods

Lintel of Hindu gods

 

Celestial dancers in Banteay Chhmar Temple

Celestial dancers in Banteay Chhmar Temple

Nearly collapsed temple entrance in Banteay Chhmar Temple

Nearly collapsed temple entrance in Banteay Chhmar Temple