We would like share some photos from this year’s Pchum Ben Festival in Banteay Chhmar. As some of you may know, this is one of Cambodia’s most important holidays. Cambodians around the country travel to be with relatives and friends. The festival lasts for 15 days and culminates with some very special ceremonies both at home and at the pagodas.
The word “Pchum” meets to meet or congregate and “Ben” means collect. “Ben” also means to mould or cup rice into portions and “Ben Baht” means to collect food to give to monks. The true purpose of the festival is to honor deceased ancestors. By receiving offerings from the living, it is believed that the spirits will gain some relief from their suffering. It is both a time of remembrance and celebration. Please read more about Pchum Ben
Dak Baht ceremony
Dak Baht ceremony
Monks in Banteay Chhmar give their blessings during Bong Skoul ceremony
Bong Skoul ceremony
Sen Dong Ta ceremony at home
Dak Baht ceremony
Num Ansom (sticky rice cake)
Making Num Ansom (sticky rice cake)
Watertime fun to end the holiday
Friends celebrating with food and drink
Visiting Banteay Chhmar Pagoda
As you may know, April is a very special month on the Cambodian calendar. It is the celebration of the Khmer New Year. The holiday, in various forms, is celebrated throughout Asia.
It is a time for get-togethers with family and friends. There is always lots of food, dancing, music, partying and celebrating. And, of course, let us not forget the face powdering and water splashing!
Visitors are always welcome to Banteay Chhmar to enjoy the holidays and hospitality with us. We hope that you will enjoy seeing a few photos from this year’s fun in Banteay Chhmar. Thank you
Getting ready to feed the hungry crowds
Happy Khmer New Year to everyone!
We both love Cambodia
It’s always a wet holiday here
Banteay Chhmar Pagoda
Phnom Ksat (Sand Temple) ceremony
Srouch Dtuk (Water Blessing) ceremony
Happy New Year!
Can we powder your face, too?
Lots of dancers and dancing
Our commune chief (c) welcomes you to Banteay Chhmar
Are you hungry for some bugs?
A Very Happy New Year to everyone! We hope that all of our friends, visitors and partners will have a delightful, healthy and prosperous 2015. Best wishes to all.
Our year has gotten off to a wonderful start. We had another excellent visit from one of our favorite tour operators, Operation Groundswell. As you may know, Operation Groundswell is trying to redefine volunteering and travel by forming partnerships with local NGOs and communities, They stress having an immersive experience and work hands-on with local partners on educational and social initiatives.
On this trip, the group learned about our community-based tourism project, went on a temple tour, biked around the satellite temples, helped in the community library, took a boat tour on the baray and, of course, enjoyed traditional Khmer music, dancing, games and hospitality. We all look forward to another visit later this summer. Thanks to all!
A great group from Operation Groundswell
Traditional Khmer dancing
Serenading the villagers
Farewell dinner party
Taking a boat ride on the baray
Also, please read our latest news story. Banteay Chhmar is featured in the January, 2015 issue of Cebu Pacific Smile magazine.
While working on the east causeway conservation and protection project, the Ministry of Culture & Fine Arts discovered a wonderful, intact head of a demon. As you may know, the causeway was originally lined with demons and gods representing the famous Hindu story of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk. Through time and looting almost all the original heads have been lost or destroyed. The protection of the east causeway is vitally important to Banteay Chhmar as it serves as a dam for the commune’s primary water supply in the moat.
6th Annual Khmer-Thai Student Exchange
Also this month, on Sunday November 16th, students, community leaders and officials gathered in the temple for the 6th Annual Khmer-Thai student exchange. It was a great morning of bonding and information sharing. Some of our brightest Cambodian youth helped to explain the history, culture and environment of Banteay Chhmar. Thank you to everyone for sharing their time and energy to make this meeting a success.
Finally, please take the time to read this article if you already have not done so. It was written by editor-at-large, Don George, from National Geographic. He takes on a nice, humanistic and personal view of his time here in Banteay Chhmar.
We are pleased to let you know that the reconstruction of the east gallery of Banteay Chhmar Temple is nearing completion. This is the final major piece of conservation work that also included the rebuilding and stabilization of Tower #18 in 2013. Working under the guidance and authority of the Cambodian Ministry of Culture & Fine Arts (MCFA), the conservation work was managed by Global Heritage Fund (GHF), We will keep you posted as further conservation work and projects develop.
The east gallery bas-reliefs offer a new glimpse into Anglorian-era life. They further help to tell the story under the reign of the empire’s last great king, Jayavarman VII. Please take your time to examine and enjoy these wonderful stories of Cambodia’s heritage and culture.
East gallery conservation work nears completion
In partnership with Khiri Travel, Banteay Chhmar is very pleased to announce that it has won another prestigious award. The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has awarded Khiri Travel the 2014 Grand Award for Heritage and Culture for its Banteay Chhmar Tented Camp tour. This is truly an honor for the CBT, our community and Khiri Travel.
The tented camp allows visitors to stay in luxurious, fully furnished tents in close proximity to the main temple complex. Visitors will be able to experience a “sense of time and place” and appreciate the cultural and historical importance of the temple. The tents are low-impact and are taken down quickly leaving virtually no traces of disturbance. More importantly, is that the agreement with Khiri allows the CBT to manage the activities and services for the visitors. Therefore, a significant amount of income is earned for the community. The partnership also develops hospitality and management skills which will beneficial for the community. Finally, the Cambodian Ministry of Culture & Fine Arts (MCFA) is also involved in overseeing that the project will be successful while still protecting the heritage and culture of the precious and irreplaceable Banteay Chhmar temple complex.
A complete list of the PATA Grand and Gold Award winners for 2014 can be found here: PATA Awards 2014
Solid waste management station provided by Operation Groundswell
We had another wonderful visit from our good friends at Operation Groundswell. As you may know from our previous posts, this excellent tour operator conducts “backpacktivist” trips around the world. Participants become socially, culturally and environmentally aware of and involved in the communities they visit. They also contribute toward the success and sustainability of the projects that they engage with.
Handwashing stations provided by Operation Groundswell
This year, the Operation Groundswell group generously contributed funds for two projects. First, the Banteay Chhmar community used some of the funds donated to build a solid waste management container for the market area. This will make it easier for both the sellers and the garbage collectors to dispose of the waste which is taken to a landfill 3 km outside of the village area. It should also keep the market area cleaner and safer. Second, the group also contributed funds toward installing two handwashing and hygiene stations at the primary school. The handwashing stations will complement the latrines that were also built for the students. This entire project should provide important steps toward improving the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of the children concerning health and how to prevent disease.
Of course, it was not all work for Operation Groundswell. The group enjoyed a tour of the Banteay Chhmar Temple, they played games with the children, went fishing at a nearby farm and enjoyed a picnic by the baray. Thank you again to everyone from Operation Groundswell and see you next year!!!
At the beginning of the month we were pleased to, once again, welcome one of our favorite tour operators to Banteay Chhmar. Operation Groundswell joined us from June 3-6 for three fun-filled and informative days of temple touring, teaching in the CBT library, fishing and picnicking. Operation Groundswell is a non-profit organization that offers travel and community service experiences around the world. Their aim is to build a community of “backpacktivists” who are socially, environmentally and politically aware of their impact in the communities they travel to and live in. We always look forward to their visits. Please see their website for more information.
Taking a temple tour
Teaching in the library
OG enjoys dancing
OG goes fishing
Also, in partnership with Khiri Travel, the CBT is pleased to announce that we will soon be offering a temple tent safari experience. Visitors will be able to stay in luxurious and fully furnished tents inside the main temple complex. Guests will receive a full complement of services and activities provided by Khiri and the CBT. This month, we had our a first mock setup which went very well. Please stay in touch with us or contact Khiri Travel for more information about pricing, availability, services and the official launching of this truly memorable temple and travel experience.
Temple tent safari
Lunch in the temple
Traditional music and tent safari
CBT President, Khlot Sopheng (r), giving a temple tour
On May 21, the Banteay Chhmar CBT members gathered to hold elections for president and vice-president. These elections are held every two years and provide an opportunity for members to advance their skills by holding new positions of responsibility. We are pleased to announce that Khlot Sopheng has been elected as the new Banteay Chhmar CBT president. And, in an unusual vote count, there was a tie for vice-president. Former president, Bieng Sruon, and Mao Sy each finished with 12 votes. They will share the vice-presidential duties. Thank you to all the members who came to vote, congratulations to the winners and best of success for the future of the CBT.
Khmer New Year!!!
Temple moat in full bloom
As you may know, April is a very special and important month in Cambodia. It is the celebration of the Khmer New Year. This holiday is enjoyed throughout Southeast Asia, though it has different meanings and festivities in other countries. In Thailand, it is called Songkran and involves a lot of water throwing. More information on the Cambodian new year can be found at Choul Chhnam Khmer.
In Banteay Chhmar, it was quite a week’s worth of celebrating. This year’s fun seemed bigger and happier than the previous few years. There was a full five days of eating, drinking, dancing and celebrating with family and friends.
Water and powder time
Rean Te Veda offering
Coming to the party by kuyon
Happy New Year!
Rean Te Veda offering
Friends in the temple
Plenty of food and drink
Here’s looking at you!
Despite all the fun and festivities this month, we do have some unfortunate news to share. A section of the north gallery collapsed at the end of March. It is very sad to see the irreplaceable bas-reliefs that have been damaged.
Northern gallery collapse
We have the best news of all this month! On March 7th, we welcomed our newest CBT member – Ly Huor Yang. Ly Hor and her mother Savy are healthy and doing fine. This is Savy’s first child. Savy is a CBT homestay owner and cook, and her family also helps with other CBT activities. We are all very happy and wish Savy, her daughter and family a long, happy and healthy future.