When I first heard that one of the gals at our hotel was getting married during our time in Siem Reap…my only thought…I must attend this wedding. I mean really…what better way to see up close and personal a country’s tradition that is often the most cherished moments in a couple’s history. Fast forward to the end of our stay and guess who went to the wedding?
This isn’t a posting on all the “ins and outs” of a Cambodian wedding…mainly because I don’t know. But it is a peek inside of a traditional Cambodian wedding that is often filled with a variety of ceremonies with lots of music and people…and I might add…all at great expense. My understanding is the traditional wedding dress takes place over a three day period including ceremonies beginning in the very early morning hours. In this case we were invited to the evening “hair cutting” ceremony (where friends and family symbolically snip away the past to prepare for the couple’s future together) as well as the final wedding reception the next day.
We arrived in the afternoon (extremely hot and humid I might add) at the bride’s family residence in the small village where our hotel was located. The entrance to the large billowing tent was adorned with silver and gold bananas symbolizing hope for a fruitful and rich marriage. There were many gold trays and bowls filled with flowers, fresh fruit and food. The wedding party was dressed in bright red attire and lots of gold jewelry for the bride. The women guests wore gorgeous gowns with lots of sequins and lace, while the men dressed more casual. I on the other hand had nothing fancy…just a simple sundress…but it seemed to work. I really think I could’ve worn anything…it was having Americans at the ceremony that seemed to make the day!
The bride and groom were seated side by side while a couple performed songs and danced. Then various family members took turns pretending to cut their hair followed by a spray of perfume. Next up were guests, including yours truly! Based on the smiles and laughter there was lots of humor involved as well. I loved that children played and ran around while occasionally even a cell phone would ring! Instead of gifts as we know it in the U.S., the tradition is to give money to help with the cost of the wedding and any leftovers are then used for the couple to jump start their life together. We placed our “gift” into an envelope and presented it to the couple at the end of the ceremony. Of course, as one can imagine, we were almost as popular as the bride and groom! It was an honor to be allowed to photograph, but I was also sensitive to the fact that hired photographers ruled…so I’d occasionally sneak in a capture or two throughout the ceremony.
The next day we were invited to the evening dress with an elaborate dinner and lots of heavy drinking of Black Panther beer and many classic Khmer cheers! Like the ceremony the previous day…we were welcomed by many and met a number of very friendly Cambodians! Unfortunately we missed the hours of dancing that followed as we needed to return to the hotel to quickly change our clothes and head to the airport for our long flight home. Nothing like partying to the last minute! We felt so honored to have been included and this event was truly a highlight of our time in Cambodia!
P.S. Well I’m back in Arizona after spending time with my family…always bittersweet. If we are friends on Facebook you’ve probably already read my flight adventure…but in case you haven’t you can take a read. More soon!
It’s interesting that in the 45 years of flying, I’ve never encountered an incident except the occasional rough turbulence especially on small commuter flights. But this past flight from Roanoke (my home town in Virginia) to Chicago (my connection to Phoenix) was a different story. As usual we prepared for landing and within minutes we were heading back up. Hmm…I’ve experienced this as on a number of occasions and within minutes the pilot will explain our situation. But in this case not a word was said. Sitting at the window, I could see we were heading towards Lake Michigan. I looked around to see if other passengers seemed bothered by it, but no one showed concern. I looked up through the aisle, made eye contact with the flight attendant but she gave no signs of concern either. Then, within minutes, the attendant made an announcement that we needed to be prepared to “brace” for a high probability of an impact landing. Her voice raised and cracking…telling us to make sure our seat belts were as tight and low as possible…and then her quick explanation of how to “brace for impact” followed by the instruction to make sure we had cleared the space at our feet for emergency evacuation. She ended the set of instructions with…”I will tell you when to brace by calling out brace, brace, brace!”
In all honesty her instructions seemed unreal…could this really be happening? My first thought was…are we landing in Lake Michigan? I’ve always thought if I was in a plane crash I’d rather it be on land than over water, specifically if it was the ocean. I don’t know…sharks and large waves scare me and I just don’t want to be the lonely survivor floating around on some small piece of broken aircraft in the vast darkness of open sea. I quickly convinced myself that it was a lake and not the ocean and that seemed to calm some of my horrifying thoughts. It’s hard to describe the feeling…but within those first couple of instructions I felt more in shock than scared and I found it hard to absorb her quick instructions. After her instructions the silence was deafening and all kinds of thoughts run through your mind. A couple of minutes later we were told to expect to see a convoy of emergency vehicles greet us at the airport. So that solved the question as to the landing location. Fast forward…we landed safely without incident and without explanation. As we taxied in…everyone clapped…emotions high after a uneventful horrifying experience. Due to the short layover for my connecting flight, I quickly departed the aircraft giving the flight attendant a hug and words of praise…and looked directly into the wide eyes of the two pilots sat in silence…perhaps trying to process the event themselves. It’s easy to think later the “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve” and yes, I do wish I’d taken a minute to ask…what was that all about…but didn’t. I found it really hard to think clearly after such a rush of adrenaline.
But here’s the reason for sharing this…not to point fingers at the airline or to bring attention to myself. It’s the question that a young mother sitting across the aisle asked me after the attendant provided the quick instruction. “What do I do with my child?” That question haunts me because I didn’t have the answer nor did the flight attendant provide that information. You can bet on the flight from Chicago to Phoenix I looked carefully at that safety instruction card. I’m not here to tell you what’s right and what’s wrong…but to encourage you if you’re traveling with small children to understand the procedure in case you’re ever placed in this situation…as well as to look at the brace position on that safety instruction card for yourself. I can attest…it’s hard to process when you’re in the moment.