I don’t think I’ve ever had a day that was filled with so many experiences as this particular day…thus my reason for two parts. So let’s just start at the very beginning of a day long trek on the most sacred holy mountain in Cambodia…Kulen Mountain… A UNESCO World Heritage site, Kulen Mountain is widely regarded as the birthplace of the ancient Khmer Empire (think AD 802) and home to the ethnic people…the Khmer Leu. We started early because of the expected high temperatures, but before we could even make it to the entry steps…my attention was diverted to a man and a small fire…so of course I had to take a peek at what he was doing.
Yep, he was making breakfast! When you’re hungry you make do…and I personally grew up eating squirrel that my father hunted so it was no big deal to me…well except the cooking of the entire body! So see? I knew right away this was going to be one of those days filled with unexpected moments! You won’t find this in a tour book.
As we’re making our way up all those never ending steps we came across a pagoda that was being renovated…and that required a stop to take in the amazing art this gentleman was working on. He told us it took ten days just to draw and carve the trunk of the tree…so one can only imagine how long it will take to complete the entire pagoda. And yes…workers have to carry all the supplies up all those steps! Can’t even imagine…as we saw bags and bags of cement along the way…probably waiting for some poor soul to finish taking them up the mountain. I noticed one bag had 50 kg written on it. Omg..that’s 110 pounds.
I was blown away by the detail…even in the most unexpected places!
And of course I had to take one of those chipped off pieces from the old pagoda…which is now proudly displayed on my outdoor fireplace here in Arizona…
I honestly could’ve just hung out at this pagoda all day and just photographed…but we had to keep moving…coming up on another amazing surprise just a short distance away…a little oasis nestled into the mountain…Preah Ang Choub…complete with the monastery connected to the pagoda that we just experienced. Just approaching it you could fill the coolness in the air as well as a very tranquil feeling…the sound of running water…the lushness of the jungle…all exuding such a welcoming feel.
I said hello to the nun and to my surprise she spoke perfect English…as well as Japanese!…not to mention her native Khmer. She told me her story that she had worked at a local NGO prior to joining the monastery where she now cooks and cleans for the monks. She had two children…her young son living with her and a daughter attending school in Phnom Penh. She had experienced a bad situation in her marriage and felt this was the place for her. Of course she was thrilled with her instant photos and he loved his little toy car. She was such a beautiful soul and once again I could’ve stayed forever…talking to her…photographing…but we had to move on…
As we continued on our way we had to be mindful that there were still a number of landmines in the area, another reason to have a guide to keep us on the main paths and pointed in the right direction. (If you recall in an earlier posting this is the jungle area where our guide fled with his mother to escape the Khmer Rouge and ate bugs to stay alive.) After a rather strenuous hike we finally made our way to one of the eight isolated ethnic hill tribes (Khmer Leu) in the area…all connected with footpaths. As we got closer to the village we passed small shrines and remnants of the Lunar New Year (aka Chinese New Year) which is very much celebrated within Cambodia.
and you’ll often see cooked rice being dried…in preparation for some yummy sticky rice creation…
and not sure what the pickled things are in the containers…thinking they could be pickled lemons…but we never saw a lemon there that looked like our lemons back home…
a typical village store…the owner taking a smoke and perhaps just waking up from an afternoon nap in his hammock…and interestingly enough he was watching a DVD which was the last thing I thought we’d see in this isolated area. Just goes to show…where there’s a will…there’s a way!
In a future posting I’ll share more about a typical village and daily life…but like you’ve probably noticed…trash is a constant. In a few villages, there are some measures being taken to educate and encourage a cleaner environment, and I’ll share more later on that as well.
So here we are…not even halfway through our day yet and I might add, extremely hot! So stay tuned for part two where I’ll take you to an amazing pagoda where a reclining Buddha was carved into a sandstone rock, as well as a visit to the holy waters where along the way we met an adorable 88 year old nun. Then we’ll finish the day at Beng Mealea, one of several ancient temples we visited during our stay.
P.S. Just a quick note that I’m happy to report I’ve been published again in the magazine, Bella Grace! I submitted a blog posting from awhile ago…Taming the Wild…my life adventure with natural curly hair! Hmm…perhaps a giveaway in the making? Stay tuned!