Photo Hunt: Glass

My entry might be a bit different from what other participants have this week. This “glass” represents the darkest moments in Cambodian history.

The photo below shows the glass panels of the memorial stupa inside the Choueng Ek Genocide Centre. It contains thousands of human skulls and bones, belonging to the victims of the Khmer Rouge, arranged by age and sex.

photo hunt glass of horror

I have written about this before, also a part of the Photo Hunt entry. You can find the post here to understand more about this glass of horror.

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Photo Hunt #082: Withered

Sorry about being absent in Photo Hunt for a few weeks. I was on holiday mode way before the Khmer New Year. Now that I’m back (again), I’m going to make up (again) for my absence.

The theme for this week is “withered”. So, here goes…

My husband and I love driving around on weekends. We often end up between Kandal and Kampong Chhnang areas, which is on the northwest  of Phnom Penh and about a couple of hours drive from the city. And why do we do that? If you happen to drive through Cambodia’s countryside, you will know why.

One of the reasons is the charming countryside. Ricefields! We love being surrounded by rice-fields as far as our eyes can see. At this time of the year, when summer is in full swing and the harvest season is over, the once verdant fields have turned into golden brown. And what a sight to behold!

Below is a picture of an already-harvested field. After harvesting, the rice straws are left there. Traditionally, farmers burn the rice straws or leave it there to decompose. More often, you can also see cows grazing and occassional white birds (egrets?) dotting the ricefields.

The huge stupas of Phnom Oudong, on the background, and Wat Chey Oudom on the middle-ground.

There is so much to see in the countryside if only you’re game enough to go off the beaten track and sweat a little.

Not very far from Phnom Oudong (closer to PP), we bravely explored Phnom Prasith during the weekend of the Chinese New Year. Phnom Prasith’s secret (well, not anymore) is a pre-Angkorian wat (temple) – or what’s left of it – tucked away on top of a hill.

The three pictures above remind me of the temples in Angkor Wat. Overgrown by trees and bushes, the temple evoked the same mystery as that of Angkor Wat. Imagine how many temples like this are found not far from Phnom Penh?

Inside the temple is a make-shift altar built in between two huge boulders. According to the temple-keeper, below the altar is a tunnel spanning 16kms., connecting this wat to Phnom Oudong. It must have served as a secret passageway to a rendezvous or trysts during the old times. We saw where it is – it is big. And dark. No one dared to check it out.

It was very quiet, sunny, but not too hot, when we got out after a tour inside the wat. Feeling a little bit like Indiana Jones, we explored the area further. There’s this old stupa that caught my attention. It was old and left untended for years if I am not mistaken. I immediately took photos.

With the gnarly trees and withered surroundings, I sensed something was in the air and stopped in my tracks. Something mystical was blowing through this part of the woods and it sent shivers down to my spine. I had goosebumps and I felt the hair on the back of my neck stood on its end. I hastened my steps to catch up with my husband. I was half-walking, half-running towards him thinking about the area being  guarded by spirits when I got distracted by this black thing a few feet away from me, protruding from the withered leaves carpeting the  ground.

It’s a broken piece of something… maybe a part of the old stupa. Who knows how long it has been laying around there. If you’d look closer, you can actually see some details on it. They’re lotus petals, I’m sure of that.

It’s been two months since our visit there but up to now I can still remember that eerie encounter in the woods. I wonder what it was. Some adventure, eh?

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NB: All pictures first appeared on my photo blog, Inside Cambodia.

Suosdei Chhnam Thmey!

Here we are again celebrating the Khmer New Year.
With three celebrations for a good year – the International New Year, Chinese New Year, and now the Khmer New Year – it should come alright!

This year, the New Year started last Sunday, at past 2am. At that very precise moment, the drumbeats and prayers from every wat across the country ushered in the New Year and welcomed the new batch of Thevaddas. At home, local folks stayed up late to wait for this moment and lit incense sticks as thanksgiving.

A huge, elaborately-designed sign set along the roundabout near the Japanese bridge reminds everyone of the holidays.
An empty Russian Boulevard, taken this afternoon.

For most expats, this is one of the most anticipated holidays of the year because the capital is quiet and all roads lead to the countryside where most Phnom Penh residents are from. The roads in Phnom Penh are empty and most business establishments and shops are closed for the holidays, too.

I can imagine the hordes of Phnom Penhois who went back to their hometowns taking part in the merrymaking and revelry amidst loud music. For us expats who opted to stay behind in Phnom Penh, it is a very quiet and nice time to be, really. As Phnom Penh has progressed, the traffic problem worsened and it is a huge, welcome relief when the Khmer New Year comes.

We took advantage of this holiday to have as much rest and recreation (read: sleeping and catching up on our readings or just be reaaaaaaaally lazy) as much as we can. Also, because of this holiday, I feverishly toiled on my blog theme so that I welcomed the New Year with a new blog look. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed? The tangerine and emerald colour just matches the beginning of the clay season in tennis 😉

The celebration ends tomorrow but for most local folks, holiday extends to several days more. For us, thought, it’s back to regular work/routine tomorrow.

Of spaces, illusions and colours

I think it was in the last days of November or early December when I noticed that the long stretch of pristine white wall of the French Embassy along Monivong Boulevard (just before the roundabout leading to the Japanese bridge) was no more.

The embassy’s outer wall has been filled with a colourful series of photographs, much to my delight.  They were pleasing to the eyes! Then it suddenly hit me. It’s the time of the year again… it’s the Photo Phnom Penh Festival! So I hurriedly snapped photos of the wall even if I was in a moving vehicle. Only these two came out decently:

This photo was originally uploaded to my photo-blog.

I had to do some edits on the photos because otherwise they don’t do justice to the mural. When I first took photos of the wall, there was no information yet about who the artist is.

This photo was originally uploaded to my photo-blog.

I later learned that the Photo Phnom Penh Festival opened last week, on Dec 8. When I passed by the Embassy again just this week, the information on the artist, Georges Rousse, was already there.

Here’s a brief bio about this talented monsieur:

Born in 1947, Georges Rousse discovered photography at age 9, when he received a Kodak Brownie flash camera that he still uses. Also a painter, a sculptor and an architect, he is especially fond of abandoned places, whose space he makes his own. The author of numerous personal and collective works, Rousse has unceasingly traveled the world: New York, London, Vienna, Montreal, Arles, Milan, Islanbul, Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona, Tokyo, Bhaktapur (Nepal), Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, Phnom Penh, Brussels, Jerusalem, Bangkok, Geneva, etc.

His artworks on display demonstrate plays of space, of visual illusions, of colours that redesign the world, of a viewpoint assertion. A jubilant reflection on how we are trapped by image and by perspective and a proposal for an ongoing re-reading of architecture, of abandonment or obsolescence, to which theme he gives new life. On this occasion, he’s back in Phnom Penh especially to complete a new image, “Phnom Penh 2012.”Source

I have yet to go see the other photo exhibits. {Note to self: bring Miss Iggy. She loves photo exhibits, too.}The works of other participating local and foreign artists are exhibited in other locations like the MetaHouse, Institut Français du Cambodge, Sisowath Quay, just to name a few. Click here for the complete list of venues. The exhibit runs until the end of December.

Last year, I was also able to take a photo of the Embassy wall filled with the works of Denis Darzacq as part of PPPF 2011. I really admire talented people such as him and Georges Russo as well as the the initiative behind the yearly PPPF.

Funny lawn signs and more

Hey there. I’m back.I was very busy running errands these days that I’ve lost track of time.
Oh, dear me, when you are utterly busy you don’t actually have the time to be conscious about time itself. I know it sounds cliché but what can I do – it does apply to me these days. Oh, and I can already see December waving back enthusiastically around the corner. Glad, I didn’t trip on one of the lawn signs and hurt myself while waving back!

So how is everyone? I hope you are ready for the coming holiday rush. The signs of Christmas are slowly appearing here in the Penh. Christmas trees were already put up by a few of my Pinoy friends here. Choirs and carolers started recruiting members and issuing practice schedules. Christmas decors are now being put up in stores. Now that makes me really homesick 🙁

Speaking of signs…
I caught a glimpse of this shop sign at the mall that made my husband rush towards it like Hussain Bolt would.

Real men wear “Man Jeans”. Chos.

Errmm, it’s not the discount rate, my friends. It’s the sign that says “Man Jeans”. You see, my husband has long been in need of a new pair and finding that “Man Jeans” in the Penh is rather difficult. The “Man Jeans” here, we found out, were not really in “men’s sizes” nor were for men in the first place. The waist is high and the sizes are too small for a man; not a single one even fit me. Finding a pair of jeans for an adult here is quite a challenge in a sea of trendy, slashed, acid-washed and low-waist jeans. Definitely a misleading sign here. Or something is lost in translation?

I’ve traveled a lot in the past. During my travels, inside the country or abroad, I have seen a lot of signs with laugh out loud funny names or misspelled words, or just plain funny contents, in neon signs, hand-painted signs, the whole lot! They are everywhere – posted to utility poles/posts or written on building walls while others that are more common in the US and other countries are homemade lawn signs.

Here are some photos I collected from google image search to show you how funny some lawn signs are:

Ja, ja, ja, ja!
Signs of ageing.

Please drop me a line if the pics above are yours. I’ll put the necessary  acknowledgement.

Here in Cambodia, hand-painted signs are still found everywhere despite the increasing demand for its  rival, the more professional-looking, digitally-produced signs. In particular, I am referring to the hand-painted outdoor advertising signs in Cambodia. These signs have a kind of quirkiness and retro vibe in them that speaks to me. I don’t know why I’m drawn to them. Maybe it’s the old-school techniques used in the making of the sign? Or, perhaps, it is the nostalgia of a by-gone era?

Here, see some of them:

local print ad
Dental services. Found along the national road that leads to Kep province.
buddhism and forestry2
A well-made billboard with an environmental message.
A money-laundering venue it is not! This was spotted near the Russian market in Phnom Penh.

And here are other signs that I’ve seen while out and about:

Four-legs inn…? Errmm, pretty clever name for a motel.
To the specious someone only!
ohmyjuice@!
A restaurant menu. The translation might be off but don’t you just love the way your smoothies are named?
chinese sign
I want to include this one from China. A warning not to be taken lightly.

I’m quite fascinated by all the signs I see here in Cambodia to the point that I’ve began consciously taking photos of them wherever I go and post them to my photo blog (which is insidecambodia.net) 🙂

I do wish hand-painted signs won’t disappear completely in Cambodia. I truly do. Sure, one can say that digitally-produced ones have better quality and saves time. Yes, I recognise that but hopefully they don’t replace everything in Cambodia. It’s one of the endearing reasons that make the country the Kingdom of wonder.

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This is a sponsored post, however, the points and views are my own.

Photo Hunt 078: Hands

Storm Gaemi has landed in Phnom Penh today and it’s been raining non-stop. We are bracing for more rains over the weekend. I hope the it doesn’t rain too much, otherwise, some parts of the city will be under water again.

So, when the weather’s cool and rainy, all I want to do is lay in my bed with a thrilling and very engrossing book (left, it is included in Oprah’s Book Club’s picks in September 2000) on my hands while listening to the sound of the raindrops; that I almost forgot to post my Photo Hunt entry this week.So without further ado, let’s go to the photo now – here is my entry:

Children as young as the ones in the picture learn the basic Khmer hand gestures. Please note that this photo was taken by my brother, JEDAiMAGES. Published with permission.

Khmer classical dances are characterised by slow, graceful movements. To achieve this perfection, it requires rigid techniques that demand flexibility and control of movements.

According to this site:

In classical dance the movements require a command of techniques, which demand flexibility, accuracy, and control of movements. With fingers curved backwards, an arching spine, bent knees, and toes flexed upwards, the fully grounded dancer moves with precise balance and divine grace.

To those who dream of becoming classical dancers, they train at a very early age.
They perform exercises that the joints in their hands become very flexible. Watch how they curve their fingers when watching Cambodian classical dances. Dancers make these gestures for hours and hours. It’s part of what makes classical dance so special and unique and difficult to perform. (Source)

I found a video showing the four basic hand gestures of Khmer classical dance. These hand movements are used combined with dozens of postures and movements in a dance. Here’s the video, hope you’ll find it informative:

YouTube Preview Image

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Photo Hunt 077: Escape

Today, at the Barcamp Phnom Penh, I spent the whole day wearing my geek hat. It’s a big gathering of Internet and technology geeks from near and far at the University of Puthisastra. I think it is also a collective excuse to wear our geek pride in our sleeves and escape to geek heaven.

Alrighty, geeks. Follow the sign.

Group pictures from here on…

Live blogging and tweeting is the order of the day.
A lot of participants like this. Btw, coffee there is free-flowing as well.

Some more pictures from the Barcamp Phnom Penh Facebook Page:

Nexus-7-Front-ViewAnd while BarCamp Phnom Penh is sort of a convention of geeks, hackers and techno-preneurs, I am not surprised to see that a lot of the participants are owners of the latest models of gadgetry – smartphones, tablets (like this one on the right), laptops, as well as digital cameras, both the point-and-shoot and the kick*ss DSLRs used by professionals. Looking at my trusty, old point-and-shoot digicam and AcerOne laptop, I feel so inferior in the sea of tablets, DSLRs, and smartphones. Lol. I want one similar to this.

Eventhough I have this great interest in technology and in how people use and get benefit from it (I was even involved in a rural ICT Project in the country), it is only the first time today that I attended the BarCamp Phnom Penh. I did receive invitations since its first event but somehow I didn’t get to participate. I was happy to meet a few bloggers and people in my Facebook and Twitter lists IRL. Today, I shook hands with a few of them whose names I only attach mental images of, like Bun Tharum and Santel Phin of Khmerbird.com.

For more interpretations of the theme “escape”, please head over to the Photo Hunt‘s main page.  Please click the link or the logo below. Thank you.

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