Sunday, October 12, 2008
Kompong Cham for the P'chum Ben festival and the opportunity to pay respects to the ancestors of my good friend Sophoin and her family. In addition we completed a couple of road trips out into the countryside of her home province, with Sophoin driving the moto and myself as passenger, which always raises eyebrows, especially out in the sticks. To see a barang is unusual, but to see a barang on the back of a moto being driven by a beautiful Khmer girl, is something else. If they've seen barang before, it's usually all kitted out on a large and noisy dirt-bike roaring through the countryside without stopping. Despite being born and brought up in Kompong Cham city, Sophoin has seen precious little of her province as she now lives and works in Phnom Penh, and in reality, few Cambodians take time out to travel around their own locality. They are either simply too busy with their daily lives or not interested enough to explore what's in their own backyard. And if they do, they usually concentrate on the more traditional Khmer recreational pursuits like visiting waterfalls, rivers and anything to do with water. Seeking out old bits of stone, carvings or ruined prasats rates rather low on their activities' shopping list. So when we visited Wat Dei Doh, the largest pagoda in the city to honour her father and deceased ancestors, I was immediately attracted to two large sandstone lions that stand proudly in front of the main vihara, whilst the hundreds of Khmers surrounding me, paid no heed to them at all. I couldn't find out the prasat they'd come from but both are originals and judging by their upright stance, flashing teeth painted white for extra effect, mane and ornamented breastplate, they likely date from the late 12th century or Bayon period. Certainly an unexpected find. I must also state that Sophoin is not like a lot of Khmers. She loves to explore and to enjoy new places, new experiences. She's also developed a questioning attitude that is a great asset to me in my explorations and her help has elicited a lot more information at many sites than I would've otherwise found out.