Moat Khla ovenight and Sky Burials

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Alison giving

Alison giving a mosquito net to a needy family

Middle of May 2010 I had a request for a family to go to several Tonle Sap villages including Kompong Phluk, Kompong Khleang and a homestay overnight in  Moat Khla.  Requests to visit this isolated lake community of Moat Khla are rare and overnight stays by tourists; unheard of.

Moat Khla is a floating village in Kompong Thom Province, two hours by boat from Kompong Khleang; where we base our Lake tours.  We ran this lake adventure on the 17th and 18th August. I had been here only a handful of times before.

Kompong Khleang

Kompong Khleang a wide view in flood season

The stilt village of Kompong Khleang is itself an unusual destination. Peace of Angkor has been operating tours there since the end of 2004. Over 20,000 people live here in a fishing community which until 2008 was virtually untouched by tourism.

In five years I have seen big changes due to the improving infrastructure, road links, power supply and cell phone network. In the last two years a modest number of tour boats have been organized as a co-operative by the villagers themselves.  From an eco tourism development point of view; the concept of the local people managing their resource is something to be applauded.  Money generated by this goes into the local community and not big corporations. The relatively small numbers of visitors that do come here have not yet caused the negative aspects of begging and scams which have plagued the Chong Khneas boat port.

Moat Khla is a very different place; being a floating village which has no road links. Its waterborne existence is totally dependent on fishing and the flow of the Tonle Sap Lake system. The 1500 population are relatively poor and forgotten.

grey haired woman

Grey haired woman at Moat Khla

Allison Allen, her partner John and family kindly donated blankets, mosquito nets; books pens and toys for over 30 needy families. Mt Hok arranged for some of the poorest villagers to come to his home and distribute these items.

Tom and Natasha giving

Tom and Natasha giving to poor villagers at Kompong Khleang

His home is transformed into a clinic when the Tonle Sap Lake Clinic boat (TLC) visits. Poor families in remote areas are unable to get to doctors; so the TLC boat which is run by the Norwegian charity IMPACT travels around the Tonle Sap to give free treatment to lake villagers.

On a previous visit by me in 2008 the TLC Boat staffed by two Norwegian Doctors Mette and Stein were here. They had been called out on the way to a family with a dying teenage boy. Tragically they were unable to save him. Sadly his illness could have been treated had it been diagnosed earlier.  There is no cremation site here; so the old practice of Sky Burials, where the bodies are placed in trees and letting nature take its course is carried out.

This time we were staying at the home of Mr Hok the Commune officer; so we were hopeful to  be able to get the chance to see one of the few places in Cambodia where sky burials area still carried out

Mr Hoks home is a large but simple floating house open on 3 sides with a sleeping room for the family at one end and a kitchen area at the other.

Mr Hok told us that n tourists have come to Moat Khla this year(and probably none since our last visit at the end of 2008).

I asked about Sky Burials. He told me they are still carried out. Families place the corpse in the trees in a wrap made from a rattan mat. Wealthier families have a wooden coffin covered in plastic sheet. These are left for at least 1 year and the remains are cremated, some of the poorer families wait up to three years before they can afford a decent cremation

The government wants to stop the procedure. This can only be achieved if a cremation platform is built.

Mr Hok accompanied us in the boat to the sky burials place.  The area was less than a kilometre from the main village. We could only get a short way into the mangroves as our boat was too big. We could clearly see a new coffin wrapped in plastic and a small rattan wrap of containing the remains of a child. There had been several more here until a few weeks ago, but these remains had been removed for cremation.

Sky coffin

A coffin of one of the wealthier families waiting for cremation when the water levels drop.

We returned to Mr Hoks home and then returned to Siem Reap via Kompong Khleang.

It was a rewarding two days and the generosity and kindness shown by Alison and her family was very touching.  Thanks very much. You are very special people; myself and the villagers remember your kindness for a long time!

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12th August 15, 2010 the start of a very busy week after a quiet few weeks. I took 3 of our guides on  a day of photography around Angkor. There is something of an irony here that I a westerner should be driving and taking 3 guides round the temples for a change!

Sorm Thet and Dave at Angkor

A photo training session at Angkor

There was a purpose for this; to brush up on their photographic knowledge of course. Ta needs no introduction to photography as he is often using my digital cameras.  However photography is a complex subject and even experts have something to learn   The opportunity of handling pro cameras is not something the other guys get very often.  Sorn has a small compact camera so leapt at the chance to use my D300. Thet cannot afford a digital camera; well he does have a young family to support nowadays. He started off with my Fuji S5 Pro which would be a daunting task for  many beginners. He was soon taking some very nice images as below.

Angkor Thom South Gate by thet

Thet took this beautifully composed shot of the South Gate of Angkor Thom framed by trees

Compared to a point and shoot an SLR looks complex; however the guys soon understood the main controls and I was taking them onto the territory of exposure compensation, white balance ISO and depth of field etc.

One of the main objectives was to gain a better understanding of composition which can sometimes be overlooked in favour of the technicalities. The weather was disappointing, cloudy in the morning turning to drizzle in the afternoon? We did get the odd patch of sunlight; enough to demonstrate the use of a polarizer a get some light on those enigmatic Bayon faces.

Vishnu by Sorn

A great shot by Sorn: well composed and lit with perfect positioning of the figure, parasol and the sweep of the 8 arms.

Bayion face from lower level

Ta found us this unusual view from the lower level of Bayon.

Bayon reflected

A shot by Sorn of The Bayon and geese on the pool that forms in the wet season

The areas we covered were Angkor Thom and Bayon and Angkor Wat. It was very rewarding to so some nice shots from all three of them!

Bayon shrine

Thet took this nicely exposed and balanced shot of one of the shrines at the Bayon.

It seemed very strange to me with no camera round the neck; but It was probably a good ideas to  have a few shots of my ugly mug for a change. The end result was very positive.  I have included some of Ta  Sorn and Thets best shots from the session here.

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