Posts Tagged With: culture

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Trigger warning: This post contains graphic images of body piercing and mutilation. Proceed with caution.

Did I get your attention? I thought I should come back to the blogging world with a bang. 

I’ve been away for a long time, and much has happened since my last post. Two major events mark the return of Angkor Away:

1. We moved to Phuket, Thailand.

2. I got an iPhone. 

The former was an incredibly busy time of packing up our home, visiting the embassy to make our visas, and transitioning our jobs. The latter just means that I now can blog anywhere, anytime. It’s infinitely easier to take pictures and post them to WordPress now, as opposed to uploading the images from a camera and typing up a formal post on my laptop. I’ll miss my standard Nokia brick phone with its black and white screen and games of Snake, but at least I’ve joined the 21st century. 

So my first post back is about the vegetarian festival of Phuket. A couple hundred years ago, a Chinese opera group came to Phuket and fell sick with malaria.  They prayed to the Chinese gods, ate a strict vegetarian diet for one week, and miraculously overcame the fatal disease. Today, Phuket still celebrates this moment in history as an invocation to the 9 Chinese gods for protection from evil. 

How do they invoke the gods? Gnarly body piercings.

I got up at 6am yesterday and went to my loca shrine to see the morning ritual. Thai people were there in droves. Incense was burning, drums were pounding, it was surreal. I’ll let my pictures explain the rest.

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Categories: Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Visiting Yoot’s Village: An Hour Out Of Phnom Penh

Happy May! I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but it’s been over 100° every day here in Phnom Penh. Yep, 100°. Humidity, you ask? Isn’t it also humid in Southeast Asia? A simple Google search informs me that humidity is currently at 62%. 

100° Fahrenheit with 62% humidity. If you don’t know much about science—like me—let me fill you in. The hotter the air is, the more water it can contain. As the temperature rises, the humidity will feel worse, even at the same percentage. So, 40% humidity feels a lot worse when the air is 80 degrees than when it’s 45 degrees. Here’s a screenshot of Accuweather’s “Real Feel” for the current weather in Phnom Penh:

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And if that STILL doesn’t make sense, let me explain it this way. Turn on your shower. Crank the heat up as high as it will go. Close the door to your bathroom. Walk away. Enter your bedroom. Put on the following garments: wool socks, sweatpants, turtleneck, snuggie, gloves, scarf, hat. Next, complete fifty-five jumping jacks. After the jumping jacks have been completed, locate your one of the following items: cooking oil, vaseline, Chapstick, or mayonnaise.  Rub selected item all over any exposed parts of your body. (Presumably your face.) After all of the above events, approximately twenty minutes should have passed. Return to your bathroom. Is the shower still cascading steaming water out of the faucet? Has the room become a sauna of mist and heat? Good. Shut the bathroom door. Sit on the floor of the bathroom. Close your eyes. Imagine palm trees.

 

But this blog isn’t all about the current heat situation of Cambodia. It is about the time we visited our friend’s village. It was a special day. Our first village visit, actually. And while the heat can melt my ice cream, it can’t melt my memories. (Thank you, thank you. I perform every Thursday.)

Our friends, Sarah and Yoot, invited us to Yoot’s village, located an hour’s drive outside of Phnom Penh. Yoot’s mother was holding a ceremony for her husband who has passed away. While he had passed away fifteen years ago, they didn’t have the large ceremony for him at that time. Now, even though years later, they held the large celebration on the anniversary of his death. Sean and I were flattered to be invited to go.

IMG_1208When we first arrived, we met friends and family. I handed my gift to the man receiving them, and in doing so received a blessing. The above photo is Yoot and I, about to hand my gift over to the man who was responsible for receiving them. As you can see, the woman in front of me is bowing to accept her post-gift blessing.

Another observation: Sarah asked us to wear a white top and black bottoms. Look how well I fit in!

 

IMG_1213We sat down to dinner shortly after arriving, and relaxed speaking with Sarah and Yoot. Family was everywhere, the sun was shining, and it was beautiful.
IMG_1214Yoot insisted on serving us, even though we asked him to sit and relax with us. He was pretty proud to host us on his home turf. He grew up in the house on the left, with the steps heading out of the photo. He and Sarah live in Phnom Penh and have for quite some time, and he said he loves to visit his home and share it with others. (Sean wanted me to mention how handsome Yoot is. Isn’t he a handsome man?)

 

IMG_1219And OH WOW, the food was fantastic! Truly. Fresh grilled fish, steamed rice, roast duck, sweet porridge, and deep-fried coconut rice for dessert. The fish was grilled to perfection. It was a divine combination of tastes and textures.

 

IMG_1222After dinner, we walked around the village a bit. (I told you we were well-dressed!) Yoot showed us the fish farm, where his family raises fish to sell in the city. They dug the well themselves, irrigated it with a nearby stream, and now have a lucrative fish business. They transport live fish into Phnom Penh every morning, where Yoot’s sister sells them at Orussey Market.

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1526429_627595060660675_801304591_nThe chanting went on all evening, with intervals of music. We knelt on the mats, hands folded in prayer, and took part in the ceremony for Yoot’s father.

 

IMG_1235Sean snapped a few photos of the instruments, which were absolutely fascinating.

IMG_1238And, of course, a Khmer party is not a party without dancing! We finished the evening with a few dances, which ranged from contemporary Khmer artists to American music from this decade. We didn’t want to leave, but we knew we had an hour’s drive back into the city ahead of us.

I can’t wait for another opportunity to visit Yoot’s family and village. It was amazing to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city, talk with lovely people, and relax with friends.

But maybe the temperature will have to drop a bit before we venture out of A/C again…

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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