Friday, June 15, 2012

Cambodian Cultural Village

Cambodia post!

So, what else is there to do/visit in Siem Reap aside from the much acclaimed Angkor temples? Well, honestly although Siem Reap is well known for their gorgeous ancient Angkor temples, but in case you are no fan of the Angkor temples or you just felt so templed out you want to go somewhere that is not temple related, the Cambodian Cultural Village is an attractive alternative. The Cambodian Cultural Village is a gigantic melting pot of Cambodian culture where one will get to enjoy various traditional Cambodian dances and ceremonies all right at the heart of Siem Reap.  But of course, I still think anyone who drops by Siem Reap without at least leaving their footprints at the Angkor Wat is commiting a huge travel sin.

The cultural village starts their performances at 11 am daily but there will be a long lunch break in between after the first performance (and nearby there's no tourist attraction or any shopping spots) hence Sophea suggested that we go only after the lunch break so that we can then enjoy a series of performances straight.

Hence, after a good local breakfast, we decided to stop by one of the school more in the outskirts of the town and pay the children there a visit. Sophea told us that the best way to give out/donate things to the people is by giving it to them personally instead of donating cash and belongings to some of the larger, established NGOs as he claimed that some of these NGOs only pockets the money and did not use them as how they were meant for; to help the local community.

The school that we went to is an one session one and as it was near to lunch time when we were there, almost all the kids were out of the classroom ; running around, jumping, chasing each other and playing games- without the presence of any teachers or any adults to be exact. It was like the whole school was only filled with laugher from children, no teachers, no adults to restrict their playing time. And of course it was a perfect timing for us to distribute our little gifts and to mingle with them.

At 2pm sharp, all of them scurried back to their classrooms and waited for their teacher obediently
While they were shy at first, they warmed up to us pretty fast and soon were fighting to pose in front of the camera
The older girls - age between 13-15. Well, in Cambodia there is no compulsory age to start school like our country, so the 13 and 15 years olds can be found studying the same syllables
The school

After the short school detour, we moved on to the cultural village. There is an entrance fee of USD 11 but I think it is totally worth it as they really take efforts in making each performance as entertaining as possible with their elaborate costumes and make ups, graceful dance steps and good acting skill. Each performance lasts about 30 minutes and for some performances, they have different shows for different days.
Entrance to the cultural village
The first performance was in their mini theater. I know this very much looked like a rice harvesting kinda performance but it was in fact a dance show entitled 'The Immortal Life of Khmer Soul'
The lead actress/ dancer in the dance show
The hallmark hay hut that can be seen in the countryside of Cambodia
A miniature of the floating villages that I had visited on the Tonle Sap lake

Our next stop was to the 'Billionaire House' where a Khmer Wedding Ceremony took place. According to the narrator, this kind of Khmer wedding ceremony are usually only affordable by the rich and famous such as billionaires or the royalties. The normal Khmer wedding ceremony is of course much less extravagant than the one performed. 
The bride and her parents before the arrival of the groom. The eating bananas by the bride's father is seriously part of the wedding ceremony
The groom arrived. And in case you wonder why does the groom looked so un-Cambodianish, that's because he was a random audience picked to be part of this performance
The unsuspecting groom learning how to behave like a real Khmer groom got everyone laughing
There was this one part where they sprinkled rice as part of a blessing over the newly wed. The experience bride knew how to keep her eyes low whilst the groom excitingly looked straight and got his eyes stung by the showering rice
So after the rice sprinkling and some prayers and blessings, the groom got to take his bride for a walk while holding on to the cape of her wedding dress. I know sounds so weird that it's the cape and not the veil
More people from the audience floor being invited to joined in their dance after the wedding ceremony and HT was one of them
The gigantic laughing icon that can be found around the cultural village
Do we look the same? :)
Then, we moved on to the Chinese Village to watch their Chinese dances and even the Chinese lion dance
The butterfly couple
The familiar lion dance and 'big-head' doll
The fourth performance that we watched that day was the 'Peacock Dance'. It has nothing to do with Katy Perry's Peacock song, their Peacock Dance is more cultural inclined and even involved some acrobatic movements. The guy of attraction between the two ladies is the peacock hunter. And like the wedding ceremony, they invited a lady from the audience to take part in this performance
The nimble 'snakes'
The peacocks
The queen peacock

Part of the crew to our next show- 'Choosing Fiance'. Yes, it was really interesting and light-hearted to watch the Cambodian men compete to get the hand of the charming lady
A : Choose me
B : Nah, come on, me
C : Shussh the both of you, it's me of course!
But their lady decided to go for a Korean audience instead! Awww.
The ceremony to their engagement
There was always some time between each performances, so we also got the chance to walk around the cultural village and look at their other replicas and miniatures of famous landmarks around Cambodia. This is the big theater with a replica of the Angkor Wat as it's backdrop. Only during Fridays, Sats and Suns, they will have a performance here at night
A very energetic Khantremming dance

Our last show of the day was the 'Rice Praying'. Like many Asian countries, rice is a staple Cambodian food, so some tribes in Cambodia have a rice praying ceremony at the beginning of the rice season to ask for good harvest.
The rice praying crew
It was definitely good spending a whole day absorbing in their performances and ceremonies, taking break from temples hopping and temples visiting. I really like how they work at their best to make their performances entertaining and how multi-talented the performers are. If you are vigilant enough, you would had noticed a lot of the performers were repetitive, which means they need to know not only one but multiple dances. And of course, having a cultural village is an excellent idea to make it convenient for tourists especially to learn and understand more about the various local cultures and ceremonies. :)

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3 fondue dips :

Very interesting and informative indeed, will definitely keep this in my to visit list if I have the chance to visit Cambodia (: Thanks for sharing!

haha cute school kids! and wow they got performance sumore!

Hilda : Welcome girl. Def worth a drop by when in Siem Reap :)

Henry : Yea they do and pretty much talented indeed :)