A Travellerspoint blog

1 Dec Jasmine's village and the Silk Farm

Sunday, 1st December

sunny 32 °C

Today Danielle and I are going to visit Jasmine's village. Her sister lives there with two little children and her husband.I have met them before and they are darling - the kids too. I thought we would bicycle there, but Kosa, the husband, arrived on his motorbike and away we went with him.
We arrived in the village, about 10 km from downtown Siem Reap

We reached Kosa's house to find Jasmine there already and holding her new little 6 week old niece. A baby who never cries - Danielle just loved that. Cosa is wonderful to talk to and when asked, he told us about the well building that he has been doing over the last 6 - 8 years. He has just completed several within the Angkor Wat area, where a number of families have always lived - without wells. He has also been involved in an English language school - well, that is a classroom. He promised that he would take us there to see it. We played with the baby and tried to speak with Visilili, the 5 year old little girl, but she was too shy. We sat on a raised platform and had an unusual lunch of mussels and fish and spicy hot vegetables. Not anywhere as good as the crickets I ate when I visited in January. Danielle was relieved, because she had lost a bet and had promised to eat crickets. In talking with Kosa, I found out that he had been a monk for twelve years. His father had let him start when he was 10, because the family was poor and Kosa wanted to study to make something of his life. I learned about the monk's day and purpose - to be harmonious and bring peace to people that they spent part of every day visiting. A number of hours of study was done every day. I was shown Kosa's "monk identification papers" (for lack of the correct terminology). He really is a patient and peaceful person.

I'm sitting with the baby, her mom, sister Visilili, and her dad Kosa.

Danielle loves sitting with this little baby who just never cries!

A happy little person!

Visilili is a bit suspicious about sharing her little sister.

This really is a beautiful family.

Jasmine is doing the wash-up while the rest of us play with Visilili's baby sister.

Jasmine always has a smile for everyone. (Beside her is one of the pumps that Kosal has put in in his community.)

Kosa's wife does everything so cheerfully - even stepping into the pig's pen to clean up.

After a relaxing hour, we bid goodbye and found we had 2 motorbikes with drivers to visit the wells and classroom. Kosa's neighbour had agreed to take me there for a very few dollars. I hopped on the back of Kosa's bike, and was engaged in conversation as we rode towards Angkor Wat. We were let in to the area with Kosa - no fees- as we are sort of tourists, but not really. We took a back pathway behind the famous temple and discovered very basic housing. Kosa was greeted warmly by several people we met, and he showed us a number of the wells that he had installed. I told him that I was happy to pay for one.

Here Danielle is trying her hand at pumping the well that Kosa installed two months ago for three families living behind the Angkor Wat Temple.

We went on following a small dirt path until we came to the "School". It is a one roomed building made out of thatched walls and a tall steel roof. The desks are well built, and anchored to the cement floor, perhaps so that they will not be repurposed! There is now someone who I believe is from Belgium and who teaches the kids every day. Kosa seems to have managed to make that happen. I enjoyed speaking with Kosa, but as our other driver spoke no English, I thought Danielle would like to swap. We did so and continued on.

This is the school where local children learn English.

It is well built. The room is cool and airy, and has sturdy desks.

Danielle is told that the thatch that makes up the walls comes from the palm trees around the school.

Further along Kosa asked Danielle if she would like to see elephants. You know the answer. We came upon them in a large shady enclosure. They seemed to be simply standing around and eating. These elephants often walk around the temple with a trained rider on their back. I believe they take tourists on rides. Danielle was disappointed that she didn't get a chance to feed these animals.

As we rode along the path we were impeded. It seems like a water buffalo figured he had the right of way here on the path. Do you see him in the shadow?

There were about twelve elephants in the enclosure.

I believe Danielle was contemplating stepping over the fence to go and visit the elephants.

Here we are heading away from Angkor Wat. You can see the temples of this world heritage site in the background.

On our way home Kosa turned off the road to a temple. We drove into the grounds and passed by a shrine to the victims of the Khmer Rouge atrocities of the 1970's.

We drove around the grounds of the temple. Kosa told us that this is where he spent a large part of his twelve years as a monk.

We were certainly enjoying ourselves, but knew we had to go. We had booked a tuk tuk driver for 3:00 to visit the silk farm. Kosa took us back to our hotel with time to spare. I happened to ask him about getting a cell phone for Cambodia. No problem: "Hop on the bike, and we can get one right now." We drove about two blocks away and spoke to a Chinese man with a hairy mole on his face (A SIGN OF LUCK!). I bought a new Nokia for $21 and a sim card for phoning Canada for 10 bucks. It is working beautifully,and has crystal clear reception. Over the week I called Canada and England quite a few times, and there is still plenty of money remaining on the sim card. (Eat your heart out Bell Mobility and Rogers!) Back to the hotel, and we parted company warmly. I will visit his family again when I am here next. He said he will show me the well I helped with.

A few hours later, heading to the silk farm .....

Our driver, Kolab, had driven me in from the airport, and Danielle, too. He had arrived with a tuk tuk, and soon we set out to the silk farm. We arrived at the entrance gate of "Artisans Angkor" and were told there is no entrance fee. Danielle and I were greeted by a young man who said that he would show us through all the stages of silk making. If he is like the last young person who guided me through here two years ago, he will be well worth tipping. The labour intensive production of silk is fascinating. The pictures will tell much of the story.

The whole process of silk making starts with silkworms. Here they are munching away on mulberry leaves.

So that they can be harvested easily, the silkworms are allowed to spin their cocoons on these baskets rather than in the branches of mulberry bushes.

Our young guide shows us how the silk filaments are unravelled from the cocoons.

The filaments from twenty or so silkworms are twisted together to make "single" silk threads that will be used in the manufacture of silk cloth.

This is the chrysalis stage of the silkworm, with its silken cocoon removed. It has a nice buttery taste, and is eaten as a snack in the countryside.

Bits and pieces of debris have to be picked out of the skeins of silk thread.

Skeins of silk are dyed and then spun onto spools so that they can be used in weaving the cloth.

Alternatively, silk threads can be tied and then dyed to produce coloured threads to be used in weaving certain patterns in the silk cloth.

The "warp" threads are put in place by hand. With as many as 450 threads per inch, this process requires speedy and deft hands,

Weaving is then done at a dizzying pace.

The shuttle flies back and forth as the position of the warp threads are changed by feet pressing on treadles.

One of the last steps in silk making: The fringe or tassels on the ends of a silk scarf are twisted by hand.

Next time you look at silk, you might notice the delicate pattern of the threads, in addition to the colours woven into the cloth.

I did a bit of research on the silk farm, which is part of Artisans Angkor. Decades of war, culminating in the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge era from 1975-1979, created a severe disruption in education and resulted in the deaths of more than 90% of Cambodia’s artists. Artisans Angkor is a Cambodian social business whose purpose is to create job opportunities for young people living in rural areas, while reviving traditional Khmer craftsmanship. The company, whose story began in 1992, regularly provides young Cambodians aged from 18 to 25 years-old with free vocational training. The compensated training period lasts from 6 to 9 months and at the end of this apprenticeship, the trainees are granted the status of “artisans”. If they wish to, they can then integrate Artisans Angkor where an employment opportunity is guaranteed to them.
In 2013, Artisans Angkor employed more than 1300 people, of whom 900 are craftsmen and women working in 48 different workshops situated in the Siem Reap Province. The company provides a higher salary compared to the average wages in the sector and provides its employees with medical insurance and other social advantages.

It has been a complete day, and my head is feeling full, but Danielle's tummy is not. Tonight we found and ate at a Mexican restaurant called Viva! Tasty and of course, a good price. We didn't stroll the city this evening. We headed back to the hotel. Our arrangement to go to the nightclub with Khamera was postphoned. He had been too tired, and just as well, as we were happy to have an early night.

Posted by Sue McNicholas 20:18 Archived in Cambodia

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