Banging around Battambang…..seeing the sights on our last day in town.

Woman cutting bamboo and making sticky rice

Woman cutting bamboo and making sticky rice

On our last day we hired a tuk tuk and asked our driver to show us some of the non-tourist areas of the city.  We started out along the river and headed north to see some of the villages on the outskirts of town.  This is where the day to day stuff of life goes on…making fish paste, roasting sticky rice, drying locally caught fish in the sun, weaving, sewing …just living!

Sticky rice in bamboo cooking over a low fire

Sticky rice in bamboo cooking over a low fire

Our first stop was to visit a lady who makes sticky rice for sale in and around town.  She cuts sections of bamboo and cleans out the interior while leaving the sectional divider in place so it can be stuffed with sticky rice and whatever fruit or seasoning is wanted.  The bamboo holder is sealed and the sections are then roasted over a wood fire till cooked.  Afterwards the charred outer skin of the bamboo is removed and they are ready to be sold for fifty cents.  To eat it you just start pealing down the thin bamboo skin and start pulling out globs of sweetly flavored sticky rice…a tasty treat.

Vats of fermenting fish paste

Vats of fermenting fish paste

Fish paste and dried fish are used in umpteen Cambodian dishes so its manufacture is a big cottage industry in the area.  Freshwater fish are caught in the nearby rivers and Tonal Sap Lake and are processed in the age old methods.  For fish paste the fish is ground and placed in large urns and crocks along with a brine solution that ferments the fish.  One does not need to hang a neon sign out saying Fish Fermentation Facility to know what goes on in the sheds located in the tiny village we visited…the nose knows.

Taking a break from fish paste

Taking a break from fish paste

One of the other ingredients used in soups is dried fish.  The fillets are removed from the fish and coated with seasoning and tomato paste before drying.  We saw the fish laid out on bamboo screens and placed in the sun till it was dried before being sold to the locals…somebody forgot to put the fly screens up the day we were there however…Ha!

Fish drying in the hot Cambodian sun

Fish drying in the hot Cambodian sun

Later that evening our tuk tuk driver took us the Phare Ponlue Selpak which is a visual and performing arts center for children.  Founded in 1994 and located in the extremely poor village called Anch Ann it has involved the whole village in its mission of providing social and educational activities such as music, theatre, arts, and video to the children of the area.

The site is like a campus these days with a library, classrooms, theater, and a circus school with a bamboo Big Top. They provide free education to 1,300 children and house 30 children in a residential center, some of whom are victims of human trafficking and others who are orphans.

Students perform in the Bamboo Big Top

Students perform in the Bamboo Big Top

The reason we were there that evening was for one of the twice weekly performances by students of the Circus School.  Opened in 1998 they now have over 130 students many of whom go on to study at other circus schools around the world.  The evening we were there about 150 people filled the Big Top and a group of children aged 14 to 17 performed juggling and acrobatic feats for the audience.  Was it the best performance of its kind…no…a lot of balls were dropped and sometimes the kids had trouble landing on the shoulders of the other acrobats.  But that being said, the kids were so infectiously enthusiastic in their performance and the cause is so worthwhile that I would encourage you to attend if you are in Battambang

 

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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6 Responses to Banging around Battambang…..seeing the sights on our last day in town.

  1. Claudia Hammer says:

    I’m so glad you went on a local tour so we could see what is going on behind the scenes so to speak.

  2. Libby Voyles says:

    This is really interesting. Thank you!

  3. Barbara Ray says:

    It is good to see even small villages investing in their young people. These acrobatic skills could also lead to Olympic events like gymnastics and platform diving. Were the Cambodians represented at the London Olympics this year?

  4. dan coffey says:

    the nose knows
    clever

  5. dan coffey says:

    you’re making me want to go to battanbang

  6. Catherine Joseph says:

    Larry, you are having the time of your life! It all looks so inviting, even the more run-down areas look so interesting. The Cambodian children are too cute, I am thrilled they are being taken care of and introduced to skills that will help them in the future. God bless, Cathy

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