Until next time, SR.

| 09:30 | My bed, Siem Reap

So that is it. Everything is either packed, being worn, donated, sold or thrown away. I didn’t have to sit on my suitcase to make it close, but it was a tough ask of the (new-ish) yellow beast. I enjoyed a good farewell at a favourite place with close friends last night, though a few were missing due to situations beyond either my or their control. They know who they are, and we said our goodbyes before. Sorry, this doesn’t feel right, I need to go somewhere with a bit more inspiration to write a proper adieu.

| 10:15 | The Hive, Siem Reap

I just walked into a great little café that I liked to spend time in between classes, and the owner just said “I’m honoured you chose to come here on your last morning! Thanks so much!”. I don’t think that’s a reflection of how much time and patronage I’ve given here, but more a true and accurate representation of this town I’ve called home for over half a year. Everyone is genuinely so friendly. People know the same people, yet the network of friendly faces seems infinite.

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The breakfast pavlova is just incredible.

This town can best be described as fluid. As I was told last night, Siem Reap will always be here, but it might not be exactly the same. The people change and move on, some come for a flying visit, some spend an extended period, special ones leave a mark on the town and the community, or so I’ve been told. Some leave with the promise of returning, and never do. Some leave with the promise they will never return but then turn up again a few months later. I have been asked numerous times “When are you coming back?”. This is a beautiful question because it makes the assumption that I will be returning. They take it for granted. This question has come from teachers and colleagues, both Khmer and expat; from kids at school; kids at the art class I helped set up; from the lady I get my fruit shakes from; my motodop man; staff at favourite restaurants and cafés; good friends; friends who are more like acquaintances; the list truly does go on, but I think you get the point. I will miss these people, these places and this time in my life. But I’m so lucky to have had them, shared them with Thierry and with the world (okay, this little blog doesn’t have THAT many followers, but once something is posted on the internet, it’s very difficult to get rid of it. It’s there forever… You could be reading this in 2018 or 2056. If so, hey there. Are we using hoverboards yet? There was a great film called Back to the Future, which incidentally I think inspired this belter of a tune by a band called Busted. Anyway, the movie predicted widespread hoverboard usage by 2015. It was wrong.).

In my naivety before I left the UK, when I was planning my trip, I completely underestimated how difficult it would be to leave a place. This sounds odd, right? I left home to go to uni and then I left my uni town to go back home. I went to live out in Malaysia for a few months, then I had to leave there to go back home. Are you seeing the pattern yet? At every point, it was a temporary change with a known expiration date, always with a stationary start and end location – home. Home being defined as the town and even the house that my parents live in. This is the first time I’ve left the UK for an extended period of time, moved from country to country, and this afternoon, from continent to continent, without an anchoring trip back home. And it is weird.

I’m going to go from one group of friends that I feel I know as well as my friends at home to another group. People I’ve known for years, decades, some my entire life. That’s not to say anything bad about those friendships I have with people in the UK. I’ve kept in touch with all the important people in my UK life, of course I have! I wouldn’t change them for the world and I have so many stories I want to share with them that haven’t made it into this blog. But friends you make travelling are different. Everyone you meet has a story to tell about why they have ended up in the place they have. The same place that you have ended up. Some people, like myself always planned for a certain country, a certain town or city. Some didn’t. But everyone knows the feeling of being in a place so far from where they were brought up. Everyone has a similar outlook on life however their own opinions may be very different; these people aren’t afraid to strike up a conversation with new people, to debate furiously, agree to disagree and then buy each other a drink. All in the space of one evening. You share so much with these people in such a short space of time that everything is concentrated. More intense.

| 14:22 | Siem Reap International Airport

Let me give you an example. If some person walked up and initiated a conversation with me whilst sitting in a café by myself in the UK, I’d first of all wonder what I was doing in a café solo, ‘cause that’s a bit weird, right? After I’ve gotten over that, I’d be questioning this person’s motives. If it was a guy, is he hitting on me? Is he a sleazebag? Does he have a bet going with his friends? Is he stalking me? If it was a girl, same questions plus a few more. Does she want to tell me I have toilet paper stuck to my shoe? None of these questions have even crossed my mind when talking to random people in random places. Just last night as I was on my way to my understated farewell dinner, I walked past these two ladies who looked a little lost. I heard the phrase “…over the river?” and stopped, smiled, asked them what they were looking for and pointed them in the right direction. They said thanks and went on their way. If you did that in London, you’d get berated for eavesdropping and then be told to remove yourself forcibly whilst inserting some pointy object up an orifice.

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Questions: 1. Who wears heels on an aeroplane? 2. Who sits like that? Answers: 1. Only idiots do. 2. Only idiots who want to ruin their high heels do.

| 19:10 | Kuala Lumpar International Airport 2 (KLIA2)

Okay, so I didn’t make friends with those ladies, I knew I was heading to Melbourne today and in any case, they were clearly tourists, hanging out in town for a week, maybe two tops, but little interactions like these are commonplace. I don’t think twice about looking sympathetically at a mother whose child is playing up, then sticking my tongue out to make the kid stop wailing and maybe crack a smile. Or rolling my eyes at a waiter in a little restaurant when a customer wants a fruit shake with 4 mixed fruits but isn’t willing to pay an extra 50cents, even if their monthly salary in the States is on a par with what that waiter will be lucky to make in six months.

I swap phone numbers with people far more readily than I ever did before because it’s easier to give someone a quick call than try to wait until you have wifi and send them a Facebook message, hope that they’re online at the same time and get a response within a reasonable amount of time.

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THIS is airport food. No polystyrene containers here. KLIA2 is an awesome airport.

As I’m sitting here people-watching, having finished my claypot chicken rice meal, with over two hours to spare, I’m thinking about all the people I’ve met since 30 December 2015 and excited to think of who else I’m going to meet along the way. Oh yeah, and in answer to that question “When are you coming back?”, well the answer has changed from “I don’t know,” to “hmmm, maybe someday,” to “perhaps on my way back home, I’ll drop in and say hi,”. My philosophy is never say never and I’ll try anything once. If I don’t like it, I won’t do it again. I like Siem Reap. And I think she likes me too. So, until next time, SR.  

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Pub Street isn’t for everyone…

…nor apparently, is yoga. Life is full of juxtapositions. When you read a piece of text where the author has put two very different ideas side by side for humorous, sarcastic or sad effect (a little bit like this post… bear with it, there is funny stuff later, I promise!). Or in real life, when you see something somewhere and right next to it, you can see the opposite staring you in the face. In Siem Reap, the first example that springs to my mind is the people you see on the footbridge at Old Market, not even 5 minutes’ walk from my house. There are beggars with numerous heavily tanned children running around barefoot, wearing old and dirty clothes, holding baskets for change. Then right next to them are the tourists from the “developed world”, with women in high heels, clacking along, all bright lipstick, short skirts and designer handbags, on the arm of their wealthy husband who looks down his nose at the poverty-stricken people sitting on the floor of the bridge. Admittedly, not all non-Khmer people are like this, of course I know that. There are the expats who work at the NGOs and schools in town, there are the happy holiday-makers who saved up all year for this trip who want a bit of culture, there are the backpackers who can be seen with their iPhones on selfie sticks, walking quickly past the pleading eyes and the frail hands asking for cash. Then you get the do-gooders and the rich kids spending Mummy and Daddy’s money on a “gap yah”, dropping 500riel notes into the kid’s outstretched baskets, believing they have done a good deed, which is possibly even worse because (on a purely simplistic level) it is just reinforcing the idea that sitting on the street can give you money, so why bother going to school or getting a job? On a deeper level, if you want to know why giving money to street kids and voluntourism is a bad thing, check this out.

Not all juxtapositions are so deep, political, and downright depressing. I had an interesting experience a few weekends ago where I met a bunch of friends who had just had dinner. I couldn’t go for dinner since I had scheduled a tuition class until 8pm, but I had said I would meet them after for drinks and general merry-making, along with my laptop and work stuff, in my flowery backpack that my friends have affectionately dubbed “the suitcase”. After a quick fruit shake at the restaurant, we were persuaded by a new friend to frequent a tuktuk cocktail cart on Pub Street. With the promise of $1.50 cocktails, raising our eyebrows and shrugging slightly, we went off after our new friend and sat on precarious stools (there were no table, just saying), trying to have a conversation over the deafening boom of some lyric-less noise trying to pass itself off as music. I ordered a pineapple mojito, only to be served a pineapple margarita. Luckily, this was my first drink of the night and I actually don’t mind tequila, so it wasn’t the end of the world. And to reiterate, it was $1.50… this is definitely one of the things I’m going to miss about Asia. That, and being able to walk around in public in your pyjamas and no-one batting an eyelid.

A slightly more civilised time to walk past Angkor What? bar. Normally, there are people dancing with those cocktail buckets damgling from their wrists. Classy, right?

Not that I really have to say it but, in case there was any doubt, the cocktail cart was a truly terrible experience. We made our excuses to head to a popular expat bar (not the one in the picture!) around the corner, and all four of us collectively sighed as we escaped through the physical barrier separating Pub Street and the crazy army of tuktuk drivers, around the corner on to Hospital Street, where there was no one harassing us. No word of a lie, this is no more than 100metres walk. It’s almost like you turn left through some kind of invisible veil and the tuktuk drivers are suddenly not interested in you anymore. It really is the strangest phenomenon. A physical juxtaposition, if you like. 

After the plastic cups from the cocktail tuktuk, being served a drink in a glass was a luxury!

Pub Street is full of crazy things. Some expected, and some that you couldn’t make up even if you tried! There is a regular pub crawl that occurs on a weekly-ish basis and I think the only pre-requisite for this is you have to wear the official shirt. Whether you have to team it with the shortest shorts you can find and have penises and phrases like “Cambojaaaaa 2k16 BFFs!” drawn on said shirt by other people in the pub crawl are actual rules or just things that tend to happen, I don’t know… makes for great people-watching though.There are tanks full of flesh-eating fish ready to give “fish massage” on every corner. For a few dollars you can submerge your feet into water and be treated to a load of fish biting the dead skin cells off of your feet. I’ve actually done this before, so I shouldn’t judge, but when I did, it was at a licensed spa in a Malaysian shopping mall, not outdoors on the corner of some street, where a tipsy tourist could spill an open plastic cup of beer into the tank by accident! Whether that makes a difference or not, I’m not sure, but again, makes great people-watching, especially when there are backpacker girls squealing because the water is cold and the fish tickle (you think?!).

 

The opposite end of the spectrum from Pub Street I think, is practicing yoga. That’s not to say that a person cannot enjoy both night-clubbing and inner peace and meditation, but you do have to be in a very different mind set for each of these activities.

My perception of yoga, before I ever attended a session was that it is a very difficult activity which requires core body strength and flexibility and I’ve never been tempted to try it before for exactly those reasons (if anyone needs a reminder of my lack of upper body strength, you should check out this [rather embarrassing] old post of mine). A lot of people wrongly assume it’s really easy because you’re just breathing and stretching so it’s not really exercise. They aren’t just wrong; they are so unequivocally mistaken that it is out of this world. We didn’t even sit and chant Om, but I really like that picture, and it kinda fits the yoga theme, right? 

I walked to the yoga session because it was so close to my place. I walked along the local streets to the sound of bells pealing from one of the local wats, in my elephant pants, tankini and loose flowing vest top, feeling a teeny bit self-conscious with my bare arms on show in the bright Sunday morning sunshine, navigating my way across the weirdest crossroads lined with older motodop men. On arrival at the hotel, I was greeted with a “Namaste”, which was slightly odd but kinda nice. I stepped inside, was offered a refreshing glass of water and tried to put myself into a good positive headspace for practicing yoga. I confessed to my friend who had already arrived that I thought I was going to be terrible at this whole yoga thing. She just said that I thought the same about archery, and I turned out to be a pretty good shot, so think positive. That shut me up. I went into the class feeling happy. I would just do my best and it would all be fine. Positive thoughts.

Unfortunately for me there were only 5 of us in the class and when the instructor asked if anyone had any medical issues I mentioned that I was a first timer and lacked flexibility. She said that wouldn’t be a problem. Skinny lying cow. Approximately 16 and a half minutes into the session, she told us to get into downward facing dog and proceeded to stand behind me and reposition my hips, I had sweat beading on my forehead, it was running down my legs and dripping on to the yoga mat from the end of my nose. I just shook my head and reiterated that I was not flexible enough to successfully pull off this move. She said again that I didn’t have to be flexible, but you tell me how I’m supposed to envisage my unyielding form into a V shape if I can’t touch my toes or support my upper body weight with my arms?

By the end of the session, my hair was frizzy, my muscles were stretched thin, I was so aware of my breathing that I was paranoid I might stop by accident! It was a stressful experience for me. The only bit I enjoyed or even felt like I was doing remotely correctly was lying comfortably on the floor, which I could do from the comfort of my bed. Having said that, I imagine that my spine wasn’t perfectly straight, so I probably even had that all wrong. As soon as the session finished, we headed down to the pool and ordered some fresh fruit platters. So in conclusion, I know that yoga is not for me, and nor is Pub Street. Which I guess is a good thing, because I only have a few nights left in Cambodia, so onwards to new adventures! But don’t fret, there will be one more post after I’ve packed my life back up again that’ll published before I leave South East Asia this time around. I haven’t written it yet because I haven’t even started packing yet. Last but not least, it’s my little brother’s birthday today, so Happy Birthday! I hope you got my postcard.


Leaving a teaching job can be heartbreaking

I had a post pretty much ready to go yesterday, but I’ve decided to write something brand-spanking-new and publish it one day later than normal because it was my last day working at one of the schools I teach at. I’ve been there for six months exactly and I have met some of the most incredible kids, the best colleagues and possibly the most awesome boss I’ve ever had in my varied employment history.

img_2963I had the go ahead from management that I could effectively have a Friday Fun-day, and the kids have been begging me for weeks about making our own slime (gak in the US, flubber in the UK, generally rubbery slimy gooey clean fun!). So I spent a ridiculous amount of time in the supermarket on Thursday looking for the appropriate chemical ingredient in certain washing detergents. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if people thought I was just ultra-picky about what I wash my clothes in! I was googling ferociously and looking up alternatives to Borax and whether Clorox would have the correct chemical properties to form the bond (incidentally, it doesn’t).

Anyway, when I arrived in the classroom, I had a collection of handmade cards and presents waiting for me on my little table. I had all the kids swarm around telling me which one was theirs and which ones to open first. I got given a really cute little necklace from one of my girls and a tub of pistachios which I shared with the class. I pulled the three bottles of glitter glue and liquid starch out of my bag to an amazing collective shriek of delight. I sent the kids off to change into their old clothes so their uniform wouldn’t get messy as I contemplated opening the cards and messages without tearing up in front of my 8-year-olds. img_2965

As a teacher, you shouldn’t have favourites, but as a friend of mine said to me not so long ago, as a person, you like and get on with some people straight away, and it takes time with others. So when I received this message from one of my most adorable little monsters, it really made me feel awesome and upset all at the same time.

Dear Teacher Deena,

I love you Teacher because when I don’t understand you teach me to understand.

Kids are truly incredible. They say it how it is and haven’t yet fathomed how to hide their emotions which makes them both a joy and a pain to teach. In the few short months I have spent with these awesome little humans, we’ve learned about superheroes and villains, we’ve had birthday cake fights, drawing competitions, spelling tests, and poetry classes. I’ve taught them about the four seasons and floating and sinking, parts of a plant and Greek mythology and Fairy Stories. We’ve done Art projects using chalk, salt dough, pipecleaners (yes, I found pipecleaners in Siem Reap!). We’ve learned and tried to do a Zorba the Greek dance, looked at music from all over the world and decided that One Direction is everyone’s favourite pop group!

But I think I’ve learned more than all the kids put together. I’ve learned that I have the patience, the enthusiasm and inclination to educate others, but the extra time that needs to be put in for planning, gathering appropriate resources from the vast information sources online, the time required to grade papers, to set homework and maintain who has and hasn’t completed it [on time], the parent-teacher conferences, report cards and the relentless questions and kids vying for attention has put me off. It takes a better person than me to do this full-time. If you asked me last week, I would have said that I will never teach a whole class again. This morning though? I don’t know. Is it worth it? For messages like these? Knowing that you made a difference? I don’t know; I’m completely undecided.

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Chill out ‘cos its about to get busy

No matter where in the world you live, from time to time, you really need a wellness break. Whether that is an afternoon escaping into a relaxing book or a morning lie in with no responsibilities; whether you want to be completely alone or with friends and family.  A weekend away from the busy hustle and bustle of city life or an hour getting your hair done. It’s good for the mind to experience a different pace of life, to stop thinking about work, or rent, or bills or whatever it is that stresses you out. Turn off your phone and laptop, shut yourself off to everything but your immediate surroundings and call it a mental health day.

That’s my justification for having a spa afternoon at a [fairly nice] hotel in town. Don’t get me wrong… life is great and work is a far cry from the 12 hour days I was putting in when I was still living back in the UK, both in office and restaurant environments, but the work I’m doing now is taxing in another way. It means being up and raring to go before 7:30am with more energy than the 8-year-olds in my class. I means I have to make sure my brain is still functioning when my private English tuition student is asking me whether he has the correct conjugation of the first- and third- person conditional tenses at 7:30pm of that same evening.

So therefore, my friends and I decided to take advantage of the fact that massages are a fraction of the cost here than they are back home in Europe (or indeed, Australia, which is my next destination), and booked ourselves in for a pamper session. Of the five of us, four chose an hour long aromatic oil massage. I mean, I’ve definitely had better massages, but I’ve also had worse, so all in all it was a good use of an afternoon. And it was a lovely experience, except maybe the boob massage. When I told one of my friends about this, I imagine he asked all the same questions that you are thinking right now. Our conversation went like this:

Friend: Man or woman?

Me: Woman, of course.

Friend: Khmer?

Me: Yup

Friend: Was she even trained?

Me: I kinda hope so. The other three also had the same experience, so I wasn’t the only one!

Friend: Did you enjoy it? Was it… okay?

Me: It was a little unusual. Kinda firm. But not unpleasant, I guess.

We had made sure that we had use of the pool for the afternoon, and it was a nice one. It was hidden from the main road, with an elephant water feature, complete with water spurting out of their trunks. Unfortunately, when we finished with the massage and ordered drinks out by the pool, there was a young kid with his family there. Yelling out in rapid French, he proceeded to dive-bomb into the pool. Multiple times. I had skipped lunch, so had ordered a snack in the early afternoon and my friends even suggested that I move tables for fear of having chlorinated water splattering into my plate. Luckily, they left before my food arrived, and the rest of the afternoon passed in a relaxing fashion with the most beautiful raspberry iced tea and good company. img_2550

Now a lot of you are going to consider me an absolute wimp but you should know what I’m like by now… the water was super cold! The weather was probably 30-odd degrees, but there wasn’t a crazy amount of humidity, so we were all congregated in the corner of the pool that was still bathed in sunlight! By 4.30, we had to call it because the water was uncomfortably chilly for us (but not the British tourists who just rocked up).

The rest of the weekend was a good one, with great food and awesome people, and another archery session. Kind of bittersweet though, because the countdown is on until I sorry we up and continue our adventure. We’re moving down under and we’ve got 3 weeks to go. And I imagine life is gonna get pretty hectic for a while. We’re gonna kick normalcy out the window and embrace Melbourne like a long lost relative. After months in Cambodia, I’m really looking forward to it. img_2397

Batman and Robin Hood

I’m going to start with an apology because the title here is a teeny bit misleading, but I liked the sound of it so much that its staying. I’m taking a leaf out of Thierry’s book and being a little arrogant. Author’s prerogative or poetic license, whatever you want to call it. Let me elaborate for you – at school these past couple of weeks we’ve been focussing on superheroes and villains, I’ve been using Batman as an example a LOT in the last week or so, hence he is at the forefront of my mind at this present moment. However, this post is actually about another first-time experience for me – archery (hence the Robin Hood reference!).

So, for people who actually know me, I’ve never been the best sportsperson. In an effort to improve my posture and balance, my parents sent me to a grand total of two ballet lessons when I was a very small child, but it was a lost cause. I did learn to Indian dance when I was a bit older, in traditional style, classical, and Bollywood too, and I kept it up for much of my childhood and teenage years. I’m very much not a cyclist, as described in an amusing fashion here. I did play squash for a very brief time when I was still at school and I wasn’t completely hopeless. I went through a phase of playing badminton with my mum a few years back, but for some reason or another we stopped going, so apparently I have some hand-eye coordination skills, or maybe I just like hitting things. I had never kayaked before this day, but found I was okay at it. At one of the schools I teach at, rather than just English, we cover a version of the British Curriculum which also includes Maths, Science, Art, Music and P.E. This term, we are improving our football skills, and whilst I wouldn’t stand a chance with anyone my own size, I can accurately pass a ball to an 8-year-old and maybe even tackle them if I needed to. But only because I’m approximately a foot taller than them!

So anyway, I digress, I turned up for this archery session last weekend with very little expectation for myself, which I’ve decided is the best way to do pretty much anything these days. That way, you can’t be disappointed and in actual fact, I was pleasantly surprised by my abilities. I knew I would ache the following day, but I was very wrong about which body parts would hurt! I thought that the arm doing the work (pulling the string back) would ache the most. In reality, it was the arm holding the bow and my shoulders. Though that may have been due to my improper technique.img_2513

I learned that as a right-hander, you stand with your legs just wider than shoulder-width apart, facing 90o to the right from where the target is. You hold the bow with your left hand, elbow tucked in, perfectly straight, pointing in the direction of your target. You secure the arrow directly under the knot on the string and then, from two fingers distance underneath the knot, you pull the string back with three fingers of your right hand until you physically cannot pull it any more, taking care to keep your back straight. Aim with the knot at your eye and release. This description is really wordy, so take a look at this picture of my friend who has a profile that is equal parts beautiful and bad-ass (incidentally, she also re-pierced my nose for me, though she used a very different set of instruments and technique for that particular activity!).img_2480

The set-up of the archery field was pretty cool, even though they are still in the process of finishing the construction of the site. They are still building a great shaded area where you will stand to aim your arrows. We were taking it in turns to hide under the canopy of a tree to escape the hot morning sun, which wasn’t ideal, but we were provided with iced water, so that was great!

When we first arrived, we were all given a bow that would be suitable for our strength. Yannis, the lovely Austrian guy who is the main man running the show, told us that many archery clubs do not cater for beginners very well. Most people try archery with a bow that is too tough for them and get little training so are put off for life. It was quite amusing, because at the beginning when we were all being given an appropriate bow, we were all still a little nervous, and as Yannis went down the line of expats, he was assigning bows to the guys first, and then sizing the girls up to see who would be capable of pulling which bow. He picked up a small-ish (I say -ish, because it was taller than I am, but I’m only 5ft2…) and said “This is a weaker bow”, looking in the direction of us smaller girls. I put my hand up, unashamed of my weakness! Oh my goodness, this thing was beautiful. The handle was wooden, but ergonomically designed to offer a good grip. There was a small rest for the arrow to sit on, so you wouldn’t cut the delicate skin between your thumb and forefinger. It was heavy, but in a sturdy, manageable kind of way, like I knew I was holding it, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to drop it when holding it outstretched in front of me for any period of time. The bow I was using didn’t have a sight attached to it, so I can’t comment as to whether they were helpful or a hindrance but there were a few of the stronger bows that did have them.

When I got home (or rather, when I was doing the research before writing this post) I Googled the types of bows we were using. I had an interesting conversation with my parents on Skype after the archery event and I came to the conclusion that they were recurve bows. My Dad has done a little archery in his time and had assumed that I had used some kind of semi-automated device that meant I didn’t need to pull too hard. The only analogy I can think of right now is the effort needed to work a car with power-assisted steering, compared to an old school manual vehicle that gave you muscles every time you needed to turn a corner. I laughed rather hysterically at this point because that could not have been further from the truth. I think I gained respect points from my Dad that afternoon when I told him they were the real thing!

Anyway, I am again going off on a tangent (jeez, the word count on this post is mounting quickly… sorry! Have another picture to make up for it). Once we were all paired up with an appropriate bow, armed with three arrows each, we trooped out to the field, where Yannis and his crew demonstrated the proper use of the equipment. The first arrow pierced the board with ease. I think my instructor was as surprised as I was! My first three shots were progressively better and the last one was pretty central! Look at my board!img_2471

One of Yannis’ team has done a lot of research into the ancient practice of archery in Cambodia. Like a lot of skills that are dying out due to the development of newer technologies and automation, the true art of archery has all but gone from modern Cambodia. Nevertheless, where a few loyal people keep at it, there is still hope. We had a demonstration by this talented fellow who made it look so easy to shoot an arrow, but I imagine he has had years of practice. img_2501He told us of the different bows that would have been used in the time of the Angkor Era, over 1000 years ago, describing the differences between the King’s bow and a simple soldier’s bow. When it came to taking pictures with the drone we had flying about, I used one of these for photographic purposes purely because they were absolutely beautiful. I didn’t even take an arrow, because I didn’t think that you’d be able to see it in the shot and I had little to no chance of pulling the string. But even funnier than that, I managed to pick it up a hold it upside down. Classic Deena. I always thank my Indian skin in these situation because I very rarely blush, although to be fair, we had been outside for so long that we were all sweaty and looking a little red in the face due to a combination of catching the sun and just being out of breath.

Once we had mastered aiming and firing, the boards were moved out of the way to reveal a wonderful menagerie of animals that were in no way to scale at all! Can you see the giant mosquito just behind the red fox? And what about the stegosaurus just in front of the kissing frogs? Either my primary school dinosaur education and memories of Jurassic Park are slightly lacking in clarity, or those frogs had some kind of growth hormone injected, because they were pretty much the same size! I am not poking fun, I swear! Genuinely, this part of the session was definitely the most fun, and I overheard a lady saying to her friend “Don’t tell anyone what you’re aiming for, and then if you hit something, you can just make out that it was completely intentional!”. I liked this advice so much, so immediately began using this technique. It worked well for the most part, but kind of fell flat when I was aiming for the velociraptor’s torso, undershot it slightly, the arrow hit the ground, bounced between the kissing frogs and got the dinosaur in the leg. I mean, I have a way with words, and my secondary school drama teacher did manage to help me deliver lines in a convincing manner, but even I couldn’t claim that I had intended that to happen! img_2476

A little after this part, a few of us went for a quick washroom break, and I took the opportunity to chat to Yannis and floated the idea of writing a blogpost about my morning’s experience. He let me into a few secrets and after checking I could take pictures and put them on the internet, I have for you, a Siem Reap Exclusive! This archery field is just the beginning, and there are super awesome plans for an interactive “hunt” through the dense forest not too far from the centre of town. Each group would beimg_2473 accompanied by a member of the crew who knew where the next rubber animal was located. Then there could be some kind of scoring system to add a bit of competition amongst the “hunters”, the details of which I’m not privy to at this point in time. Unfortunately though, now that we are in the midst of the mini rainy season, this particular area is very boggy and more than a little waterlogged, so construction plans have had to be put on hold for the time being, but envisaging an official opening sometime in the beginning of the tourist high season, I can see this is going to be a new must-do activity in town for expats and tourists alike. In fact, I’d go so far to say that when I finally make it back home and settle down, I might even take up archery as a hobby. Or maybe I should stick to something a little less violent like badminton… we’ll just have to see.

For more info, you can contact Yannis via the official Royal Archery Club of Cambodia Facebook Page If you want to see my other posts, they are listed here.