A Cambodian Circus
To finish up the Siem Reap leg, let me tell you about a circus we saw. It’s called Phare, and describes itself thusly.
Uniquely Cambodian. Daringly Modern. More than just a circus, Phare, the Cambodian Circus performers use theater, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories; historical, folk and modern.
The artists are all graduates of an NGO school, which is where the proceeds from the performances go.
Phare artists are graduates of Phare Ponleu Selpak, an NGO school and professional arts training center in Battambang, Cambodia.
Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPSA)
PPSA was founded in 1994 by nine young Cambodian men returning home from a refugee camp after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. At the camp they took drawing classes and found art to be a powerful tool for healing. When they returned home they began offering free drawing classes to street children. Soon they opened a school, eventually offering formal K-12 education and professional arts training in the areas of visual arts (illustration, painting, graphic design, and animation), theater, music, dance, and circus. Today more than 1,200 pupils attend the public school daily and 500 attend the vocational arts training programs. All programs are offered for free.
It was a circus in the Cirque du Soleil style, I guess, though it feels like there’s got to be a better term for that since Cirque didn’t invent it. But I digress. The performers acted out the story of a young girl whose family (and homeland) was brutalized by the Khmer Rouge and later took solace in the healing power of art and the joy of teaching others. It was a bit tricky to photograph, but that didn’t stop me from trying! Continue reading
Greetings from Hanoi. It’s a lovely day here, a nice cool eighty-two degrees. Perfect for, say, a stroll along a tree-lined boulevard next to the lake.
The French left their mark on this city.
We arrived here yesterday on a late flight from Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap is next to the Angkor complex containing among other things Angkor Wat
. Angkor was the seat of the once-mighty Khmer empire, and a thousand years ago was home to a million people. Nowadays it’s known for the temple at Angkor Wat, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and the largest religious monument on the planet. Originally a Hindu temple, as well as the mausoleum of the king who oversaw its construction, it gradually turned into a Buddhist temple as the Khmer people began to favor Buddhism themselves.
And of course it’s really amazing.
Greetings from a cafe named Dexter, probably not after the serial killer.
Yesterday we went to the Bangkok Art & Culture Center (BACC), which will apparently like your posts on Instagram if you tag them there. It seemed to be, essentially, a modern art museum without any permanent exhibits from the new masters. It had some pretty cool stuff! And it was for the most part cultural art, which I guess makes sense when you consider the name.
Much of the Center’s offerings were dedicated to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was very, very popular around these parts. Very very. I don’t know as much about him as I should, but might very well pick up a book on him. Trying to understand Thailand very well, without understanding Bhumibol, seems pretty impossible.
Anyway, he died in October, and they’re still officially in mourning. The very front of the museum, right at the big National Stadium rail stop, featured the exhibit 5 Graffiti Artists in Remembrance of H.M. King Bhumibol.
Pretty cool stuff. I recognized a couple of the artists from their works around town. Continue reading
Last night, we had dinner at Gaggan, which was amazing and wonderful. The tasting menu was in emoji, which was very silly, but it encouraged discussion and gave the whole thing a less serious feel than it might otherwise have had. But more about that in a different post.
Today was a big contrast from that, in some ways. I was by myself much of the day, and it was very contemplative and austere. I got up earlyish, around seven, and headed out to Wat Pho, a big Buddhist temple complex next to the Grand Palace. I had with me the bag I bought yesterday.
I just followed the directions on Google Maps and reflected on how much simpler travel has gotten over the years. One train ride and I transferred to a commuter ferry, then six stops or so and I was in the right area. Much more straightforward than I was expecting. Continue reading
Hey there, probably-nonexistent readers. I’m on a trip to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam right now. I’m sitting in a cool jazzy little cafe writing this on an unlocked phone that my husband had sitting around. This is actually my first time traveling overseas with very much of a data plan at all (2GB for $8 at the airport is a steal), and it’s nice. The best part is Google Maps, but being able to look things up more generally is good too. In a pinch, it’s also good if I get bored, but I’ve been trying to work on presence more and so far I’ve only gotten bored while using the bathroom, which I think is close to a human universal.
Here’s the cafe I’m in, which has a great name, don’t you think?
I haven’t done a whole lot. Went to the mall because I packed the one pair of shorts I own and realized I would probably need another. The mall, Terminal 21, was interesting. Each level is decorated like a different city. The food court, which is excellent, was San Francisco. Can’t get away from that place! It’s much cleaner here, though.