Angkor Ban and Koh Oaknhatey

Jan 05, 2020 - The Jahan

Today, we disembarked Jahan and climbed up to the lovely local temple at the village of Angkor Ban. At the front entrance was a cow endowed with an extra leg with her calf. The pathway through the temple led us past giant sculptures of fruits and vegetables on one side while the other had religious figures riding on the 12 Zodiac animals of the Cambodian calendar – all wonderfully colorful. Angkor Ban was a beautiful little village with more than 300 families living in stilt houses, some of which were older than two centuries. As we walked through the village, we were able to interact with the villagers and learn more about their lifestyles. We were very lucky and happened upon a charming engagement party, where we were warmly welcomed and given an explanation of the ceremony. We also had the opportunity to visit a traditional home and see how the locals lived. The slatted bamboo floors provided much needed ventilation. We then returned to Jahan with lots of great photos and great memories.

Back on Jahan, we awaited two monks to arrive to do a blessing ceremony for guests and Jahan staff in the lounge area. The two monks sat behind a table filled with flowers and fruit. The blessing was recited in both Pali and Khmer, while water was sprinkled on the respectful crew seated on the floor with heads bowed and hands pressed together. Donations were collected for the monks and there were questions. It is customary to show respect to the monks by touching the ground or moving the hands in prayer three times to indicate the Buddha, Dharma (or Teachings) and the Sanga (or Monkhood).

We cast off and cruised towards Koh Oaknhatey. Before lunch, Barry gave a presentation on the mighty Mekong and South China Sea as well as those issues facing Southeast Asia including state relations with China and regional challenges faced by climate change. Then after lunch, Mike Greenfelder gave a class on photography techniques.

In the afternoon, we travelled by tuk tuk to a silk weaving village on the island of Koh Oaknhatey to experience the production of silk from the silkworm to making the silk thread and its weaving. The revival of silk production in Cambodia owes a great deal to the late Mr. Morimoto of Japan, who was able to restore the methods of traditional silk making in Cambodia. While here we got to see birds, a porcupine and two hearty crocodiles.

We then took our tuk tuks to a Theravada Buddhist temple with beautiful murals near Jahan. Barry showed people the mural which inspired Sakyamuni to leave his palace and become a Buddha after seeing the famous Four Sights for the first time – a dead man, a diseased man, a very old man and a Holy Man. He then entered his palace for good and decided to search for a way to end suffering for the people and become the Buddha or the Enlightened One.

Back on deck, we enjoyed the sunset and prepared for our night aboard Jahan.

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About the Author

Barry Till

National Geographic Staff

Barry Till is a curator of Asian art with a wide knowledge on culture, history and archaeology. He has travelled extensively throughout Asia and lectured on numerous expeditions—including trips to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar—for more than thirty years. He has published more than 100 catalogues (including The Buddhist Arts of Asia), books, and articles on various Asian art topics, and is an enthusiastic and engaging speaker.

About the Photographer

Mike Greenfelder

Undersea Specialist

Mike learned early on that the best way to escape Ohio was to become a marine biologist.  During college at Wittenberg University he attended a semester at Duke University's Marine Lab — that time only confirmed his love for all things oceanic and maritime.  After graduation, Mike promptly moved to Catalina Island in California where he taught marine biology to school kids.  Since 1999, Mike has been working and traveling chasing his three loves: marine critters, photography, and birds.

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