Saturday, October 07, 2006

Smiles of the Bayon

I met this young monk at the Bayon, and spent the rest of the afternoon playing with him and his friends at their small pagoda in the forest. My best memories(and photographs) of the temples of Angkor are of the people I met there. As amazing as the temples are, they pale in comparison to the beauty and resilience of the Cambodian people.

Yeay Bayon, or Grandma Bayon. If you've been to the Bayon, chances are you may have seen this beautiful old nun hiding in one of the many chambers, inviting visitors to burn incense before a small idol of the buddha. At 75 years old, Yeay Bayon a rarity in a nation recovering from the brutal legacy of Pol Pot and civil war.

A young Apsara teacher shows off her soft hands and beautiful smile. A single mother with 3 children, she left her husband after he repeatedly beat her, spending what little money they had on alcohol. Now she supports her children by singing at a local Apsara dinner theater and teaching. At 28, she says she is too old to dance. "Only young and beautiful girls can dance for tourists." I didn't get to see her dance, but she invite me to hear her sing. Hopefully I'll be able to get a video of the Apsara performance up soon...

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