Not the Only Gig in Town

Angkor Wat is the largest temple in the region but not the only gig in town. There are stunning temples throughout the area whose exquisite architecture and impressive sculpture reveal that the Khmer civilization were prolific builders and artisans. One of my favorite is Ankgor Thom, once the capital of the Khmer civilization, with the central temple Byon and its towers of giant smiling faces and the long carved wall of the elephant terrace.

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When Sculptors Were In Demand

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The temple complexes in and around Angkor Wat are a sculptors dream. In the 12th century Khmer culture was the center of the world as the massive temple of Angkor Wat was built. It still remains as the largest religious building ever built. First dedicated to Hinduism and over the years converted to Buddhism. Almost every surface has intricate carvings and reliefs that are either decorative or depictions of historic hindu battles. Unlike today, sculptors were fully employed, or more likely enslaved!

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The Wedding Day

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The wedding day started at 6:30 am with the grooms party, which included us, assembling blocks away from the bride’s residence. The processional was led by a band of musicians and we were all carrying gifts, everything from pig trotters to cigarettes, for the brides family. Numerous ceremonies followed, lead by a priest accompanied by musicians, singers and dancers. There were ceremonies of greetings and hair cutting, symbolizing new beginnings. There were Songs about the 40 different types of fruit as a dancer beautifully passed offerings to all in attendance. All were invited to participate as the newly weds hands were symbolically tied together, and numerous other ceremonies and outfit changes. It was a beautiful and joyful celebration! We were fed breakfast, lunch and a magnificent dinner! Then we danced late into the evening with the music loud enough for the whole town to hear, although it seemed as if the whole town was dancing with us!

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So Many Ceremonies

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The marriage of a son or daughter is considered one of the most important events in the family life of Cambodians. The day before the actual wedding, there were numerous ceremonies preparing the families for David and Mara’s union. There were blessings from and for the parents and from Buddhist monks. Gifts were exchanged between families and between generations. And of course all those attending we’re honored with lots of food and drink!

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The Wedding

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Weddings in Cambodia are a link to the past, a binding of families and a celebration of love. Massive celebrations and the extensive ceremonies are connected to the legend of the origins of Cambodia and parallel the first Khmer prince , Preah Thong and his marriage to the Naga Princess, Neang Neak.The prince was a foreigner exiled from his homeland and during his travels fell in love with the Naga Princess. The father of the princess swallowed part of the ocean and formed the land of Cambodia giving them a wedding gift of a place to reside.
If weddings in the states are a big industry then in Cambodia they are massive. Average weddings last three days and sometimes as long as a week. Our Mara went through at least 7 different outfits, and I’m seeing photos on face book of outfits we missed when we headed back to our hotel for an hour break. The lavish apparel is fitting of royalty!

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On the Road

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On the road from Phonon Phen to Kompong Thom was a harrowing 3 hour drive. Our driver used his horn like it was a musical instrument, tapping out warnings to the array of vehicles that he passed on this major 2 lane highway. In and around motorcycles, tuk tuks, water buffalo and pony drawn carts, motorcycles pulling huge trailers, and of course cars, tourist buses and trucks. We arrived safely at our hotel greeted by Mara & David with other guests attending their wedding.

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It ain’t Walmart

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The Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City is a vibrant collection of venders selling everything from pig intestines to glitzy shoes. The aromas are pungent, sweet and savory. One moment inhaling the enticing smells of the mounds of coffee beans, Vietnams number one export, then repulsed by the stank of dorian. The orderly colorful displays of fruits, clothing, fish or animal innards are visually exciting as we stroll through isle after isle of the bizarre to the mundane.

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Ho Chi Minh is Abuzz!

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Ho Chi Minh Is abuzz! Formerly Saigon, now named after Ho Chi Minh, liberator and founder of modern Vietnam. After a 1000 years occupation by numerous countries including China, France, Japan and sadly, the United States, Vietnam has undergone a transformation and is now blossoming into an economic powerhouse. Practicing it’s own form of capitalism, this city is a vibrant mix of ancient and contemporary cultures, containing elements and flavors of all their historical colonial over lords. The streets of Saigon are bustling and seemingly chaotic, with thousands of motorcycles driven by everyone from teenagers to their grand parents. Although it seems like complete chaos there must be a hidden order that make this city flow. On every corner there is street food, with old women in their straw hats, squatting while cooking over makeshift grills, sizzling spicy meats or boiling pots of soup. In contrast to the street scene the city is undergoing a building boom as modern architecture transforms the city skyline. With the Christmas season over and Santa displays coming down, new decorations are going up in preparations for the lunar new year Tet. Drawing from multicultural influences, this city is in constant motion!

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Cung Khac Luoc

In anticipation of the of our new adventure I’ve reposted this entry of our meeting Cung Khac Luoc. The chance encounter had a profound effect on me. His brush work compelled me to paint and since that meeting, painting has become a central focus of my art. Who knows what inspiration awaits us?

Ky Suu spring, Hanoi, 14th , Golden buffalo Tet holidays

1) Freedom: Two tender words ,

I buy all for my love spring Woman

I wander most beautiful places.

2) My intimate friend , thanks for your love.

In Feb 2008 Linda & I were on a journey through Indo China (celebrating Linda’s ascent into maturity). From Bangkok through Laos, Vietnam ending in Angkor Watt, Cambodia, a sculptors Mecca. While in Hanoi we came across the Maison Des Arts, MDA Gallery , a traditional and contemporary Vietnamese art gallery. We were drawn into the gallery by the expressive calligraphy of Cung Khac Luoc. I was smitten by his brush work. Mme Nguyen Nga, the gallery owner, seeing the look in my eye, informed us that Louc, coincidentally, was on his way to the gallery. We strolled though the 4 floor gallery to the roof deck over looking the grounds of The Temple of Literature. There, we met Luoc for coffee and negotiated the the purchase of two scrolls, appropriately titled “The Golden Buffalos Holiday”.

I gave Luoc a catalogue of my sculptures which he politely leafed through giving me his approval. When I showed him my graphite and charcoal drawings he became excited, telling me, with the help of hand motions and translation by Nguyen Nga, that I should be painting. He gave me a brush and mimed instructions on how to hold it, with special attention to the fluidity of the wrist. I was told that the brush is connected to the heart and that the immediacy of ink on paper is felt and can’t be thought. The years of sculpting felt like driving a Mack truck compared to zippiness of a sports car like brush as ink spreads across paper. Working with brush and ink has helped me keep balance over the last couple of stressful years. Painting daily I’ve painted thousands of images on scrolls, books, lampshades and in combination with sculpture. Scrolls, Books, Painting.

Cung Khac Luoc with lessons and brush followed by some of the paintings he inspired.

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Buddha Smiles

Our journey begins at the beginning.
A wedding in Cambodia of a young girl whose smile won our hearts.
As she begins her new life, our lives too starts anew.
Linda and I set off on a three month adventure thirty years ago.
We traveled through Europe at the inception of our lives together, as artists and as lovers.
Here, thirty years later, our adventure continues as we prepare to set off on a three month journey through Southeast Asia.
We’re not really sure where we’re going other then to celebrate the love of a young girl’s heart.┬áThe smile in her heart will be the Buddha’s smile that will guide us on our sojourn.

Mara, our smiling guide!

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