Siem Reap memories !

Siem Reap is a very nice city in Cambodia, just at the foot of Angkor Wat temple. I have lived there during two years and half. It is a fascinating town full of creative energy. Tourists from all around the world visit the city each year, and every day an incessant cortege of tuk-tuk strides along the Sivatha Road. Many expats live together with the local population. Today I want to go back in time and tell about some places that I really liked.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the 8th wonder of the world. It was constructed as a Hindu temple for the Khmer Empire. It has remained a significant religious center since its very foundation. It is now a symbol of Cambodia and a prime attraction for visitors. Its detailed sculptures are spectacular and make it a must-see place in South-East Asia. But mostly, do not miss the sunrise at Angkor Wat as you will regret doing so otherwise. You will have to wake up at 4:00 a.m if you want to enjoy it, but it is definitely worth it!


Angkor Thom South Gate

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I miss cycling at Angkor Thom South Gate. The place is very atmospheric during the monsoon. If you don’t care about the rain, it is a good time to find some peace moment inside the temple.

Wat Bo Pagoda

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Many tourists will not visit “Wat Bo Pagoda”, the oldest Pagoda in town. And yet this Pagoda is so mysterious and peaceful. If you are lucky, you may enter inside and see magnificent old style fresco. Take your time to walk around. You will certainly meet some monks and very nice people. The place is very quiet and perfect for meditating enjoying a bit of silence. This is definitely one of my favorite places. More about Siem Reap in the next articles !

Chenda Chhay !

Chenda Chhay is the new shop manager in Samatoa. This sparkling woman inspires me. I asked her some questions about her life :

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1) Hi Chenda! Can you introduce yourself?

I was born in Kompong Thom province, in a village between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. I am now 30 years old. I used to go to school in my village, but I started to study English language at 15 years old, when I left the capital city. My sister supported me (house, food, study).

2) What kind of music do you like? What are your hobbies?

I am Khmer! Of course, I love romantic music! But as i work with foreigners, i can learn many new kind of music.. I love going to market, mostly in Phnom Penh to go shopping and what is new… I also often spend time in the countryside with my husband or with friends.

3) What are your skills?

Selling  and Training!

4) Which languages did you learn?

Khmer! I started to study English when I was around 15 years old. I also knew some Thai language from school, but I really improved when I watched Thai movies and I have already been there.

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5) What are your dreams? Professional projects?

As I came from a village, with not a huge educational background, I had to learn everything by myself. Thanks to my family support, I could gone to Phnom Penh to improve myself. I started to work as a waitress, and I have always been sure that I could learn more and more. Now, I have a good position in a good company… I wish to carry on to learn and to improve my life. I am looking forward to show this example to my son. So, he will be able to have even a better life, and he will have good chance to go to study and to have a good job…

6) What are you doing in Samatoa?

I am Retail Manager, I take care of the shop. My objectives are to improve it. I also take care hotel consignment and visit a lot of hotels as we have tailor-made service with them.

7) What do you think about Samatoa?

Samatoa gave me the chance to have the higher position i ever had. I already managed to learn a lot from the owner and the full friendly team. I feel comfortable with the products as they are high quality and good fashioned!

8) If you were a dress in Samatoa, which one would you choose?

I would be more than one, maybe one each day… But my favorite is…

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This design really fits me!

9) Which famous designer do you like?

Of course, I love Valentino!

10) What are you doing to be fashion?

I often used to go shopping, I try to go to main cities to visit malls and shops to be aware of the new fashion! I also watch “YouTube” and movies to inspire me!

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Chenda

Rain of laces on Banteay Srei !

Banteay Srei, also called ” The citadel of women “, is a small temple located at 35km from Siem Reap. What a strange atmosphere, when you arrive very early in the morning. The flow of the raindrops between the sculptures of pink sandstone, the silence inside the mandapa, the clotted expression of the Devatas and the Dvarapalas, and the watchmen with a monkey head, give the impression that you are not alone in the Temple.

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The temple was built in the 10th century in brick, laterite and sandstone (from the Kulen mountain). The sandstone of Banteay Sreai ranges from pink to red and brown. These three materials weren’t use in the same time.The laterite and the sandstone were used a lot during the Pre-Angkorian period and the Angkorian period. Instead of the brick was used a lot during the Post Angkorian period.

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Banteay Srei was a place of worship dedicated to Shiva, and played a role in political, economic and social role as well.

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The rumour is that the head of this Devata was stolen, because a man is fallen in love of her beauty…

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Durga slaying the Buffalo demon.

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Watchmen with a monkey head.

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Banteay Srei is surrounded by a moat filled of wonderful Lili flowers and Lotus flowers.

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Floodings in Banteay Srei.

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Devata from the northern shrine.

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Devata from the southern shrine.

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Varuna (western lintel, southern shrine).

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Abduction of Sita (western lintel, central shrine).

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Gopura.

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Dvarapala from the central shrine.

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To Chreb !


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To Chreb is 32 years old. She was born on 2 september 1981 in the Ta Prohm village. She has one old brother, one old sister and three young sisters.  She works as a seller in Samatoa since she is 24 years old.

To Chreb ist 32. Sie ist am 2 September 1981 im Ta Phrom Dorf geboren. Sie hat einen großen Bruder, eine große Schwester und drei kleine Schwestern. Seitdem sie 24 ist, arbeitet sie als Verkaüferin bei Samatoa.

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Her mother has 63 years old, and she is none. Usually, in Cambodia, old women often become none in a Pagoda. They go to the Pagoda to pray, to learn about Boudha’s philosophy with the monks and to have good luck.

Ihre Mutter ist 63, und sie ist Nonne. Das kommt im Kambodscha öfter vor, daß alte Frauen in einer Pagode Nonne werden. Sie beten in der Pagode um die Philosophie von Buddha mit dem Mönchen zu lernen, und Glück zu bekommen.

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She has never gone to the University. She went to school until 5 years old and had to stop, because she didn’t have money to carry on her schooling. She began to work when she was a child, and she sold some drums, violins, tee-shirts and bracelets. She has never left her village until she was 21 years old, because she didn’t have money to buy a bicycle to work.

Sie war nie auf die Universität. Sie war nur bis fünf in der Schule, weil sie kein Geld mehr hatte. Als sie noch Kind war, fing sie an zu arbeiten. Sie hat Trommler, Geigen, T-Shirt und Armbänder verkauft. Vordem sie 21 Jahre alt war, hat sie nie ihr Dorf verlassen, da sie kein Geld für einen Fahrrad hatte.

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Once, a friend of hers, brings her to Siem Reap to work as a waitress for a restaurant. Then, she sold some Chinese souvenirs in the floating villages of the Tonle Sap lake. But she was scared about the wind and the floodings.

Einmal hat einer Freund von ihr sie zu Siem Reap gebracht, damit sie in einem Restaurant als Kellnerin arbeitet. Dann hat sie in den Tonle Sap See übersee Dörfen Souvenirs verkauft. Aber sie hat Angst vor dem Wind und den Überflutungen.

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By chance, she found out Samatoa’s shop in Siem Reap, and she dropped off her curriculum vitae. Few days later, she worked for Samatoa, and she didn’t think that she would stay for a long time! Thanks to her first salaries, she could learnt English at Krovan School, a private school in Siem Reap. It cost her 500 riels for one hour. Before, she used to learn English in a Pagoda during 2 years.

Zum Glück hat sie den Laden Samatoa gefunden, wo sie ihren Lebenslauf gelassen hat. Einige Tage später, arbeitet sie bei Samatoa. Sie dacht nicht, daß sie so lang da bleiben würde. Danke ihre erste Gehälter könnte sie in der Privatschule ”Krovan” Englisch lernen. Es kostet ihr 500 ”riels” pro Stunde. Vorher hatte sie zwei Jahre lang Englisch in einer Pagode gelernt.

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You should be aware that, in Cambodia, the workers help their family by giving them money. That’s why, Chreb don’t spend her money to help her nieces and cousins to go to school for a long time.

Im Kambodscha helfen die Arbeitnehmer ihren Familien mit Geld. Deshalb gibt Chreb ihr Geld nicht einfach aus. Daher kann sie ihren Nichten und Cousins helfen, damit sie zu der Schule gehen können.

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Now, she gets around by motorbike. In Cambodia, you can borrow money to a bank, and repay each month a part of the money. You don’t give anything, just the address of your house.

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On this day, Chreb dreams to get a lot of money to build a big house for her mum and her family.

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Wishing her the best of luck!

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Ceremony in Pagoda.

Today, I was invited by one of my collegues at a cereromy. It’s was a commemoration for her old sister who died three months ago. We went by motorbike together with the others sellers. I gave money to Pagoda and I ate a lot of original foods.

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On the motorbike

One hundred days after the death, a ceremony is given to the Pagoda with the family and some friends.

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She invited her family and her friends to eat some foods that she has prepared.

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Below, a rice soup with mushrooms, pork, fish’s dumplings, chicken, soya, chives and chili!

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Below, I don’t know the name of the food on the right. But, it’s rice with water and salt, cooked in oil.

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Pagoda Cats !

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Josette is a French resident in Siem Reap, where she went to live after her retirement three years ago, after working in the movie industry in Paris, then with a Japanese tour operator in Tokyo for 21 years.

Always an animal lover, she has rescued several cats and kittens in Tokyo, in collaboration with a local animal rescue organization.

In January 2012, after meeting Katie Beattie, an Australian vet nurse in Siem Reap, she joined her in rescuing stray dogs and cats and helping in their adoption by fellow expats. In December 2012, both co-founded Angkor Paws Animal Rescue (APAR), an animal rescue organization in Siem Reap, which is now managed solely by Katie Beattie.

In February 2013, she started her daily visits to Wat Athvea pagoda to feed and treat the cats living there.

See below, Josette’s interview :

1) How did the idea of Pagoda Cats come to be? When did you decide on this initiative? Whose idea was it?

The name “Cats Pagoda” is mine!

It’s quite a mystery why cats and kittens are staying with the monks inside the pagoda itself, and not roaming around the precincts, as is the case in other pagodas. But the head monk and the deputy head monk both seem to like cats very much and let them stay near them at all time. Some of the boy monks living there also like cats very much.

Not sure how old this pagoda is but it is definitely… old, judging by the beams, the pillars, the floor and the roof. There is a 12th century Khmer temple in the precincts, visited by a number of tourists on their way to/from Tonle Sap Lake.

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3) Where is the Pagoda Cats located? Why do you especially choose this Pagoda?

It is located in the Southern part of the city, on the way to Tonle Sap lake, in a rather poor community.

After assisting Katie Beattie in her animals rescue for almost one year in 2012, Josette had learned a lot in animal care; once it had been agreed that Katie would be solely in charge of APAR, she wanted to continue to do something for the animals by herself. That’s when she remembered Wat Athvea, a pagoda located near the house of the Khmer family where she lived for 10 months in 2011; there, she had seen a number of cats and kittens inside the pagoda itself, staying near the monks giving their blessings. She had visited many pagodas in Cambodia before. All have a number of dogs and cats roaming around the precincts, but never inside the pagoda itself. It was quite a unique sight which she had not forgotten. That’s why she decided to focus her attention on that pagoda, as the cats and kittens she had seen there at that time were in poor condition.

4) How do the cats and the dogs arrive in the Pagoda?

It is usual for Cambodians to bring unwanted cats and dogs to a nearby pagoda. Some people also bring pigs, chicken and other birds for good luck. A pagoda is open to everyone, animals included, and it is where the cats/dogs – and often tiny kittens/puppies whose mother has died or rejected them – are brought and left.

But other Cambodians coming to the pagoda are free to take any cat or dog of their choice as well.

Pagoda cats

5) Why do people give up their animals?

Moving somewhere else, no money to treat a dog injured in a car accident, pure neglect once the animal is getting sick and not pretty anymore, and puppies/kittens who are unwanted or whose mother has died (it happens a lot) or rejected them.

6) What relationship do Cambodian have with their animals?

They care for the animals that have value (cows – pigs) and the local vets are called whenever there is a problem with these animals that can bring cash or food.

But dogs are not considered pets in Cambodia as they are in Western countries. They are there solely to be the guardian of the house, staying outside, never petted, and receiving food leftovers only. If they get sick or injured, they are left untreated, as many Cambodians can’t even afford medical care for themselves.

Cats are faring much better and receive more attention than dogs. Whenever I visit homes or houses in a pagoda’s precincts, the cats I see look much better than the dogs. They are also easier to feed: so many cheap fish available here!

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7) What relationship do the monks have with the abandoned cats? What are the care given to the cats? Do you work with some veterinary?

The head monk of Wat Athvea – who has total authority over all the monks there – seems to be a cats’ lover. He doesn’t pet them as Westerners do, but I have often seen him holding newly arrived kittens in his arms, looking at the cats with a gentle eye, and throwing some of his food to them. He has a special bond with a red tom cat, a very shy cat who has been treated twice at Katie’s clinic, who often sits right next to him when he is giving his blessings. It’s quite a sight!

None of the kittens and cats living in the pagoda received any medical treatment, even the most basic, until I started coming there in February. Many kittens in a weak state decline within a few days of their arrival and the monks just leave them to die. In the beginning I was very shocked and busted into tears whenever I found a dead kitten there, but I have now accepted that it is inevitable…

The treatments I give to the cats and kittens at the pagoda are basic – as I am not a vet – but essential: eyes cleaning (so many eye infections in the beginning!), ears cleaning (so many mites residing in their ears, causing infection), deworming once a month and – when I can get it – fleas/lice preventative Frontline (which is costly and cannot be found in Siem Reap).But first of all: FOOD.

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I bring cats needing medical care to Katie’s vet clinic – with all expenses borne by me; they are fostered at my home until they are fully recovered and then returned to the pagoda. There are no permanent Western vets in Siem Reap and, while Katie can take charge of treatments and some surgeries, special treatments and female cats’ sterilizations can only be done by a vet. Katie sometimes receive the collaboration of a Western vet for a limited time (between one week-end for a Russian vet last month, and two months for an American vet in April and May).

There are local vets who, as explained before, treat mostly cows and pigs. They lack the skills and hygiene standards that Westerners are expecting from a medical practitioner and, as a result, I never use Cambodian vets for the pagoda cats. In addition, animal sterilization is not practiced by the local vets, as it is not a Buddhist concept. Euthanasia, even for a badly injured or sick animal, is not practiced either, for the same reason.

8) Does the Cambodian’s law protect animals?

No idea !!! I don’t think so… They can’t even protect people and children…

9) How many animals have been saved?

The word « rescue » applies to stray animals. In this case, cats live in the pagoda and share the very humble life of the monks.

Some of the kittens and cats who were treated at Katie’s clinic with all costs paid by me, stayed at my home for their recovery and were either adopted or returned to the pagoda afterwards:

–        Kitten LEO: was sluggish and got his face painted by a 4-year old boy in April 2013. He was dewormed, got Frontline, IV fluids and the paint was removed by the American vet. After spending two weeks recovering at my home, he was adopted by a fellow expat.

1. LEO-April-May 2013-Adopted

–        Cat SIR TOM CAT (the head monk’s favorite!): was shown to me at the pagoda in May with a very swollen face (left side) and a nasty wound on his right tight. He couldn’t eat anymore and was becoming very skinny. He was brought to Katie’s clinic where the American vet operated him for his mouth abscess and his wound; he was desexed at the same time. After some time recovering at my home, he had to return to the vet clinic a second time as his abscess was still swollen. He was returned to the pagoda one month later, in June, fully recovered and ready to share the head monk’s cushion! He cost me a fortune!!! 

2. SIR TOM CAT-May-June 2013

–        Kitten MANGO – found outside around the pagoda in June with what I thought was mange on her back. She was brought to Katie’s clinic, where we realized it was a burn from either hot cooking oil, burning candle or incense stick. It was treated with topical cream and medicine and, after staying with me for some time, was returned to the pagoda. Soon after however, I found her burn had worsen as she was scratching it all the time. Second visit to the vet and, this time, Mango had to be bandaged every day with special burn bandaging and receive anti-biotics. Second stay at my home for 2 weeks, after which she was returned to the pagoda, with her burn fully healed and fur starting to grow again.

3. MANGO-June-July 2013

4. Mango with bandage-June 19

–        Other kittens have been brought to Katie’s vet clinic, especially in the beginning, with most of them not surviving…

5. wounded kitten at the vet clinic(broken leg kitten who died at the clinic)

6. Kitten run over by a moto eating-March 12  (kitten crushed by a moto – was euthanized)

 Dogs dumped in the pagoda are not ignored. Here are the two who were rescued:

–        Dog ANGIE: appeared in front of the pagoda in a horrible state in May. I started feeding her and, when I posted her photo on my Facebook page, a friend in Phnom Penh contacted me immediately to announce that she was adopting her and that all medical care in Siem Reap would be at her expenses. A few days later, Angie was brought to Katie’s clinic where she got a thorough treatment for all her ailments. One month later, she was brought to Phnom Penh and is now living a high life in my friend’s loving home.

8. dog ANGIE-May 19-Adopted in PP June 10, 2013

–        Dog LIZZY: appeared in front of the pagoda in a terrible condition in June, painfully skinny and with a lot of skin parasites. I started feeding her and Katie came to treat her parasites on the spot. She was a candidate for sterilization by the Russian vet but he discovered that she might have rabies. She had to stay in quarantine at the clinic for 10 days… I returned her to the pagoda, where I continued feeding her, giving her medication and a special Betadine shampoo three times a week. Beginning of August, she had to return to Katie’s clinic to be treated for nasty cat bites. She returned to the pagoda one week later.

7. dog LIZZY-from June 24, 2013-at pagoda

–        Pig OLIVE: a pig brought by a family for good luck in May was nearly killed in the pagoda precincts one night. I alerted Katie who came to treat the poor animal every day and arranged for Olive’s move one week later to an NGO’s farm, where she is now living happily.

9. Pig OLIVE leaving the pagoda with Katie

10) Can we adopt these cats?

Yes ! These cats and kittens are freely dumped at the pagoda but they are also free to take.

By Cambodians: On July 22nd, I witnessed an adoption by a Cambodian woman and her daughter who took away one of the grey cats cared for by me.

By Expats: so far, only one kitten (Leo) has been adopted by an expat in Siem Reap after I posted a request for adoption.  My second request for adoption didn’t produce results, so I have stopped posting in Expats Forums.  Kittens and cats stay in the pagoda and I check them every day. Those receiving medical care at Katie’s clinic stay at my home for a while and are then returned to the pagoda (Sir Tom Cat, Mango).

You can follow the activity of the Siem Reap Pagoda Cats on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/SiemReapPagodaCats?fref=ts

An another article in ” The Phnom Penh Post ” :

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/siem-reap-insider/pagoda-cat-lady-saves-more-nine-feline-lives

My daily life !


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It’s seven in the morning. The sun rises at 6 a.m. The Cambodian are already woken and the traffic is thick. A lot of people have breakfast on the pavement. In the street, the ambulant merchant sell some bread with meat and salad, fruits, ice-tea, ice-coffee and rice with meat. Sometimes, I like to have breakfast in the Old Market of Siem Reap. For only about 1 dollar, you can eat rice with chicken, drink a vegetable soup, and sip an ice-tea. Needless to say, that it is delicious! You can complete your meal with a lot of kind of fruits, like mangoustan, mango, pineapple and longani.

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Usually, at 8:30 a.m, I go to Samatoa in my office. I am currently working on different accessories. In the picture, the sellers are preparing some silk samples for some potential buyers abroad.

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For the lunch, we share together several meal. In Cambodia, people always share their meal.

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During the break, I enjoy to have manicure in Old Market, to see the sunset, and try the different fresh smoothie.

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The weekend, I like to help abandoned cats in ” Siem Reap Pagoda cats”, and to go cycling near the temples. Soon, I will write an article about this fabulous initiative of “Pagoda cats”.

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