Friday, 10 May 2013

Siem Reap Part 2: Wat Thmei and Silk Farm

Mr. Vannak. Driving his Tuk Tuk
Down The Lane of the Cruel Past: Wat Thmei 
At 12:00 pm, Mr. Vannak was already waiting for us in front of the hotel. We requested for him to bring us to any grocery shop nearby. At the grocery shop, we bought some biscuits and bread for ourself and for the local kids we would be meeting along the three days journey.

If you had been following my previous post, you would notice I've visited a related place named Killing Field of Cheong Eak in Phnom Penh. Wat Thmei is among hundreds of killing fields discovered in Cambodia.

Other than operating as worship place, Wat Thmei also housed a stupa erected as a symbol to honour the innocent souls who had to face the gruesome regime of nasty Pol Pot and also as a reminder to the next generation so that they would not repeat the same mistake ever again.

Perhaps one of them is a responsible father, a loving mother,  a bright daughter, an active son, a cute baby... all perished...

Skulls, Bones and Teeth
Taking a closer look at the stupa, we noticed the skulls, bones and teeth of the innocent victims were carefully arranged inside. Few local people offered to provide tour services, but we politely declined. Instead, it was me who briefed Herman on the historical events that took place during Pol Pot's regime. May this never ever happen again in this country. Or even, our country.

School Kids
As we were touring around the stupa, we saw a few Cambodian kids in school uniforms nearby. They were torn in between being shy and wanting to talk to us. We greeted them with a smile. Upon such a positive gesture from both of us, they slowly approached us. We took this opportunity to mingle around with local people, by engaging in small talks. We chatted about their school, their favorite subjects, their house, their family and their ambition, what they would like to be when they grow up. 

We took out our biscuits and gave some to them. They had their own preference, sweet biscuits honey coated with sugar, instead of the slightly expensive chocolate biscuits. The eldest girl would ensure all of them would get the same amount of biscuits. She even politely asked whether she could have another set, for her younger brother at home. We didn't question. I really hope by engaging tourists to Wat Thmei, these kids would slowly build their confidence level as well as improving their English language proficiency.

We bid these lovely kids goodbye and headed to our Tuk Tuk.

Lunch at a Muslim Restaurant
Mr. Vannak had been religiously waiting for us under the tree. We asked him, whether he knew any halal restaurant for us to have lunch. To our surprise, he laughed and revealed that he is actually a Muslim. His real name is Zuhud, while Vannak is his registered name. So definitely he knew a Muslim restaurant nearby.

He brought us to Cambodian Muslim Restaurant, located in a Muslim community of the town of Siem Reap, nearby a Masjid named Masjid An-Naek Mah. After we insisted, Mr. Vannak agreed to join us for lunch. While we ordered chicken rice, he only ordered iced tea. We took the opportunity to get to know Mr. Vannak - his family, his career etc.

He was actually an airport engineer on weekdays. During weekends, he drove Tuk Tuk for fee. Married with two young daughter, Mr. Vannak is approaching 40 years old. I asked him, where he was during Pol Pot regime. He said he survived, along side all his family members. Just like other people, he was forced to work, like building bridge and buildings. He did not explain that much, and I got the vibe he preferred not to be reminded of the past. Just like other Cambodian, they are trying to move on and work towards a better future.

After performing Jamak Qasar at Masjid An-Naek Mah, we left for Silk Farm, located 5 km away from the city.

Silk Farm - The Secret of the Magnificent Silk
We arrived at the Silk Farm about 15 minutes later. The Silk Farm consisted of different sets of building intended to accommodate different processes to produce great silks. We were greeted by a friendly staff who brought us from one place to another, and briefed us about the process of making silk. 

One: Select the Best of the Best
The silk came from the silk worms. There are four significant cycles of the silk worms. The egg, the silk worms, the pupa and the moth. The silk worms are breed in a dedicated farm, monitored by an appropriate environment and high quality nutrition. These worms will be fed with mulberry leaves, which was said to be the best nutrition. The nutrition given to the worms will determine the quality of the silk. Then the worms would surround itself with a yellow protein-like substance, and this is called the cocoon. This stage is desirable by all silk producer. 

Two: Kill the Worms!
No offence, but this is a silk farm, not moth breeding farm. Before the worms turned into moth and break away from the cocoon, they were put to death either by boiling or by putting them under the hot sun. If they break away from the cocoon, then the silk thread is of no use anymore. The silk thread will be extracted and collected.

The Original Color

After you added some flavour and color to it.

Three: Spinning by the Silky Ladies
After the second step, now mankind took over from collecting the threads into spinning them into a great piece of art - the Silk of Cambodia. From this stage onwards, we were able to see the hard work and delicate measures being put by the local people in producing a high quality silk. Since then, I never really dispute on the high price of a silk. 

Indeed, it involved meticulous process.

Silk industry is more than just some artistic investment or joint venture. It is a place where some local people were specifically trained for specialised skills, in return for salary and remuneration for them to make a decent living. 

We thanked and tipped the staff for such a wonderful briefing. We dropped by at the nearby shop to have a look at the product sold (undeniably at a high price, proportionate to the process involved). 

We headed to our Tuk Tuk, where Mr. Vannak was sleeping while waiting for us. 

Wakey wakey, Mr. Vannak!
Let's go to Chong Kneas Floating Village!

Till then, 
Hairi Tahir 
This post was somehow deleted previously I had to re-type once again :(

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