The One Dollar Children of Angkor

Children are the blessings of god, we literate ones are fortunate, born in homes with resources with memorable childhoods. But there are many who are not, my trip to the  Angkor temples reminded me of this. My first afternoon was spent in the Rolous cluster which lies a few miles to the east of Siem Reap, my tuk tuk had barely stopped at Preah Koh that a group of these young children, started running along us. One Dollar Sir, they all spoke in chorus, following me all the way to the temple entrance where the Apsara staff checked my three day pass.

Coming out they were there again, but were distracted by a big tour bus of falang tourists. I made a quick get away to my next stop at the mighty Bakong temple. I spotted them from far away at the entrance, Here they were selling banana’s and the usual postcards, all priced dollar one. As photographers we chase subjects, here was a case when the subject chased me, convenient. So the idea of doing an essay on them came to life, the One Dollar Children of Angkor. Last stop for the day was Lolei, where there was another group selling flowers, I really needed to read up why there were different items being sold at different temples, something to do with the deity perhaps.

Next morning, my first stop was the Bayon temple. Here they were strangely missing as our guide dropped us right on the entrance. The extreme humidity made a break necessary before we attempted Ta Phrom, aka Tomb Raider temple. Here we stopped at the stall next to the entrance for some coconut water. A young lad selling  bamboo flutes appeared followed by a girl with postcards. I asked my guide to translate a few questions for me on their background and trade. Who do they work for ? how old are they ? where are their parents ? while I got a few pictures of them patiently waiting for me to part with my dollar.

 My decision not to buy the flute disappointed the boy and he wanted me to buy some hand made bangles instead saying in his broken english, “mother”. Okay .. let me have them. Time to get inside Ta Phrom. Here another gang was selling curios and paintings, including this bald fella with his little dog.

Last stop for the day, the main attraction Angkor Wat. We made a quiet entry through the deserted east gate. You can’t really gauge the size from this route but it is quiet with almost no tourists around.

Next morning I was here again for the sunrise, it had rained the night. The sunrise came and went and with it most of the tourists back to their hotels for breakfast, we decided to hang around a bit. I got into position near this little wonder selling, you guessed right.. postcards. Look left, look right, tourist approaches and she swings into marketing mode. Her brother is seated a few feet away, with his bag of goodies taking a break.

Day 3, we head to one of the furthest temples- Banteay Srei. Beautiful carvings, lots of water puddles and more children. Nature’s call at one of the beautifully laid out restrooms and they are there to greet me on my way out. Tired, dehydrated of tempting,  I decide to end the last afternoon early, and get some rest before exploring old town and the markets in the evening. One more temple we can cover my guide says, very small. Okay let us do it, Pre Rup in East Mebon. Here I am surrounded my a ladies gang and the only time I got a few curses. I kept waking off and they kept coming back and I told them if you keep coming back I will keep taking more pictures. My mantra for handling them, if you can ignore their innocent faces, please do so. If you have the spare dollar, then make them smile.

Delhi 6 – Narrow Alleys, Timeless Food

You must have seen the movie, now time for a walk through this maze of narrow alleys at the heart of Old Delhi.

Back at the Museum with Manama Doesn’t Sleep – Nuit Blanche

2:30 am, and we are back at the Bahrain National Museum for the screening of the short films. I dozed off and my partner next to me kept nudging me from time to time to my dismay. I asked her later, why did she do so ? and she replied that she feared the sound of my snoring filling the auditorium.

The Tour of the Museum Traditional School

Next up, the tour of the museum, I had done this before a couple of times, but this time there was someone from the Museum to take us around and show us the important exhibits.

Crimson Skies Blue Planet

The tour ended and we assembled in Darseen Cafe for the last act, a performance by a Bahraini ensemble “Harmony”. Melodious, sombre and captivating, this act was the highlight of the event. 5 am and I excuse myself to the parking to get my tripod, to be shutter ready for dawn. Glimpsing time to time looking out for the first light and when it finally arrives I am the first out the door. Slowly I am joined by many others marvelling at the beautiful autumn hues.

Catch the Sun The Crowd at Dawn

Back at the cafe, the crowd has moved outdoors with a gentlemen from Egypt playing his morning tunes. We are lucky to catch the last table and serve ourselves some breakfast. Some of the other guests including Dr Ali, an advisor to the Minister of Culture sing extempore. Despite the lack of sleep, we somehow didn’t feel like leaving. Spent another good hour enjoying the random chanting of music, felt like a group of friends sitting together over a bonfire and singing in abandon.

Morning melody Egyptian Harmony Strings

7:40 am we finally make a move, the cleaners are at it shining the museum for another day, they wish us good morning wondering who these visitors inside before the opening time. Our sincere thanks to the Ministry of Culture, Bahrain and all the organisers of this events for making it one of the most memorable evenings. Hope it is a recurrent event every year.

Dr Ali joins in

Bhailoni – The Door to Door Singing Troupes of Darjeeling

In Darjeeling like most of India, the festival of Diwali is celebrated with great fervour and enthusiasm. Apart from the crackers, exchange of sweets and visiting friends and family, the  Nepalese have one more unique custom.  A custom, in which they welcome strangers into their homes, largely the younger lot who eagerly await this day for months.

The first evening of Diwali is known as “Bhailoni”, where groups of girls walk from door to door singing traditional songs, dancing and blessing the family members of the homes they visit. In return for the showers of blessings, the head lady of the house gives them money and some food at times.

This age-old tradition of forming groups and visiting houses has been kept alive to this day. The lit Diya or earthen oil lamp kept outside the houses signifies an invitation to the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.

Classic Tunes & Vintage Cars – Nuit Blanche Part 2

After the performance at the Culture Hall, we were a bit apprehensive about how well the rest of the night’s events were  going to be organised. We were supposed to leave our vehicles behind and hop on pre-arranged buses. They were not in sight so we huddled around the parking area till two big buses made an entry just after 11:40 pm.  The ride was spacious and had the atmosphere of a school picnic. Viewing the streets and the familiar sights from the higher bus window accorded a very different perspective.   

 

Continue reading Classic Tunes & Vintage Cars – Nuit Blanche Part 2

The world through my viewfinder

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