In Phnom Penh a great group of students came together in the University for my lecture on “The Role of Young People in Developing Countries”. It was a very attentive group and I started out showing them a couple of presentation videos from the World YMCA, including the World Challenge presentation as well as the presentation of young people’s reactions to the One Million Voices.
Then I divided them in to smaller groups to discuss what I had said about Youth Empowerment and the important role I see for young people in developing any society around the globe. A society not including young energy in finding creative solutions, will loose out big time. Any time.
They asked a number of excellent questions. How do we create good relationships? How can we contribute to change? What concretely can we do? What opportunities does the YMCA open up? How can we get involved in the YMCA? What benefits do we get from the YMCA?
At the end there was no end to the questions, and we went over time. I enjoyed it enormously! What an experience of young and open and motivated energy!
The Vice President of the National Board associated with the Ministry of Information in the Government of Cambodia came to the lecture and responded enthusiastically.
Radio Free Asia was there and wanted a separate interview after the lecture. We had a long and good conversation which will be shared on radio.
After that inspiring experience at the University we left Phnom Penh behind and hit the road again, this time a 7 hours ride towards the north and Siem Reap, the second largest city of Cambodia and the most historically interesting. This is the old centre of the Kingdom of Wonders, the Kingdom of Cambodia, with numerous temples from almost 1000 years back.
On our way to Siem Reap we passed this bridge from the 9th century, still in use for daily traffic, but closed for lorries to protect the bridge from being worn out. It seems to be holding for a number of centuries still!
In Siem Reap we changed from car to tuk-tuk, a 125 cc motorbike ahead of a waggon for 4 – we fell in love with it. I have seen them in several countries, but this is the first time we used it for 2 days as our main mean of transport. When humidity and heat became overwhelming, sitting in this open carriage with the wind blowing through our hairs was absolutely delightful!
With our new tuk-tuk we drove out to one of the slum areas where the YMCA has their child care centre in a rented property in Siem Reap.
So again a couple of my favourite motives, beautiful poor kids with happy smiles in the care of YMCA.
These oxen could easily overrun our little tuk-tuk, but they let us pass unharmed, well disciplined by their shepherd boy.
Refreshing boat trip on the river into the huge lake, so huge that you could not see the other side of it, so it gave us a feeling of reaching the ocean. What we were after? The floating villages of the Vietnamese people who came 40 years ago to do fishing on the lake. They quickly realised that the lake was increasing enormously in every rain season, so in stead of being flooded every year, they decided to establish floating villages with floating schools, floating shops and floating community centres.
It was fascinating to see the creative energy behind these floating buildings, and they have of course become a magnificent tourist attraction.
This young girl was rowing around in what looked like a washing tray, I was amused by watching her manoeuvring around the boats and floating shops.
All of a sudden she became very focused in her paddling and quickly entered her grandmother’s boat and loaded the washing tray behind her and started help her grandmother paddle the boat away, on their way to the next floating village.
Further down the river we passed this fisherman. He turned out to have luck and catched a big one!
Next day we rose very early to drive in our tuk-tuk towards the ancient temples outside the centre of Siem Reap. This was really a fabulous realisation of the past grandeur of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Only a very strong empire would be able to build so many huge temples through its history.
The weather is hot, humidity is high, and walking through these beautiful, amazing temples, up steep stairs and through long corridors is draining our energy, but at the same time the beauty of the temples, the fantastic drawings on the walls and the sculptures everywhere are filling our minds with new energy and joy. This is magnificent!
And if you should be tempted to climb this steep wall, a friendly sign is posted on the wall – one way traffic only!
This bird is looking with irritation on us – why do we disturb her peaceful environment in this temple?
This beautiful lady has been here since the beginning of time and she is not likely to leave anytime soon.
Climbing up to the next floor of the temple was restricted to 100 at a time, but getting up there was worth the climb!
Most of the statues upstair were without heads, they had been stolen during history. To steal the whole statues was a bit overwhelming from a weight point of view, but just taking the heads seemed to be OK.
We could have walked around for days, but we needed to leave soon to have time for a few more temples.
A Buddha statue with no head.
The walls were decorated with scenes from mythology and history and gave a magnificent impression of creativity and artistic skills.
Several of the temples are being overtaken by nature, and it looks like the huge trees are eating the stone structures. In other situations the roots and leaves of the trees are in fact carrying the structures and keeping them from falling apart.
We are slowly leaving Cambodia behind, but we do so filled with mighty impressions of people and history of a great nation.
These temples were changing from Hindu to Buddhism and some times just being mixed, Buddha statues being transformed out of Hindu Vishnu statues.
On our way in tsk-tuk to the airport in Siem Reap, en route to Bangkok and onwards to the north – Chiang Mai! Thailand – here we come!