Between the north and south shores of the Bassac River as it flows by the city of Châu Đốc, there is a floating wholesale market every day. Ethnic Cham people who live on the north bank of the river bring fruits and vegetables from their farms to the market. Ethnic Vietnamese townspeople from Châu Đốc on the south side of the river buy produce for sale in land borne retail markets in the city.
The family in the photo is fishing in the Bassac River as is flows through Châu Đốc, a Vietnamese city of about 160,000 people on the country’s border with Cambodia. These are ethnic Cham people who live in a village built on the water – the houses in the photo are part of the village. For close to 1000 years Cham kingdoms controlled much of what is today central and southern Vietnam. As ethnic Vietnamese expanded south from the Red River area around Hanoi – the original home of Vietnamese civilization – there was both interaction and conflict between the Cham and the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese eventually prevailed, destroying the last Cham kingdom and assimilating the Cham people into the rather complicated ethnic mix that today makes up the population of modern Vietnam.
Carvings and bas-relief decorate the walls and surfaces of many of the temples that make up the Angkor Wat complex. The figure in the center is this wall art is the Hindu deity Shiva – I am pretty sure I have this right – and the figure below Shiva is a Garuda, a mythical bird that helps to protect the god. Not as certain I have that last part right. The photo was taken at Banteay Srei, a 10th century Khmer temple dedicated to Shiva. The carving pictured here is small and highly detailed, part of a larger section of wall. I had the camera up close to the wall and would guess the real-world dimensions of the artwork in this photo are roughly 15 by 10 inches (40 by 25 centimeters).
The Bayon temple, part of the enormous Angkor Wat temple area in Cambodia, has numerous faces of the Buddha carved into the temple’s towers. The best known of these is a smiling Buddha face. I tried to get a photo of that one, but it was surrounded by a large group of Chinese tourists taking photos in front of the face one or two at a time. I gave up and decided I could live with some shots of lesser known carvings.
Brother Phil and I arrived last night in Siem Reap and spent our first day visiting temples. This is the Bayon temple at Angkor Thom, a large area enclosed by a moat that was established in the 12th century and served as the capital city of the Khmer empire of the time. I learned a great deal today – more than I could absorb really – about the tensions between Hinduism and Buddhism that characterized much of the history of the Khmer civilization and are reflected in the construction of temples like this one and the sculptures and bas-relief carvings that decorate the temples. This trip is a short visit (three and a half days) to an area filled with ancient temples and ruins – enough time to get little more than a taste. And of course, some of that time will go to shooting photos.