Well – I realize that it’s been two months since my family began our trip to Cambodia and that I haven’t written much of anything else on my blog since then. For those of you who are tired of these stories, I apologize. You may just want to check back in about another month or so. I’m only about half way through our trip…


After our boat trip to the Chong Khneas, the floating village on Lake Tonlé Sap near Siem Reap, we visited the Artisans d’Angkor silk farm in the afternoon.

Pamphlet from Artisans d'Angkor Pamphlet from Artisans d'Angkor

Two brochures from Artisans d’Angkor

Artisans d’Angkor is an organization that trains Cambodians in the artistic tradition of Khmer empire:

When the Angkor Empire with its regal builders was at its glorious zenith, thousands of craftsmen erected what is now considered one of the wonders of the world — the Angkor temple complex.

In more recent times, years of war and genocide decimated a great number of the heirs of this artistic tradition…

The Chantiers-Écoles de Formation Professionnelle, a professional training school, was founded to help young Cambodians rediscover traditional handicrafts and give them the opportunity to take part in the rebuilding process their country had undertaken.

Artisans d’Angkor was established as a natural offshoot of the Chantiers-Écoles project as a school-to-work transition for the young craftsmen that had been trained. The skilled artisans could thus be organized into a self-sustaining handicraft network.

– from the Artisans d’Angkor website

The tour at the silk farm was free – unless you happened to purchase any of the nice things in their store at the end of the tour. Not all of our family escaped unscathed…


The tour presented the entire process of producing silk, beginning with the life cycle of the silk moth…

Silk moth eggs

Silk moth eggs

Silk moth caterpillars

Silk moth caterpillars feasting on mulberry leaves. If I recall correctly, our guide said that the best mulberry leaves come from a plant variety that was originally cultivated in Thailand.

Hungry, hungry, hungry.

Hungry, hungry, hungry.

Middle Daughter: Worm Woman

Middle Daughter with one of the worms. A few years ago, this blog featured interviews with Worm Woman. Evidently, my family still has an affinity for them.

Keeping the caterpillars well-fed

A worker transfers the caterpillars from a consumed tray of mulberry leaves. Eventually, they are given a place to spin a cocoon…

Of the worms that spin cocoons, 20% are allowed to reach adulthood in order to reproduce and provide caterpillars for the next generation. The rest of the cocoons get baked in the sun…

Baking in the sun

These cocoons are heated in water to loosen the silk. Then they are carefully unwound…

Creating silk thread

If you look closely, you can see the individual strands. Forty strands are combined together to form one silk thread. Eventually, a piece of fabric that is one meter wide will have 5000 threads side-by-side…

Preparing thread for the loom

Our tour guide

Here, our tour guide introduces us to the natural dyes that are used for the silk.

And this is a display of some of those dyes…

Natural dyes

This lovely red color comes from shellac – an excretion from the lac bug.

Dyed with shellac

These silks display the variety of colors…

Dyed silk

One of the things that I find amazing is that the all of the dyeing is performed before the silk is woven. If the fabric is to have a pattern, it is dyed onto the weft – again, before the weaving is done. Here, a woman prepares the weft for dyeing by knotting small strips of plastic (from grocery bags) around the thread.

Preparing the weft

And this is the weft after all the plastic has been knotted on, but before the dyeing:

Weft to be dyed

This thread has been dyed and is drying:

Dyed and dried

Finally, the fabric is woven. Note the patterns in the cloth.

Weaving

Weaving

At the end of the tour, there is a small museum. The exhibits include tools, silk painting, and stunning examples of what can be done in the weaving process.

Tools of the trade

Exquisite work

Amazing patterns woven into silk

Silk painting


After the tour, I was not tempted by the extensive gift shop (FABRIC!!!) – although some of our family (who shall remain nameless) were. I was tempted by the iced coffee…

Iced coffee

Despite my goofy look, it was good iced coffee brewed by The Blue Pumpkin, a place that I figure is something like a Cambodian Starbucks. (In other words, consistently good coffee, but never quite great. You give up the possibility of ‘great’ to make sure that you at least achieve ‘good’.) I also decided to taste some durian ice cream. Part of the reason for tasting the ice cream was that durian fruit is supposed to taste wonderful, but smell awful (according to the Guests Complacent, I think). Alas, I don’t think that the ice cream provides the full effect. It tasted good enough, but I didn’t get any nasty smell. Oh, well – my loss.


That evening (after another enjoyable afternoon cooling off in the hotel pool), we had supper at a buffet restaurant with the woman who was our tour guide ten years ago when we first visited Siem Reap. It was neat to see her again, as well as to meet a number of people in her family. The buffet had both Khmer dishes and plenty of food that my daughters recognized, so there were no problems getting them to eat.

Youngest daughter has fun with the napkins

Youngest Daughter has fun with the napkins.

Oldest Daughter's food choices

Oldest daughter has an interesting mix of foods, including two fruits that she hadn’t tried before. She’s holding rambutan and the white fruit with black seeds and a pink peel is dragon fruit.

The buffet also had traditional Khmer dancing. However, unlike the previous night, the whole family was able to stay awake to watch this time. The girls loved it.

Khmer dance


That concluded our time in Siem Reap. The next morning we departed for the return trip to Phnom Penh, although we stopped at one last outlying temple on the way home.

Up next: Beng Mealea