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Exploring Geography: Cambodia

Exploring Geography at Mama Smiles

Today we are visiting Cambodia with this guest post from Jennifer Fischer! Jennifer is a mom of two, as well as an independent filmmaker who has taught filmmaking to youth and has run after-school programs through her company Think Ten Media Group. She writes about her experiences with Wild Thing and Caterpillar at The Good Long Road with an emphasis on mindfulness, imagination, and creative activities related to her toddler’s favorite children’s books. Check out her Pom-Pom Color Matching and Early Literacy, Simple Ways to Fight Hunger, and No-Bake Cookie posts, as well as her guest posts here at Mama Smiles on Thailand and Tibet!


Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to have a friend living in Cambodia and decided to go visit her. What I discovered was a country with amazing temples, historical sites and natural beauty  as well as extraordinary artisans  and musicians. I enjoyed experiencing the rich cultural heritage of the country through its art, music and dance.


A traditional rural home built to withstand flooding from a nearby river.

Cambodia is a also country with a  complex history tainted by the genocide that occurred there under the Khmer Rouge. I gained a much greater understanding of that history through visiting sites at which unspeakable things occurred. I was touched by the resilient spirit of people who have suffered a great deal and yet find a way to celebrate and honor the loved ones they have lost.

Pchum Ben, which translates as Ancestors Day, is a a 15-day Cambodian Festival in which Cambodians pay respect to their deceased relatives (often going 7 generations back). The festival typically corresponds with the beginning of Fall in the U.S., usually running from the middle of September to the beginning of October (dates are based on the lunar calendar so they vary from year to year). Food (often sticky rice), flowers and gifts are given to monks during the two-week period, and the monks are asked to pray for loved ones who are no longer living. These offerings are believed to keep the spirits of the deceased from haunting the living, but the festival also provides an opportunity for families to honor their ancestors. (It has been compared to All Saints Day).


Of course, what Cambodia is most known for, especially among avid travelers, is Angkor Wat, an official UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. The entire Ankgkor site encompasses over 400 square kilometers featuring the magnificent remains of the Khmer Empire from the 9th-15th centuries with Angkor Wat, pictured above, being the most famous of all of the ruins.

Sometimes when I visit a famous site or monument I walk away not sure why the place is such a big deal. Angkor is not one of those places. I definitely understand why these amazing ruins get so much attention and was amazed by the vastness and beauty of the remains of these ancient Hindu sites, most of which are temples (wat means temple).



I found it particularly amazing the way the trees and ruins had become one at so many of the sites.

We have these two books about Cambodia on our request list at the library: The Mysteries of Angkor Wat by Richard Sobol, which looks like it has amazing photos from the site, and Sinat and the Instrument of the Heart: A Story of Cambodia by Chath perSath, which sounds like a wonderful book that uses a boy and his desire to learn an instrument to share the rich cultural traditions of Cambodia.

Finally, I wanted to share about Books for Asia, a charity that helps to provide books to Cambodian refugees.

Thank you, Jennifer, for this incredible post about Cambodia! I am amazed at the way the trees have grown onto and into the ruins at Angkor Wat, and we’ll be requesting those books from our library as well!

MaryAnne at Mama Smiles
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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

13 thoughts on “Exploring Geography: Cambodia”

  1. I live in Cambodia as a missionary, so this post caught my eye! Our entire family (six munchkins included) all live in this country. We have come to love this country, but everyday life is still much more difficult than my American home before. But, we enjoy serving here! Cambodia is growing by leaps and bounds economically. we even just got a Burger King at the airport! I hope it continues to grow in many ways!

  2. jeannine: waddlee-ah-chaa

    What Cambodia! Having been to Cambodia twice, you know my heart is always with our children in Cambodia! Cambodia does have a very complex history and unfortunately life is still complicated. I am dedicated to stopping the trafficking of innocent children and young women in Cambodia. I’ve just highlighted another ministry that supports rescued women. And ironically it includes teaching them to sew as you highlighted in your crafting post! http://waddleeahchaa.com/2012/09/27/quick-and-easy-coat-hooks-for-kids-room/

    I have many book recommendations for Cambodia in my section on Cambodia. I’ve dedicated many post to Cambodia. Again, my heart and prayers are always in Cambodia. :)

  3. I can’t believe those ruins…and the trees….amazing!
    I love reading every post on different cultures…it makes me want to be a jet setter with my kids….in my dreams! :)

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