Visiting with the Cambodian Monks


I've travelled through out Asia and the Middle East, I've been invited into Buddhist Temples, Mosques, Cathedrals and Churches, I've visited sacred lands and places of the Australian Aboriginal people and it is always an absolute honour. I try my best to treat their practices with respect and dignity, not to exploit it just for some photos and a story.

During my most recent trip through Cambodia I had the opportunity to spend the day in a monastery, documenting the lives of the monks. A few trips prior our "fixer" / guide / translator had organised a visit to this monastery and it quickly became a regular part of our trips to Cambodia.

In the temple

While you can totally do a trip to Cambodia without a fixer or even a translator (many people, especially in tourist areas, speak basic English), we find it much easier to navigate some of the local customs with a very knowledgeable guide. Kimleng has been our guide, fixer, translator, photography teacher and friend over the last 6 years we've been running trips through Cambodia. I wouldn't run a tour or even contemplate a visit to Cambodia without seeing Kimleng, he is just that awesome.

A monk watches the tourists at Angkor Wat

Kimleng arranged for us to spend a day with the monks and to document how they live and practice Buddhism. I always find it an incredible privilege to be invited and allowed into the daily lives of people and even more so when it involves their worship and religious practices. There is something special about visiting a sacred place or a place of worship, you don't have to be religious to know that religion runs very deep within the people who practice it.

Watching the tourists at Angkor Wat

The daily lives of the monks is actually quite regimented, with over 220 rules that run nearly their every waking moment, from the time they wake to when they can and can't eat through to what they wear and how they present themselves. Most of the young monks have a similar story, their families were unable to afford an education for them so they were sent to live in the monastery and to get an education. The young monks are taught self-discipline and complete their school studies.

Getting wood ready to cook with

We were fortunate enough to be allowed in to photograph the young monks preparing their lunch meal. It was very dark and smokey, which made for some great photos, the young monks also wanted to speak with us to practice their English. The next set of photos are from the meal preparation:








While speaking with the monks I asked if they have many people take their photos, they responded that many people will surround them and take their photos when the monks walk through the town. I asked if this bothered them, they said that most of the time they don't mind, but would prefer people asked and spoke with them, rather than treating them like animals in a zoo.

I often think to myself "how would I want to be treated in this situation" before I even think of taking a photo. Photography and documenting our world and lives is important, but the human connection and treating each other with respect is far more important.

Speaking with the monks

After the meal we headed into the jungle and then up to the temples for some prayer time. They asked if we wanted to go to a place where "the light shines through the jungle" for some photos, I'm not usually one to go for "staged" photos, but decided to follow their lead. We walked from the meal and living areas out into the jungle... now I have to stress this... do not ever do this by yourself in Cambodia, never leave paths to explore jungle or areas you do not know.

Cambodia has the most unexploded land mines in the world and many people have lost limbs or their lives from the land mines. The monks clearly knew where they were going and were very familiar with the area, which has been completely cleared of landmines. I support two non-government organisations that are working to clear the landmines in Cambodia.

Outside the pagoda

As we entered the clearing we saw that they were totally right, the light filtering through the jungle canopy combined with the smoke haze from their meal preparations was awesome. It was a photographer's heaven, the monks were happy to have shared a place that was special to them and could see the joy on our faces at the photos.

Monks amongst the temple ruins

The area is littered with ancient temple ruins, but the nice part about this particular monastery is that it is off the beaten path and well outside the usual tourist areas. We asked the monks if we could take some portraits of them amongst the ruins and they were very happy to let us do so.


Late every afternoon the monks finish out their day with time in the temple doing their daily prayers and chants. On nearly every visit to Cambodia I've been invited in to respectfully observe and photograph these rituals.

There are many dos and don'ts that must be observed in order to not cause offence, so I recommend only doing this with a guide or on invite from a monk who will make you aware of what to do. The basics are, don't touch the monks, monks may shake your hand if you are a male, but they are not allowed contact with females, take your shoes off before entering a temple, don't talk and don't move around too much. It is usually good to just sit and observe up the back of the temple, out of the way.

Heading into the temple
A Buddhist nun at prayer time
Time for prayers

If you are visiting Cambodia, be sure to find a good guide who can take you to places that are a little out of the way, visit with some monks and interact with people. I personally find this much more enjoyable than the "tourist traps" that everyone visits.

I am not a Buddhist, so if I have written some of the details wrong or misinterpreted some of this, I apologise, please understand this was done out of a position of ignorance and wanting to learn, not one of malice.

Hope you enjoyed the story and the photos.


View this post on TravelFeed for the best experience.


Comments 31


Congratulations, Your Post Has Been Added To The Steemit Worldmap!
Author link: http://steemitworldmap.com?author=paulmp
Post link: http://steemitworldmap.com?post=visiting-with-the-cambodian-monks


Want to have your post on the map too?

  • Go to Steemitworldmap
  • Click the code slider at the bottom
  • Click on the map where your post should be (zoom in if needed)
  • Copy and paste the generated code in your post
  • Congrats, your post is now on the map!
25.09.2019 02:15
0
pixresteemer_incognito_angel_mini.png
Bang, I did it again... I just resteemed your post!
Check my new contest and the winner of last week.
Pixresteemer is also listed as promoter on The Steemians Directory
25.09.2019 02:15
0

Amazing photos! The one of the two monks in the first with the light filtering through is incredible!

25.09.2019 02:19
2

Thank you :)

25.09.2019 02:47
0

Amazing post, I like how you respected every aspect involved in this experience, we all should. All the pictures are beautiful.

25.09.2019 03:20
1

Thank you. I just don't want to exploit people, it is a horrible feeling to be used or exploited.

25.09.2019 03:49
0

Wow! What a treat. Thank you for sharing your experience and wonderful photos. The light... with the candle and coming through the trees... made for extraordinary pictures.

25.09.2019 03:44
2

Thank you Sara, it was a special experience :)

25.09.2019 03:49
0


This post was shared in the Curation Collective Discord community for curators, and upvoted and resteemed by the @c-squared community account after manual review.
@c-squared runs a community witness. Please consider using one of your witness votes on us here

25.09.2019 05:37
0

Very good publication, the images are good and shows the spirit of the place, it is appreciated that it is a meeting place with the spiritual and the human, I really liked the photo photography 16 seems deported ... greetings

25.09.2019 09:03
1

Thank you!

27.09.2019 10:35
0

A very nice article!
Thanks for sharing.

25.09.2019 11:58
1

Thanks

27.09.2019 10:35
0

This must have been an incredible experience. These are such great images. Thank you for sharing these with all of us.

25.09.2019 19:14
1

It definitely was, it was my third visit with them and I have enjoyed each and every visit.

27.09.2019 10:36
0

I love the dim, half light shots... wonderful mood!

25.09.2019 20:22
1

Thank you!

27.09.2019 10:36
0

these photos are amazing and give us such a wonderful view into the daily life of these monks. Thank you for sharing these with us and for showing your respect towards all people that you have met xx

25.09.2019 20:23
1

Thank you. Respect costs nothing to give :)

27.09.2019 10:37
0

Congratulations! Your high-quality travel content was selected by @travelfeed curator @elsaenroute and earned you a reward, in form of an upvote and a resteem. Your work really stands out! Your article now has a chance to get featured under the appropriate daily topic on our TravelFeed blog.
Thank you for being part of the TravelFeed community!

Thanks for posting through TravelFeed.io! You have received a larger upvote from us. We hope to see you soon on TravelFeed.io!
Posting through TravelFeed.io also makes your post eligible to participate our Steemfest ticket giveaway. Please check the post for instructions on how to participate. If you already opted in before September 12th, please double-check that you are opted in since we had some problems with opt-ins not being recorded in the beginning!
Also, you can participate in the travel writing contest by @invisusmundi where you can earn up to 100 STEEM! Read the contest announcement for more information on how to participate.

We are continuously working on improving TravelFeed, recently we introduced EasySignUp and EasyLogin, our first step to make TravelFeed ready for mass adoption.


Learn more about TravelFeed by clicking on the banner above and join our community on Discord.
25.09.2019 21:16
0

Hiya, @itchyfeetdonica here, just swinging by to let you know that this post made into our Top 3 in Daily Travel Digest #634.

Your post has been manually curated by the @steemitworldmap team. If you like what we're doing, please drop by to check out all the rest of today's great posts and consider upvoting and supporting us.

26.09.2019 01:29
0

I noticed your second photo was at Angkor Wat Temple. Are you still in Siem Reap?
My wife @mumma-monza and I live in Siem Reap, we have been here for just over 7 years now. If you're still in town, you should pop into Picasso Bar tonight and have a cocktail. 😉

26.09.2019 03:13
1

I'm home in Australia now. I was last there in March / April. Should be back some time next year.

26.09.2019 12:07
0

You may recognise some of the pagoda photos, they are actually from Wat Bo, I can't remember the name of the main monastery that we visited though. I'll get in touch with Kimleng and let you know.

27.09.2019 10:35
0

WOW WOW WOW!!! I am jealous!

26.09.2019 07:56
1

Haha, well you can join us next time. I take a team there every year or two.

27.09.2019 10:37
0

I was already in Cambodia and loved it. But I was never so near the monks...

27.09.2019 10:44
1

If you are in Siem Reap have a look at Wat Bo, it is amazing.

27.09.2019 10:56
0

If you are in Siem
Reap have a look at Wat Bo,
It is amazing.

                 - paulmp


I'm a bot. I detect haiku.

27.09.2019 10:56
0

In Siem Reap we had one of the best new-years-party we ever had!

27.09.2019 18:12
0