People watching, rituals, and reconciliation

Last time I was in Phnom Penh I didn’t really like it, I will admit. But it had more to do with where we were in the arch of our overseas sabbatical last year than with the place itself. We stopped there to meet a new business contact and I returned again to meet business contacts. But on this trip I was determined to reconcile that first feeling of a place that had just started off bumpy. I knew there was more to Phnom Penh than that first impression. 

One afternoon I went to Wat Phnom, or “Mountain Pagoda”, the central Buddhist temple of the city. Following are a some of my journal writings and images of that afternoon.

“The traveling spirit in me wanting to see and experience differently, to gain perspective and take in the history, culture, and beauty of people unlike myself.”


“People watching — people offering homages to the buddha, prayers to the gods, sacrifices to the spirits. Not sure. Can never be sure just by looking."


"Palms together holding bundles of burning incense sticks to their forehead, chanting melodic prayers before plunging it in a big caldron of ash, plumes of smoke tangling with all the others, swirling wayward to reach wherever, all over, everywhere that it may be heard."


"Shoes off, hearts open."


"Paper boats of acid yellow filled with offered fruit, beacons of red candles, their waxy warm drippings ready to hold the next candle."


"Closed lotus flowers, their petals nudged awake." 


"Laughing buddhas, lucky figurines and fake paper money placed in shiny bowls."


Here I found a place of people's hopes, witnessed their collective aspirations, and found solace being among them. Indeed, a reconciliation.