Tag Archives: Khmer

Heroes of the Modern World

Recently I came across a few things online, all at different times and somehow about different things, but they seem to share a connection – a connection that I find rather intriguing.

A few months ago I spent a few good hours watching and being memorized by the legacies of a few individuals whose lives left so much impact on the modern world. Italy gave the world Galileo Galilei, Britain gave us Isaac Newton, and Germany/Switzerland is home to the legendary Albert Einstein. Their lives were studied and made part of history lessons and lessons of many other disciplines of science. Their findings and work gave birth to limitless possibilities of the modern knowledge. It’s almost as intriguing to contemplate on the real size of the universe, as to think how the world would be if the theory of relativity of Einstein was never formulated, was never recorded, or was forever lost beyond Einstein’s generation.

In the documentary about Galileo Galilei, the life of his daughter and their relationship was rather important to the storyline and what was mentioned as uncertain about this relationship was how Galilei was to her daughter, his feeling and affection towards her. They were mostly separated and their communications was by exchanging letters, and the depiction of this father-daughter relationship was written up and told based on the letters that she wrote to him; not one single letter from Galilei to his daughter was retrieved. This got me to wonder – how would Galilei, Einstein and Newton otherwise be to the modern world if the records of their lives and their findings had never been retrieved? Of course, to us, they would have been just a nobody, just like millions of other human beings that have stepped on this Earth.

And here I am, among the people that live thousands of miles away, in Cambodia, a tropical country in Southeast Asia with more than 2000 years of history. Having marveled at Italy, Germany and Britain for giving these heroes, these geniuses, I felt somehow belittled by the question – who has this 2000+ year old civilizations produced for the world? not one?

Recently, I came across a few other things, through facebook, through other social media platforms, and through some random conversations I had with friends. Look at this:


Have you heard of Angkor Wat? It is one of a thousand ancient temples built far before Galieli was born, in Cambodia, by the Khmer Empire. And seems like its architect, sculptors, or engineers were aware of dinosaurs – species that went extinct 65 million years ago. Maybe this ain’t really a dinosaur? But what if it is? How did they come to know of such creatures, without internet, without airplanes, without today’s carbon dating technology? Maybe Cambodia was also home to great minds, to geniuses whose work could forever change the modern science. It’s not just this dinosaur thing; how such gigantic structure was completed in just 35 years, how a lot of things were designed semantical (or in a certain clever way) to the positions of the stars (in certain astronomical sense), and how the ancestors of this small, underdeveloped country were the architects of the largest city/civilization in the continent before the Industrial Revolution still have left today’s greatest minds baffled.

What if the lives, the learning, the glamour and the knowledge of the great minds behind all of this ancient mega-city had been as well recorded, and had found their ways to enrich the intellects of today? Maybe Cambodia did have some amazing legacies highly valuable for the modern knowledge.

Unfortunately, this will forever be just a what-if and a mystery. And civilizations like ones of Petra, the Pyramids of Gaza, the Mayan Pyramids and many more must have also been home to some of the greatest minds, architects, scientists, mathematicians, physicians…, whose legacies were unfortunately as well lost with times.

Human civilizations would have been very different; technologies to travel through space and time would already be part of life as we know it. By this century we might probably already know someone from Earth that had migrated to another planet or even another universe to call to.

By the way, here are a few videos that inspires this post.

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Water Festival, Cambodia

Water Festival is one of the biggest, most important spectacles in Cambodia. Every year somewhere around November, everyone can enjoy 3 days of holidays and Phnom Penh City is packed day and night with people especially from other provinces, coming for the celebrations around the Riverside.

This year, from Nov 20-22, at the Riverside, along the streets around the main park, as well as on the Diamond Island City, there are hundreds of small commercial stalls having many products displayed and sold mostly at promotion rates. All these 3 days throughout, the place will be undoubtedly overcrowded; although all the streets around the area will be limited to only pedestrians, the number of people will be so crazy that it can be really stressful going among the crowd. Other than that, it can be such a wonderful time for shopping and there’ll be big stages for concerts with a lot of star appearances and performances, in addition to the boat races during the day time and the display of fireworks and illuminated boats (or Bro Tyb in Khmer) on the river.



Every year, hundreds of boats representing Khann and Srok (districts) of provinces all over the country sign up to participate in this competition. The tournament lasts for 3 days and is usually broadcast live on more than one national TV; the champion is to be found at the end of the third day. And usually the King is among the live audience of the race.

Over the past years, the Water Festival celebrations have become bigger and bigger; more and more attractions have been designed and set up exclusively for the event. It is also a great holiday for everyone. The city dwellers may not pin down the riverside as one of the places to go to but escape to enjoy their free time outside Phnom Penh in other cities and other provinces. However, this is definitely the time for non-Phnom Penh residents to come and enjoy such colorful and flashy event in the capital.

This celebration is so big and there are so many people that every time after it’s over, the beautiful and green area around the riverside becomes so dirty with trashes and with leaves and grass turning yellow, leaving a lot of work left to be done by our sanitation workers. It does take a while for the whole thing to recover and regain its beauty, tidiness, and freshness as a great escape from the ever-busy Phnom Penh.

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