🇰🇭 Urban Tales Phnom Penh says no to plastic! 🇰🇭

We have searched to find eco-friendly alternatives for our Urban Tales walking tour. We think it is important and part of our responsibility to get involved and show by example.

Raising awareness on the effect of our over consumption of plastic on our health and our environment should be a natural daily attitude, especially in Cambodia where so much still need to be done about this issue.

So we are very happy and proud to inform you that from now on we say no to plastic! 

We do not use any more neither plastic bottles nor plastic straws. Our guests are kindly offered some refreshing drinks during the game, using reusable metal glasses and reusable metal straws.

If you are interested in exploring Phnom Penh city from a different angle, join our interactive walking adventure.

#notoplastic

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Vietnam Ghost Month 🇻🇳

We have entered 2 weeks ago the Ghost Month (“Tháng Cô Hồn” = month of the lonely spirits) in Vietnam, which is the seventh month of the lunar calendar.

It is believed to be a haunted and unlucky month.

Legend says that on the first day of this month, the gate of hell gets wide open and that the ghosts and spirits are set free to visit their living friends and relatives until the last day of the month.

Worshipping the dead, showing them gratitude, making offerings of food & money and burning incense is very popular, especially on the first, second, fifteenth and last day of the ghost Month.

By doing so, people feed and appease the condemned souls wandering out of hell during this month. If you disappoint your ancestors this month, bad luck may happen to you.

While souls that have family will be well fed, Cô hồn (= homeless/lonely souls) will be hungry, poor and unhappy because they do not get any respect nor food from their family. For that reason, everybody on this month will do “cúng chúng sinh” (offerings) and support those homeless souls.

Lots of fires will be set, to burn votive papers and make offerings in the pagodas and on the streets, especially on the 15th of August (Ghost festival) and before the doors of hell close again at the end of the month. On that same day, yesterday, occurs Vu Lan festival. This buddhist festival is to express gratitude and appreciation towards ones’ parents and especially mothers, and also help ancestors’ lost souls find their way back to earth.

On this day, pagodas and temples are very busy with people worshipping ghosts and hungry spirits through offerings of food, clothes and other items, and releasing animals like birds or fish. It is the occasion as well for children to give presents and flowers to their parents to show their gratitude & appreciation. 

Young people do not really believe or follow the Ghost month beliefs, but traditions still persist for the old ones. On that month they do not plan anything serious such as making a business decision, travelling or moving house, as angry spirits can hurt them.

If you want to see celebrations of the ghost month & Vu Lan festivities, you can join our interactive adventure and visit Cholon’s temples, that’s one of the busiest time of the year after TET.

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Graffiti Street in the Capital City of Cambodia 🇰🇭

Some parts of Phnom Penh are indeed lesser known than others.

After having explored the French old quarter with its remaining old buildings, loaded with history, it would be nice to have a walk in a very different part of the city, like street 93 in Boeung Kak area known as well as (former) “Lakeside” area.

This area is very peaceful and colourful. It was quite popular before as being the backpacker’s area 20 years ago. It then got emptied between 2008 and 2010 after some development projects were announced and city’s authorities have forced locals to move away and the lake filled with sand.

The area knew a revival time during 2015 when an Urban Art Festival was held in Cambodia and some international and local artists left their marks on the walls.

This Urban Art Festival was held a second time in 2018 and we can still see some nice remaining pieces of street art there, even though some murals keep on being washed and removed.

The atmosphere of this residential, hence popular and colourful area is pleasant and a bit old-fashioned. Some local businesses have started to open again few years ago making the area more lively now.

If you are into photography, it is a nice spot worth exploring! You will find it between the Mosque and Calmette Hospital.

If you are interested in exploring Phnom Penh city from a different angle, join our interactive walking adventure.

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The Old Police Station

Although Phnom Penh’s face and skyline have been drastically changing at a tremendous pace since the past few years, the capital city of Cambodia still retains some of the beautiful testimonies of its glorious past.

If you look around, especially in the centre of the city and area known as “the Old French Quarter”, you still can see traces of the French colonial architecture. Few French styled administrative buildings and houses built during the 19th century still remain, some either wonderfully renovated some in total disrepair. For example, the Central Market, Hotel Le Royal, beautifully restored, and some still crumbling like some old French churches or former rich Cambodian family mansions.

One of the old buildings we really like is the Old Police station, called “Le Commissariat” and dating from the French protectorate.

Located right next to the Central Post Office, this administrative building was completed in 1892 and was the former colonial police headquarters at the time. Since then, it has fallen into ruin but you can still see the French-styled shutters, the vintage checked tiles and the yellowish fading derelict walls. It has been for years and until today, the home and living quarters of several local families who are currently ‘squatting’ the place.

Don’t let fences and crumbling walls surrounding the building intimidating you, just step in and enter the building, step back in time and be ready for the experience! You will feel carried away into another period and another space, in a “behind-the-scene” hidden place. Private homes and shops are cohabiting. You can walk around and feel the magic and age of the building.

This collapsing building is exquisite and it is quite sad that no one really knows what it will become of in a few years. Some investors could just decide to tear it down to use the space and build something modern useful for the city… We deeply hope it will remain preserved. On a side note, “Le Commissariat” has been the setting stage for Matt Dillon’s movie “City of Ghosts” released back in 2002.

Take a look at the photos, they really speak for themselves, don’t they?

If you are interested in visiting the old police station, join our interactive walking adventure! Our scripted scenario will lead you not far from the building…

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What is the Royal Ploughing Ceremony?

Yes, believe it or not, another festival is coming soon in Cambodia… It is the Royal Ploughing Ceremony! 

Where does it come from?

Mid to late May marks the beginning of the rainy season and the rice planting season. At that time of the year, an ancient tradition still persists in Cambodia as a very important festival, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony (also called Festival of the holy furrow) or PithiChratt Preah Nongkâl” (textually “Pressing the Sacred Plough”). It comes from an old Hindu rite.

The date varies every year as the festival celebration follows the lunar calendar and depends on the phases of the moon of May. This year it will be celebrated on the upcoming Wednesday 22nd of May! The celebration is aimed at favouring rains and good crops in the whole Kingdom.

What is going on during the celebration?

The ceremony usually takes place in the large empty “field” next to the Royal Palace aka “Veahl Preah Sraè” and in front of the National Museum in Phnom Penh, as well as in other provinces.

In Phnom Penh, it is the King (or His Representative) who inaugurates the season of ploughing by drawing the three first furrows around the Sacred Rice Field with His Royal Oxen.

At the end of the ploughing, the oxen are unloaded from their harnesses and directed towards seven trays containing various foods, prepared by the Brahmin priests.

Depending on what the sacred animal choose to eat or drink (soybeans, corn, rice, sesame, grass, water, grain or wine), predictions will vary from bountiful harvests to bad weather (drought, floods…) and even unrest (wine)… ! 

Don’t smile, locals take these predictions very seriously! No ploughing can take place and no tracing furrows can be done before the Royal Ploughing Ceremony has been performed by the King or His Representative.

At the end of the festival, Cambodian farmers will ceremoniously collect the seeds – spread out by Preah Neang Me Huor, the female representative of the Queen, after the very first furrows are traced – in order to mix them with their own seeds to get a bountiful harvest.

These deep superstitious beliefs related to supernatural are part of the unique Khmer culture. 🇰🇭

If you are interested in learning more about Khmer culture and in visiting Phnom Penh city in a different way, join our interactive walking adventure.

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