Foto Flashback: The Ancient Artists of Angkor Wat

Daybreak at the Angkor Wat ruins. Awe.

The shifting hues of morning silhouetting an ancient world. The Khmer reigned this exotic kingdom 1700 years ago. Can you fathom that?

As the light slowly crept into the intricate crevices of this ancient realm, sweet memories of childhood came flooding back to me.

Sea. Sand. Beach. Drizzly sand-castles.

I chuckled as I thought how, from afar, these Tomb Raider ruins reminded me of the drizzly sand-castles my mom taught me to make at the sea’s edge.

Creeping closer to the ruins though, I gasped. It seemed as if every centimeter of the ruins was covered in delicate, hand-carved detail. A far cry from a drizzly sand-castle, this was a masterpiece of epic scale. Not only an expression of order and civilization, but also one of art and expression. The walls of this ancient kingdom really could speak. They told of the seductive Aspara, the ancient Khmer goddesses. Warriors reenacted great battles.

The tales of the Khmer were spun with rock.

Such an intricately ornate creation is lost to our modern world of towering skyscrapers. A quiet melancholy washed over me as I knew that the humans of our fast-paced world would never dedicate such time and expertise to their own walls of civilization. And to think these now dilapidated chambers and crumbling halls were carved by slaves. They should be remembered as artists.

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Foto Flashback: Vietnamese Monk

I was just browsing through my Flickr account and musing over the collection of photos I’ve managed to gather throughout my years of travel… which led me to a thought: why not start regularly posting a random photo from the past?

Hence the birth of Foto Flashback.

This photo is a portrait of a Vietnamese monk which I captured while on a guided motorcycle trip through the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

Floods Devastate SE Asia

People wade in the chest deep floodwater Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009 in suburban Cainta, east of Manila, Philippines. Photo courtesy of Times.com.It’s a bit crazy to imagine that countries I was discovering two years ago in SE Asia are now swamped from a typhoon. The following excerpt is from the Radio Australia:

The Philippines is bracing for two more typhoons which are expected to hit the flood-ravaged country over the next two days. Emergency teams have been scrambling to help nearly half a million people left homeless by Typhoon Ketsana, which smashed into Manila on Sunday. It’s now moved on, bringing bring lethal floods to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The disaster is prompting urgent questions about the efficacy of Asia’s disaster management plans.

Click here to read the entire account.

Horrorifying Sex Trade in Cambodia

I spent much of December 2007 and January 2008 in Cambodia. While I didn’t touch too much upon the disturbingly prevalent sex trade present there, this report from Change.org (below) does… as does the linked ABC report. It leaves one wondering, ‘What can be done?’ Makes my stomach churn…

Warning: The the videos and commentary in this post are graphic and disturbing, even for a human trafficking blog.

Despite increased international pressure and national efforts to end child sex tourism in Cambodia, it remains a top destination for pedophiles looking to have sex with children. The child sex tourism industry in Cambodia is also notoriously young, including children who are five, six, and seven years old as well as pre-teens and young teens. ABC Nightline conducted a raid on a suspected American pedophile, and what they found was disturbing.

The story of Harvey Johnson — the man who is the subject of the Nightline sting — is not unique. It’s the story of a retired man who moves to Cambodia and sets up a gig as a volunteer English teacher, giving him access to hundreds of children. Some of the thousands of the sex tourists who travel to Cambodia each year use simialr guises to have access to children, and some just shop for them on the streets. Case in point: while the ABC film crew were researching the ease of buying kids for sex in Cambodia, the cops showed up. At first the reporters were worried, but it turns out the cops just wanted a chance to sell the kids that they had procured, and they started loading girls into the back of the reporters’ van. With some police conducting sting operations and others selling children to tourists, it’s hard to know who to trust in Cambodia.

It is disturbingly easy to have sex with a very, very young child as a Western tourist in Cambodia. They are being sold by brothel owners, slave brokers, and even their own mothers. The desperation of so many families is so great, that sex with children in Cambodia has become a full commodity, a resource for a family who otherwise would have no resources. And most disturbingly of all, there seems to be no shortage of buyers in this marketplace, no lack of American and European men who want to buy the youngest child possible. If Harvey Johnson is found guilty, there will be a long line of men waiting to rent his house and take his place as a teacher/abuser.

Johnson’s case is still pending, but the police and reporters found his apartment to be filled with an disturbing and incriminating assortment of items that would lead most people to believe he was making is own child pornography and abusing the young girls who he taught. You can watch the videos of Nightline’s sting operation here: Part1, Part 2, and Part 3 (ABC won’t allow them to be embedded for proprietary reasons).