A blog about writing, reading, travelling and great characters I meet in life. I love these things more than cheese-on-toast times trampolines times monkeys.

Friday, 20 May 2011

A dragonfly, a butterfly and the one dollar-bees of Cambodia

First, there’s a dragonfly...

He lands in the grass at Angkor Wat. He balances on a blade of dry grass. His head is a small bead. His body is a yellow and black jellybean.

Next, a butterfly lands in Ta Keo temple...

She flutters around me on the steep temple steps. I almost fall as I follow her in the sky. She lands again on the temple wall.

Then there are hundreds of one dollar-bees...

The knee high fliers of Siem Reap.

The temple traders.

The sun-baked sellers.

The joke-tellers.

The one-dollar bees survive on the American dollar.

They fly from person to person, searching for their paper pollen.

I listened out for the collective voice of the one dollar-bees – the children of the Siem Reap temples, three years upwards, who half speak and half sing to you as they sell baskets of bracelets and books, postcards and scarves, magnets and drinks, dresses and flutes...

The sound of the one dollar-bees

One for one dollar, one for one dollar, buy postcard, buy bracelet, buy fan, you buy flute, only one dollar, one for one dollar, how much you want for only one dollar, please lady buy, two for one dollar, cold drink for you and for your driver, lady for you, buy scarf or buy two, one for three dollar, bag for five dollar, you no have a magnet, buy magnet or two, one for one dollar, buy from me two, you buy from my friend, why you no like me, please buy from me too.

Where you come from lady? You come from England, I come from my Mum, you go to the temple and when you come out, please don’t forget me, I wait for you here, buy postcard from me, ten for one dollar, look lady look, ten for one dollar: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez, nung, song, sam, si, ha, ho jed, bad, kow, sip, un, deux, trois, quatre, cinque, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix...

One for one dollar just for one dollar only one dollar lady one dollar, lady buy shirt, lady buy dress, lady buy hat, lady bye bye.

My purchases from the one dollar-bees at the Siem Reap temples

5 x weave bracelets, 5 x bead bracelets, 1 x shirt, 1 x bag, set of 6 chopsticks, 2 x set of 10 postcards, 1 x dress, 1 x wooden flute, 1 x fridge magnet, 1 x fan, 1 x scarf, 5 x cold drinks, 1 x coconut, donations for photographs.

Anyone want a set of chopsticks?


  1. There are no words for how much I enjoyed this poetic commentary on the children of Angkor Wat!
    I can't believe how much you bought! I didn't buy a single thing! Although I wish I had purchased something... I don't know what but something!

  2. Buying from the kids at the temple is like eating Pringles crisps - once you start you just can't stop!!

  3. Very pleasant pictures. My favorite one, after the dragon fly, is the one with six children holding their hands to you with bracelets inside. It's so attractive ! I really like also the next one, with the young girl wearing a pink shirt, whose face is so cute and who looks at the sky as if she was bored selling her postcards...

    All these children are so nice I understand you bought from them. A very interesting picture also is the young guy inside the tree : his body is like the tree : bent ! with his legs and his shoulder twisted. He's right at his place !

    But well, I don't want to comment all of them as there would be so much to say on each... For sure, these images are speaking... We could write a full story on each ! Congratulations.

  4. Beautiful beautiful photos! I feel like I'm there with these kids. I think thirteen dollars or so is a good deal for exquisite photos and I would imagine a very good feeling inside. Why not? Even if you give it all away you've done your good deed for the day!

  5. Thanks for the comments Basile and Sarah - I did really love the experience at the temples with these kids. I agree that the point is not about the stuff itself - it's a trade - I wanted to take their photographs and they wanted me to buy their stuff. A few people had told me that I shouldn't buy from the kids at the temples but I'd rather not say no to a kid asking for a dollar or two.