Theam’s Gallery

To break up my excessive temple cycling tours I visited this gallery just around the corner from my resort.
Expecting lots of paintings I was pleasantly surprised to find something like a small artisan village. What a gem!

Unassuming entrance

This is what’s hidden behind: a selection of beautifully decorated rooms, houses, courtyards, lots of colour, interesting style mixes, tranquil gardens, ponds, lots of inviting seats, cute cats, miniature houses, a café, artisan workshop, art work, wooden buddhas, a display of traditional musical instruments, displays about silk, peppered with striking paintings from Theam himself.

Overview of areas but in reality everything flows into each other more closely.

This is the home, atelier and gallery of Master Cambodian Artist, Lim Muy Theam. His parents fled during the Khmer Rouge regime to France. Theam received artistic and technical education in Paris. Eventually he returned to Cambodia to help rebuild the country after decades of crippling war.
He researched traditional Khmer craftsmanship, and started teaching teams of apprentices from the countryside how to use them to create art out of time-honored materials like wood, lacquer, silk, and cotton. Skilled art trainees work in his gallery under Theam’s personal tutelage whose main objective is the teaching as well as advocating the value of authenticity and quality, featuring strong cultural and artistic Khmer identity with distinctly modern creative edge.

I spent close to two hours wandering around, sitting down, soaking up the artistic flair, cuddling cats, sipping a coconut, getting moved by the fear and pain in Theam’s portraits, trying to figure out how I could possibly move in without people noticing…

What an enchanting place. A must visit in Siem Reap.
Read more about Theam and his journey here:


Water Buffalos

I felt a little bit vulnerable so close to them on my bicycle. They were just two steps away but not even my screeching brakes made them look up.

…and all I could think off was: tomato and mozzarella salad, oh yum, but just not local cuisine 🙁


Loo Praise

I am at an age where I appreciate access to free and clean toilets. So here is a shout out to all the toilet teams of Angkor Wat Archeological Park: Thank you! First class service and high hygienic standard.

This was my favourite one, near the South Gate to Bayon.

On my cycling trips around Angkor I stopped at every toilet on the way but at this one I stopped at least 7 times. As I am probably one of the few tall, blue eyed tourist with short blonde hair on a bicycle I was easily recognisable. I was already greeted with waves on my second visit. They sell cold drinks. I must have looked like in need of caffeine and they offered me Nescafe Espresso. I got hooked. I would tell them what day I would come around again and they had 2 cold cans hidden at the bottom of the cooling box, ready for me.
Sure, they make profit, but still a fab service.


So many feet

Almost stepped on this one coming back from dinner one evening. I was instantly imagining the centipede wearing flip-flops and having to take them all off before entering the temple. I am clearly watching too many animation movies!


Ant Alarm

Among other creepy crawlers and winged beauties ants are everywhere, from tiny to way to big for my liking, from black to brown and red. The red ones are apparently a nice snack if you are very desperate. A German group I’ve met told me their guide would just pick them of trees, munching on them while explaining temple history to them.

A whole colony seems to be moving to a new home. I could see tiny eggs being transported. Fascinating.

Volume up to hear them gnaw on the dry leaf.

Everywhere I locked my bicycle to there were the red ants, instantly climbing all over it. I started distracting them with some dehydrated papaya. They might taste yummy but they do bite!

I love HeroRATs

Rats? I hear you cry? Yes indeed, but only a specific type. The African Giant Pouch Rat. Why? Because they save human lives every day.

It is hard to visit Cambodia and not hear about the Killing Fields. As I am not up for negative news I decided to visit APOPO in Siem Reap, a non-profit charity, to find out about their vital work worldwide.

As most of us will have seen Pixar’s “Ratatouille” we know that rats have an extremely well developed sense of smell (and taste). Combined with light weight this makes rats perfect for sniffing out the chemical compounds of TNT (explosive) found in landmines and other explosive remnants of war. They ignore scrap metal making them much faster at detecting landmines than metal detectors. They search an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes!

Meet Valerie, one of 53 HeroRATs currently employed in Cambodia to sniff out landmines!
I am usually not into rats but I got distracted by her squinted eyes (they are nocturnal), cute whiskers and tiny fluffy ears. I did not notice her tail wrapping around my arm at the time and shuddered belatedly when looking at the photos.

Over 60 countries are contaminated with hidden landmines and other explosive remnants of war, causing fatal accidents, crippling children, and hampering communities from developing their productive land.
We were shown types of landmines and their uses. Our guide told us there is no such landmine as shown in movies. You step on it and boom. The ones with trip wire throw their shrapnel in the air for maximum devastation. Others are small and only supposed to severely injure, so your buddies help you and their forward progress is hampered. How disgusting is this? I was ashamed to be human.

Turned out to be a negative topic after all, sorry, but we now come to the positive informations!

Every HeroRAT has a personal handler. As one said “I used to eat rats, but now he is my family and I am proud to be his brother.”
The area is measured precisely. The HeroRAT is guided along a measure tape. If it sniffs explosives, it scratches. The handler uses a clicker and this means “Treat”. Peanut or banana are the favourites. The location of landmine is noted down for the removal squad and the search continues.
To ensure the HeroRATs are happy, healthy and not gaining weight, they have a gym! They also have regular health checks and get fed according to their morning weight. Training a HeroRAT costs 6,000 USD.

HeroRATs are also used to quickly and accurately detect tuberculosis, the world’s most deadly infectious disease. 10 million new people contract TB every year, 3 million go undiagnosed, and 1.8 million die from the disease. I lost an uncle in WWII to it.

These rats are heroes indeed. One actually received an award from the UK for its services!

Look at that cute little metal around its neck!

I was impressed and very moved. Just to make up for the cruelty of some humans I paid for having 100 m2 of land cleared, and also vowed not to eat rats, ever.

If you want to learn more or contribute towards this cause, see for more information.