Coming back from Indonesia—the restaurant with tasty squid, chilies, and cold beer, not the country—I usually pedal down a long dark street between the Royal Palace and elegant national museum. Aside from the few strolling tourists and dozing street families there is nothing out of the ordinary on this ride. But tonight the road–silent when I started down it–was lined on one side by tuk-tuks, motos, and dozens of still heads turned toward the museum.
I drove passed and suddenly the air was full of music from the other side of the hedge. I turned around, stopping amongst the parked motos. Someone in the bed of a pickup motioned me up. Climbing into the bed and standing on the tailgate I joined two dozen drivers spread across the truck bed and roof tops of parked tuk-tuks. Sitting on (and in) the tall hedge dividing the museum from the road were a dozen little heads gazing towards the music—along the sidewalk their discarded wares (books, sunglasses, and cheap jewelry) sat in piles.
These young street vendors, the drivers, and I had all arrived to watch a performance of traditional Cambodian dance and music. Young, brightly dressed men and women swayed to a live orchestra. Spinning and jumping between long wooden sticks that slapped together towards any ankles that might miss a beat. We in the truckbed moved along with the dancers and cheered after each piece.
Between 1975 and 1979 nearly 90% of Cambodian artists (amongst many others )were killed by the Khmer Rogue—to see young people resurrecting their culture’s arts—and so many of their country people watching in awe from the other side of the hedge made my trip to Indonesia well worth it.