Thursday, November 10, 2016

Making our own cement bags with a local!

When we decided to visit Siem Reap, I was adamant about doing sustainable tourism. I wanted to do something for the local community or with the local community but I simply just didn't know how to go about it. All I had in mind was it to be something to do with art and community.

Thankfully, I found BackStreetAcademy.com while I was heavily browsing online searching for "sustainable tourism in Siem Reap". I was hesitant about booking a tour supposedly hosted by the locals and coordinated by an online channel. But after going through it's impeccable website with all the information I needed to know and the 5* reviews on Tripadvisor... I was convinced that this was the next best thing. After all, how else do we make decisions these days!

Why

I wanted to choose a family bonding activity with mummy and sister, one can never get enough family time, and decided that getting our hands on, picking up a skill and essentially connecting with Cambodian local ladies would be the choice.

I kept the entire activity a secret right up till our local host came and started laying down all our materials on the floor. Jessy and mum were guessing all sorts of things. Nothing they could ever imagined of course hehe.

WE'RE SEWING OUR OWN BAGS!
*shifty eyes*

CEMENT BAGS!
*jaws dropped*

What

"Personalized Cement Bags with a Local Seamstress". 

I chose this activity because it is just SO unique and the fact that it is in collaboration with Angkor Handicraft Association (AHA) which serves as a platform for local Cambodians to craft their art / pieces for living is an obvious choice my thing! After Chris telling me about the cement bags, I couldn't stop thinking about it. There were two sessions, we chose the one in the morning because knew we would be energized in the morning... and to avoid the afternoon heat.

None of us ever learned how to make bags, handle a sewing machine, let alone sewing cement bags with a sewing machine! It was so indie, hipster altogether. But that was the whole idea of picking up a completely random and localised activity to connect us three ladies. And it's SO empowering to be hosted by two of the most amazing, most beautiful, most talented and most hilarious Cambodian ladies, Sreyren and Sreymom! They really lit up our day. Even mum was warmed by Sreyren! (and it's difficult to warm mum up :P)

Everytime I meet amazing ladies like them I get even more convinced at how different, how beautiful each and every woman is in this world.

How

I registered with the website for free, and proceeded to communicate with the hosts / team about the activity via the website. The initial communication between BSA and me in the website itself were swift, smooth and very helpful. I get notifications when they replied, so that really helped. I asked them about the place, the directions, which you can opt for Tuk Tuk.

Location

Bear in mind some of the locations of these local tours are remote, and odd so always communicate that in your messages. One of the reason why I decided on this association was because it wasn't very far from where we stayed, proximity is key when it comes to deciding an activity for me. We took the Tuk Tuk and it was only about 20 mins ride from where we stayed.

Cost 

For the three of us, it cost USD 26 / RM 104 which include the activity, learning how to sew and of course the bags we made ourselves! I thought it was really reasonable, especially if it could turn as a souvenir!

But learning how to sew, meet a local and help the community?
PRICELESS. 



I had so much laughs while learning, I loved every bit of the session. Sreyren and Sreymom each had their stories of leaving their village / homes and having their own aspirations and dreams to become an accountant and earning more for their families.

It's so humbling and rewarding to be speaking to these amazing ladies about their dreams. It's always so inspiring to speak to anyone about their dreams! It's like a break from reality.

My only hope is that I get to cross paths with them again in future, and if you ever have to choose a tour, always great to do it this way, and meet the locals!

Love,
Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie.

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