From Cambodia to Japan

A Cambodian Student Looks at Life in Two Different Worlds

Memories of Palm Trees

Looking at the pictures of the famous Angkor Wat temple taken from the far front, I notice a few tall palm trees emerging from within the temple's ground. For me, these uniquely looking trees seem to add up to the beauty of the temple. Without them, Angkor Wat would appear rather lonely.

Its unique look is probablly another reason why Palm tree was named national tree of Cambodia, besides the enormous role it plays on the life of Cambodian people( as described by Wanna).

In my comment section, Beth asked me if I have any fond memories of Palm trees. I guess I have a lot to tell her. Well, talking about it reminds me of Palm juice, Palm wine, Palm Boat and a scorpion living in a palm tree.

When I was a kid, my grandfather used to climb palm trees to tap palm juice and sometimes to harvest palm fruits. At that time there were four palm trees behind his house. He didn't grow them. They were there long before he settled in.( In 1979, shortly after the collapse of the Pol Pot regime, he moved in to that new land, which was once a rice field). Unfortunately, today only one remains.

I remember sitting on a chair a long with my other relatives waiting to drink the juice once he got back to the ground. The trees were really tall and I was wondering how he could make it to the top. I once attemped to climb one of the trees but could barely make to half of the way.

I liked Palm juice and still like it . They are naturally sweet and tasty. Usually, palm trees grow on arid and infertile land. So sometimes it makes me wonder how they manage to produce such tasty juice.

Traditional palm wine is also nice. It got me drunk once or twice. Though I am not really a big fan of it. It taste like cocktail: sweet and and sour. Because it's sweet, you can easily drink a large amount of palm wine at your first try. But remember it also can make you pass out easily.

Palm boat is just another memory. Paml boat is a small boat that is made entirely from Palm tree. I remember riding on it a couple of times. But my best memory of palm boat went back to 1991, when the biggest flood in four or five decades hit my province and most parts of Cambodia. My house, like many others, went under water. Sitting on a friend's palm boat, watching my house and the entire village turning into a huge lake was an unforgettable experience.

Lastly Palm tree reminds me of a scorpion and my cousin. You might wonder what scorpion has to do with my memory about Palm Tree. I don't really remember that myself because it happened when I was quite young. But my grandfather does, and he likes to recount the story.

He said when I was 3 or 4, my dad would drop me at his house before going to work. In the morning, as usual, he would climb the palm trees and brought back palm juice. Me and my cousin would wait for the "sweet water". One day while he was on top of the tree, he saw a white scorpion falling to the ground. He cried out from the top of the tree warning us that a scorpion had just fallen down and told us to be careful.

Me and my cousin never saw a scorpion before. We thought it was beautiful. We suddently wanted to hold it. I said it was mine. He said it was his. We then started chasing after the poor, frightening scorpion. He was faster. He grabbed the scorpion and cheerily said:" I've got it. I've got it!" I was quite upset. He got the scorpion and one second later he was stung. He threw away the little insect and cried.

My grandfater got back from the tree a little too late. My cousin continued to cry untill the pain'd gone. Untill today I still tease him about the scorpion story.

And that's all for the memories of palm trees...

17 Responses to “Memories of Palm Trees”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous


    your memories of palm trees is quite interesting, and I like the picture of Angkor Wat that you have here.

    Reading your story reminds me of what's my mum told me about palm trees.

    Usually, we would buy a lot of palm crops on the way back from visiting my mum's hometown in Kompong Charm, because we all like it. Everytime, mum always said that "the sellers have to put a lot of efforts in to get the crops out in good condition and to keep the juice inside the crop, especially those crops that are soft".

    my mum also told me how people make suger palm tree, and that without adding any chemical substance, suger palm tree would be a really healthy and tasty suger to use.

    I like palm crops and palm wine, but I've never tasted palm juice before, just heard my mum said it's taste good and it's taken from the flower of the palm tree? I hope one day I can actually taste it.  

  2. # Blogger Wanna

    So sweet memory you have, Seserak! I'm so interested in doing a research on the kind of tree.
    I once saw via photos some kids of trees similar to Cambodia's palm tree in the US, and other countries -- not sure whether they have any relation. Beth may help clarify this.


  3. # Blogger leakenak

    Ur memory about Palm Tree was really interisting. Yes, palm tree has given alot of benefit to our people in Cambodia. But i wonder why they just sell the palm tree for very small amount of money? Because if they keep it they can produce more money than that . But this is because the poverty. So local authority should explain to farmers and take action against the cutting down of the palm tree.
    Because palm tree is the symbol of our nation!  

  4. # Blogger seserak

    Hey Anoynymous,

    You 've made an interesting comment. I totally agree with what your mum said. To get the crops out in good condition we need a lot of efforts.

    And yeah, sugar palm is made entirely from palm juice, without using any chemical substance.

    And you're right, Palm juice is taken from the flower of female palm tree. There are two kind of palm tree: the male and female. The male bears no fruit or juice. While the female does.  

  5. # Blogger seserak


    I am interested in knowing more about palm tree too. Here in Japan, I've never seen any palm tree. Maybe,that's because palm tree doesn't tolerate the cold weather.  

  6. # Blogger seserak


    Agreed with what you said. Poverty and lack of education are the main causes of this problem.  

  7. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Hello Seserak,

    Thanks for your comfirmation. Yes, I now remember my mum also mentioned about the male and femal palm trees. And she also said that palm trees grow by themself in our land, and they don't need any care from human at all.

    I agree with you all about the problem of cutting down lot of palm tree every day. I just hope it's not a plot by anyone, you know with its usefulness and symbol to Cambodia people. And I hope there wont be a day when we need to import suger palm tree from other countries.  

  8. # Blogger seserak

    You're right.

    I just hope so.

    Oh by the way, all the three pics I am displaying are not mine. The Angkor Wat pic is taken from this site:

    While the second and the third from this site:, and this site:

    I hope the original poster wouldn't mind me reposting their pics here.  

  9. # Anonymous beth


    I loved reading your post about the palm trees - so beautiful.

    The thing about reposting someone else's photos -you should check on the copyright and it is good to ask permission and also give them a credit or link back.

    You might try checking out flickr - you can easily repost photos - in fact it is encourage,but you have to know the licenses. FLickr has a good instruction page on explaining the differences.  

  10. # Blogger Sopha

    Hello Seserak! It's been quite long dat i haven't stopped by... N u still always have interesting things for us to read.

    Sweet memories u have particularly dat of the scorpion... :)  

  11. # Blogger seserak

    Hi Beth,

    Thanks for the advice. I've just signed up an account at Flickr.  

  12. # Blogger seserak

    Hi Sopha,

    Thanks for dropping by!

    I like reading your blog too.  

  13. # Blogger .


  14. # Blogger Melissa

    Beautiful post. The palm trees where the first thing to strike me about Cambodia...The tall slender silhouettes rising up over the luscious greens of the rice feilds. When I first visited Angkor Wat, I thought exactly the same thing...Those beautiful trees are the perfect companion to the 5 peaks of Mt. Meru, all reaching for the sky in the stunning sunrise. I still havent had a chance to try palm juice, palm wine, or palm boats (^-^), but I hope someday I will have a chance to make my own memories of them all!

    PS: If you're on Flickr, check me out! Id like to know what you think of my pics of Cambodia and Japan.  

  15. # Blogger Melissa

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.  

  16. # Blogger Money Pays The Rent

    I love your post of the palm trees too.  

  17. # Blogger Taupie


    Your story about palm trees reminded me of ours. Shortly after the end of Pol Pot, my brother and I learned how to make palm juice from one of our palm trees. After several tries, we successfully got juice from it daily. We used to take turns climbing up the tree, swapping the full bamboo cans with the emptied ones. Thinking back about it, we both kind of wonder how risky it was. But at the time didn't think much. We were around 14 years old. I remember one time it was my brother's turn; when he got up to the top, all a certain a very strong wind started to blow; the tree was swinging back and forth. I recalled seeing my brother grabbing tightly to the tree top looing very scare. I don't remember exactly how long it was for us to wait 'til it was calm to get down.

    We used to lived in Anlongvill, Battambang; and the tree was at Omni; quite a distace from us, so we would take a bicycle, the one riding on the back would carry the juice. Once home, my Mom would process the juice to get sugar.

    Reading about your scorpion encounter, I had never thought about it being on top of the tree. I cann't imagine getting stung while being on the tree top. We tried not to look down while at the top. Do you know the tough part is not getting to the top, but getting down? Getting your feet to find the first step off the top is the most difficult part, because the bamboo steps is bend at a very sharp angle from the trunk to get over the lower branches (neck). Now imagine, having to grab the branches and suspense half of your body down and hoping your feet can find the first step on the bamboo ladder.

    This is a memory that my brother and I will always have. In fact, my brother forwarded me your post after finding it to be very interesting.

    Sorry for being a little lenghtly.

    Taupie (Moorestown, NJ)  

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