Friday, November 8, 2013

Bhutan and Cambodia: A Shared History?

Foreign travels are always educative provided, ofcourse, you keep your eyes and minds open. My recent unplanned trip to Cambodia was one such trip - I was confronted with something that puzzles me to this day.

One of the things we did in Siem Reap was to hunt for good and authentic Khmer food. Our third day search took us to a restaurant run and managed by the Foreign Correspondents' Club. The food was nowhere near being authentic Khmer - but it certainly was good - I enjoyed it thoroughly.

As we were coming down the staircase, I saw a handicraft shop to the right of the landing that had some interesting items on display. I walked into the shop - not to buy but to see what the items were.

On one of the shelves was a piece of antique textile that resembled so much like our own. I took a closer look ….. yes! there was no mistaking it … it had an uncanny resemblance to one of our own textile called Chagtsi Pangkhep. I know this because I recently completed an assignment for the Royal Textile Academy where I was required to photograph a huge pile of exhibits for a catalogue that was released during the inauguration of the new RTA building.

I am still intrigued - how come there is so much similarity between the textiles of Cambodia and Bhutan? The weave, the patterns, color scheme and even the frills look so exactly same. Is it possible that our textiles have their origins in those of the Cambodian or theirs in ours? So much similarity does not happen by accident!

Take a look - the one below is our own Chagtsi Pangkhep. I am told that we use to use ours as hand towels.

Bhutanese Chagtsi Pangkhep

The one below is the Cambodian one … the manager of the shop told me that they use theirs as wall hangings.

Cambodian Wallhanging

The implications here are serious. If what I suspect is true ... may be we have some Khmer Rouge blood running through our veins!


  1. I am not sure too. I have a same one, very old one too. I will show these pictures to my granny and find out ok.

  2. Hi Deki

    Thanks ... yes please show it to your granny and see if this is indeed Bhutanese Chagtsi Pangkhep and not Cambodian as claimed. I wrote to two experts on our textiles one in the US and another in Thailand... and they both are certain that they are Bhutanese and not Cambodian. The only question is HOW DID THEY END UP IN, of all places, Siem Reap?