Motodops, Rice Fields and Butterflies

Whilst staying in the Beautiful Cambodian City of Siem Reap we decided to go and look at the butterflies at The Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre. This small centre is owned and run by local people for the benefit of all the local rice farming families. The journey from The City to the centre is about 20 Km and is almost as good as the centre itself.

We took a motodop from town, favouring these motorbike drawn landaus over the cars every time. It’s a very pleasant way to travel, seated in the back, enjoying the views and joking with the driver. Leaving Siem Reap we headed out North passing Angkor Wat on the way. Just by Angkor Wat, monkeys gathered at the side of the road to beg or steal food from anyone who stopped to look at them.

Once past The Temples of Angkor, the countryside opens up to present a vista more in keeping with the Khmer wilderness that we have seen so often on TV and in movies. The local people live an extremely frugal life style. Residing in houses of reeds and leaves that stand on stilts cut from local trees, they farm rice and make and sell arts and crafts to visitors passing by. Excited children shrieked out a welcome as we drove past and their parents waved and offered friendly smiles to everyone. We waved back as the many rice paddies came and went from our gaze. This is such a beautiful part of the world. The jungle is always just within sight, the farmers cultivate right up to the edge of the impenetrable wilderness, which has born witness to many wars over the centuries.

After about 40 minutes we arrived at out destination. The Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre is a small pleasant place, run by young boys who have an excited passion for their work. They breed the butterflies from egg to caterpillar, look after them as they change to pupae and enjoy them as they emerge in riotous colour to fly freely inside the large netted area. They have an extremely impressive collection of wild local plants and flowers on which their charges feed and rest.

We strolled about amongst the beautiful plants as our guide explained the different species and the way they breed them. They collect the eggs and put them into plastic tubs until the caterpillars hatch. Then they are placed in larger containers. As they change into the pupa stage of their metamorphosis, they are fastened onto bamboo sticks and placed into net sided, wooden cupboards. The doors are opened daily and any butterflies that have emerged, fly free within the netted area.

Our young guide showed us a cage with large stick insects, at first we thought they were the branches to the foliage within, but soon realised that the foot long sticks were in fact what we were looking for. Much more difficult to spot were the leaf insects. These small creatures are so well camouflaged it took even our guide 10 minutes or more to find one.

We stayed a couple of hours before returning to our motodop for the journey back into town. The driver went a slightly different route to give us different points of interest to look at. These drivers are very good and will stay with you for a full day for about US$20.

Back in town we sank a few cold beers and looked at our photos. This is a trip well worth doing for anyone, for families with small children it is a must.