May 20, 2010


If there is one piece of clothing that symbolizes Cambodia, it is the krama. This utilitarian piece of checkered cloth can be worn as a head wrap, a skirt, a changing robe, a swimsuit, and even as a water bottle carrier (I pioneered the last one in Kratie Province). While climbing Bokor, I wrapped my head tightly in my purple-checked krama to keep the sweat out of my eyes and the bugs out of my hair. The history of the krama long predates the Khmer Rouge, but the infamy of the red-checked krama lives on. This krama was a symbol of the regime, worn by all members.

This morning, I asked my Khmer teacher about the appropriate price of a krama. Without naming a price, she told me that her aunt owned a krama shop in the Russian Market. Cha-ching! I'm a sucker for a good deal, and there is no deal better than the family discount (and I'll throw in another one, free for you!).

In an event known hereafter as Kramapalooza, I scored nearly a dozen krama for under five bucks. What does one do with such a legion of head wrap? Besides completely filling my suitcase, I now have Christmas and birthdays covered for all my closest friends. Head wrap, anyone?