When I pack I always save some space for my souvenirs. My goal is to find a magnet, a shot glass and a Christmas decoration from every place I visit, but the last one can prove quite tricky! When the destination is more exotic I often extend my purchases with the eventual dream of having a library/travel room to display mementos of my adventures. Coming back from over a month South East Asia with conical hats, silk lanterns and numerous other trinkets for friends and family I must have looked quite comical!
I stumbled upon Backstreet Academy whilst researching my trip to Cambodia, the platform offers unique travel experiences run by local people including some where you make your own souvenir to take home (such an amazing idea!). It took me a while to choose which activity to book, and I eventually settled on Iron Pencil Sketching, I would definitely have tried more activities if I had additional time though.
Iron pencil sketching is unlike anything I have seen before as various patterns are burnt into a palm leaf using ‘iron pencils’ to form a wonderful picture. The iron pencils themselves are in fact differently shaped metal tools that are heated in a fire before being used in various manners to burn shapes onto the leaf. Bun Hak, the creator of this unique skill, makes it look easy but I soon learnt that this was definitely not the case!
Included in the price is an A4 canvas which you can select a drawing from Bun Hak’s selection to copy or bring one of your own. I chose one of the most popular designs of Angkor Wat with Bayon heads. I later learnt this is one of the trickiest ones but worth the effort!
Bun Hak provides a separate piece of palm for you to practice the different techniques on prior to starting your piece of art. This is quite essential as once you’ve burnt your palm leaf there’s no going back, and there seemed to be a knack to using the ‘pencil’ that I didn’t quite manage to master. Bun Hak can do magic with slip ups to make them blend in though so it’s not a massive problem if you make a mistake.
The process is time consuming (especially if you’re a perfectionist like me) and rather sweaty work sat by a fire in the tropical heat, they do provide fans and cold water but neither are overly effective in 40 degree weather so I would recommend wearing some very lightweight clothes!
I have to say I was incredibly chuffed with the final result; no one needs to know that Bun Hak did a significant amount for me. With all the hard work that went into my final creation this made my iron pencil sketch my favourite souvenir from Cambodia and one that now graces my wall at home.
Find out more…
Backstreet Academy – Iron Pencil Drawing: https://www.backstreetacademy.com/siem-reap/113/iron-pencil-sketching-one-man-s-legendary-pursuit