Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kickin' it in Cambodia

Hello from Phenom Penh, Cambodia! We arrived here after a spending a few days in Siem Reap. 

We enjoyed our time in Siem Reap, in part because we stayed at a really comfortable hotel with a pool. The owner was new, so he was trying very hard to make our stay enjoyable, and he helped us figure out what to do. Of course, the first thing we did was a day in the Angkor Wat park. It was beautiful and impressive, all of these ancient temples that over time, nauture has started to reclaim. The park is huge, encompassing forest and residential areas. The structures were built between the 9th and 15th centuries.

A bridge in the park.

Mary on the rocks.

Carvings in the stone.

People are supposed to cover their knees to visit, so we took the opportunity to wear our elephant Hammer pants. They were functional (if not fashionable) because they are light and it was a billion degrees out.  Because the park was crawling with tourists, we were certainly not the only ones in these pants. Elephant pants were everywhere.

Can't touch this.

The park included reservoirs built in ancient Khmer dynasties. The one we saw, Neak Poan, is an artificial island built by Jayavarman VII before the end of the 12th century. The waters are supposed to have a curative function. 

There was a lot of shallow water around, and kids fishing. There were a lot of kids in general, children of people working at the park. 

Shallow water around Neak Poan.

The only glitch in the day was our tuk tuk breaking down in the middle of the park. We had to pull over on the side of the road, by a little hut, and get a ride with another drive while our tuk tuk got fixed. Ultimately, crisis averted.


Breakdown hosts.

Some animals in the mud, for context on location. Temp Bear Cambodia?

We finished up the day with some of the most famous sites: Angkor Thom, Bayon, and of course, Angkor Wat. First stop: elephants to match our pants.

Angkor Thom, Terrace of the Elephants. In Elephant pants.


Bayon from the outside.

Last stop: Angkor Wat, very sweaty and tired.

Angkor Wat.

We went through town on our first afternoon in Siem Reap, and checked out the night market and pub street. It was similar to the markets in Thailand: aimed at tourists, some interesting stuff, but no need to visit more than once. So, exhausted from our Angkor adventure, we spent our next two days mostly relaxing, and going to shows in the evenings.

Mary's morning coffee.

Poolside banana tree.

The Mansion at Siem Reap.

The first show we saw was called Phare, and it was the Cambodian circus. It is a non-profit organization that supports the arts and jobs and education. The show was pretty good. The story line didn't make much sense, but the tumbling was impressive.


Kendra joined up.

The second show we saw was an Apsara dance, a traditional Cambodian dance show. We both liked this better than Phare, because the costumes were beautiful and it provided some context for the culture.

Apsara dancing.

Mary working on her dance skills after the show.

After Siem Reap, we took a 7 hour bus ride through the countryside to Phenom Penh. The bus ride was not particularly comfortable but it was nice to see the countryside. The houses were all on high stilts, and many of the fields were flooded under them from the rainy season. There were rice paddies and tons of lotus blossoms all throughout the trip.

We came to Phenom Penh for really only one reason: to see thekillimg field and S-21 museum, to educate ourselves and bear witness to the atrocities that occurred under the Khmer Rouge regime. After reading the book In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner, Kendra really felt it was important to go. If you haven't read this book yet, you should. The story of what happened in Cambodia seems to be largely left out of American curriculums, and that's a shame. The museum and killing field were very sad and powerful.

We also did some lighter site seeing in the city. Our hotel was right by the Royal Palace, and we walked along the banks fo the Tonle Sap River. 

Play between the Tonle Sap and the Palace area.

Tonle Sap River.

Cambodia's Budweiser. Not bad. 

The royal palace.

Palace area.

The tomb of a king.

That's about it for Cambodia...we take an early bus to our next stop: Vietnam!

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