Went to Banteay Srei and it was amazing…. I know that I keep saying that it’s all amazing, but it is. This location especially. It isn’t very popular with the tourists and is located about 20-30 minutes away, but it is well worth it. The temples detail is still intact and all original, so if you look at the pictures that I took, you can see some beautiful carvings, etc.
What can I say, everywhere I turn I am more and more impressed with what I came here to see. This is definitely a “must see” of things to do!
I am a bit behind…. Today was such an amazing day…. It started with Angkor Wat at sunrise, but that meant getting up at 4:30 am and being out of the hotel by 8. Then we ended the day with Angkor at sunset. So to say it was a full day would be an understatement :o)!
So I also took far more pictures today than I have on other days. Because of that, I need to go through and filter a couple of ’em out so that I don’t post the ones that are out of focus, etc. But believe me, it will be worth the wait, the images are amazing! I’m gonna stop typing now and get to editing photos and uploading so that you all can see ’em. worst case, they will be up and available tomorrow.
In the Mean time, I have to get some sleep :o)!
Ok, so here it is… I have time to upload the pictures…. there are a lot of ’em so bear with me :o)! We went to Angkor Wat early in the morning so that you can catch the sunrise. It’s pretty amazing to watch. The sun comes up and changes colors as it casts its light on the temple. It is crowded for sunrise with lots of tourists, many of them making noise when it feels as if you should be quiet and experience the sunrise. So you take a bunch of pictures from just inside the main gate (after using the causeway to cross the huge moat). If you are quick about it, you can then move up the causeway (inside the compound) and get some pictures looking over the lotus pond.
Then you go inside and walk around…. There are relief carvings that go all the way around the temple with towers in the center. Climbing the to the upper levels is a real trick. The stairs are so steep that you can touch the stair in from of your face as you are climbing… its only about 2 feet away. On the way down, there is only one staircase out of twelve that has a railing and that isn’t the sturdiest. But it is a real treat. Such an amazing sight.
Then we went back for sunset at Angkor Wat. Another awesome experience. The light is phenomenal and you can take pictures over the other pond that has no lotus and get a great reflection of the temple in the water. The one thing that you need to deal with both at sunrise and sunset are the mosquitos. I got eaten alive :o)! But that is why you take malaria pills ;o)….
So I got to Siem Reap today… The flight was uneventful and quick. Then went to the hotel and shortly after headed out to see the sights. We decided to change the itinerary up a bit so that we could avoid some of the people, but we’ll still get it all… ;o)!
In order to get to what we were going to see, you drove right by Angkor Wat. Oh my! But that is for another day, we are going to see it at sunrise tomorrow at 5 a.m. This place is everything that you see in pictures, “Tomb Raider”, etc. and more! It is amazing to see it in the flesh and one of the most amazing sights I have seen, and I have seen a lot! I haven’t even seen most of it yet and I can recommend that everyone should come and see this!
Angkor Thom (images here… all the images are together): you drive up and there is this fabulous gate in a long wall that surrounded the city. Quite interesting as tour busses drive through the gate, some of them with just inches to spare. The real attraction at Angkor Thom is the temple that was located in the ancient city, The Bayon.
The Bayon: most of the pictures at the above link are of The Bayon. This place is amazing. As you approach it’s the image that you have in your mind… The relief carvings along two entire walls tell a story of how they lived, showing games, fights, entertainment and the way they lived. Then you climb to the top and there are all of these Buddha heads with smiling faces looking right at you. Really an amazing sight!
The Terraces: these are impressing for their carvings but not nearly as much so like The Bayon or Angkor Wat. You can see these from the car, literally. But if you go take a close look at them, the carvings are pretty impressive. Go to the Terrace of the Leper-King and there is this small “jog” in the wall. Here the carvings are more complete and haven’t been worn down as much by weather and the elements so you can capture a better image.
What an amazing place and I think it’s only going to get better when we go to Angkor Wat tomorrow. I hope that there aren’t throngs of tourist busses with passengers when we are there so I can get some good shots…. And I can’t wait to see what gets developed from my 35mm pictures. Should be some great stuff :o)!
Today was an interesting day…. It started out nice and “happy”, ending in a depressing manner…. Here’s what I saw….
Royal Palace (pictures here): there is a king of Cambodia and he still lives in the Royal Palace. It is located where four rivers join and has views of everything. It glitters and has everything that a palace should…. I really enjoyed the Silver Pagoda. It’s floor is covered with over 5000 sterling silver tiles that are over 1Kg each… stunning!
National Museum (link above): Not as impressive as the Met or the Louvre, but totally awesome in it’s own right! It houses some fabulous pieces most are from Angkor Wat, and some are from way before…. Beautiful! Unfortunately they don’t allow pictures inside and of the artifacts, so there are only a couple of pictures of the courtyard. One thing that is interesting is the lack of maintenance… I mean I am glad that the artifacts are stone and not paintings for example, ’cause it’s open… no windows, climate control, etc. The only thing that doesn’t get to the artwork is rain :o). But in a developing country money is often spent better elsewhere :o)….
Genocide (pictures here): We went to see S21 which is the prison that housed and tortured folks before sending them to a mass grave just outside of town. This what us westerners know as “The Killing Fields”. It was totally gruesome to see this. I have been to holocaust museums and this is just as disturbing…. Close to 9000 people went through S21 and a total of 7 lived to tell the tale. I could write tons about the thoughts and emotions that run through your head as you look at these atrocities, but there just isn’t enough time/space…. Then we went about 15 Km out of town to see where everyone from S21 was taken to be killed and buries in mass graves. Again, totally disturbing. They have built a huge stuppa with bones that they have found. But what is even more grotesquely disturbing is that you walk around the site and see where they have exhumed the bodies from the graves. The graves that have been excavated kind of look like large, deep sand traps, but without the sand or the golf course. They are literally feet apart from each other (and they have excavated dozens). As you are walking, you notice that there are theses scraps of something on the ground every so often… then you realize that it’s some form of cloth. Then it hits you as you walk a couple more feet and notice a pile of something… it’s old clothing and bones that you are seeing still strewn on the ground. Not a polite way to treat humans or the dead! If you look at the pictures, you will see a pile of ’em. And don’t forget to read the sign by the tree where they used to beat babies against (they would just swing ’em against the tree) and then drop them into a nearby mass grave….
So there you have it. As you can see a totally interesting and yet depressing day. Came back to the hotel and needed a drink after this one (i had a couple actually and am going to have a cigar after dinner too).
Today I went to Udong Cambodia with my tour guide. It was the former capitol of Cambodia prior to it moving to Phnom Penh, about 30 Km away. The drive was really interesting as we drove through the outskirts of town and saw these houses built above a lake and along the river…. They were farming fish in man made ponds, actually fishing on the river and also raising and harvesting lotus blossoms for sale at the Buddhist temples at holidays. Oh, and they take these small fish that they catch and dry them, mush as you would coffee beans, and man the odor. You can smell it in a closed, air conditioned car. Quite rancid :o(!
When you get to the site, it’s the old capitol and stuppa (a tall burial/ritual structure. I think some of ’em look like the top of a dairy queen cone). Quite and interesting place and can be seen on it’s hill top for miles around. And then you start heading up as you realize that you don’t get to ride up close. You get to the base and have to climb steps… 409 of them up! Going up is not a problem… you take it slow and steady. And there are lots of urchins children around following you up and fanning you (not to mention the beggars and the cripples asking fro money). They understand a bit of english and speak it as well, and act as unofficial tour guides. They carry your stuff, watch your shoes, etc. At the end I gave the three that were with us a dollar each. It seems that almost everything here is a dollar…
So you’re at the top and your checking it out and it’s amazing. The stuppa’s are great, there is a temple of “a thousand Buddha” (they are all small, varying from 4″ to a couple of feet, but they’re there…) and then there are more stuppas…. That means more steps! In total, it was 409 up, 400 to another stuppa (down), 400 back up from that one, then 409 down… 1618 steps! Tammie, my trainer, would be so proud :o)! Oh and did I mention yet again that it was 90+ degrees with 98% humidity?
The pictures are located here….
And then the hour drive home (everyone here drives really slow). Again the fish smell…. It’s one of those smells that stays with you. I swear that I still smell it and it’s been 6 hours, I’ve had a couple of drinks and some curry for dinner, urgh!
I had some “alone time” today so I went out walking to see the sights and here is what I saw….
First let me say that it was hot…. The Central Market: built by the french in the 30’s, a huge central dome with halls leading away from it, each with a different item/category sold in it. The meat stalls and fish areas were pretty gruesome. Much of it was just H5N1 waiting to happen (you can see it in a out of focus shot, but you still can understand it). Every piece of clothing imaginable with tailors on the spot to sew. Between the halls in the outside portion, it was more stalls crammed full. So crowded in fact that you could easily get lost. There were also a lot of food vendors, selling what I don’t know, and not much of it looked terribly appetizing to my western palette. Oh, and the smell, well that’s just another story altogether :o)! There is a smell in much of Phnom Penh and i have come to understand that it’s sewer… much of it is not totally open but let’s say there is easy access and you can see it :o(!
Phnom Wat: the temple that the locals use to give offerings to bring them good luck. Street urchins asking for handouts as you ascend to the temple. You can buy a bird and release it for good luck. Urchins will watch your shoes for a buck (it seems that almost everything here is a dollar and the whole country unofficially uses the US Dollar). There are monkeys in the trees and guys that sell bananas, and they’re not for you to eat….
So here I am…. Finally after what was 36 hours by calendar, 18-19 hours flying and 7 hours of layovers, etc. Man was I tired :o)!
First thing you notice when you get off the plane is that it’s hot and humid…. I mean really humid! Beautiful airport, new shiny as compared to Vietnam, which I am sure was built by the US in the 60’s and when I was standing out on the tarmac, I swear that I could just imagine seeing a C-130 coming in to land :o)! Anyway, all three terminals and a very friendly customs staff that wasn’t busy seeing as if we were the only plane…. Got picked up and taken to my hotel….
The ride to the hotel was interesting… It’s called Russian Road for obvious reasons. Totally straight and only one stoplight the whole way. And folks are nuts here…. 3-4 on a motorcycle, folks driving down the wrong side of the street… but everyone is driving slowly and they are all polite and let each other do their “thing”.
The Hotel…. It’s very pretty. Built by the French, again in the 30’s…. it’s where all the reporters stayed while writing about the “killing fields” during the 70’s.
Mosquitos…. I was thinking about not taking my malaria drugs and brave it, but as i was taking the elevator down to breakfast this morning, there were two mosquitos in the elevator with me…. So I think I am going to err on the side of caution and take the drugs.
Jet lag is pretty bad…. I was up at 3am this morning or so…. gonna try to take it easy today and see only a couple of sights (maybe two), and then come in to meet the folks i am going to Angkor Wat with….
So I get here and all is well. Disembark and start looking for my connecting flight…. The folks at the airport here aren’t that helpful. They don’t even hang out at their desks/assigned stations!
Anyway, here I am sitting in a pretty old airport that looks like it is from the 60’s, maybe the 70’s…. It’s hot (not really air conditioned), it smells funky and they gave everyone on my flight a lunch that i not only didn’t eat, but couldn’t identify many of the items in it.
So here I am sweating, jacking some small shops free wireless (they didn’t turn on encryption and their router is still named “linksys”) and waiting for my flight…. I’ll get to Cambodia sometime….
So far so good…. I made Hong Kong in good time although we were an hour late pushing back from the gate in LA. I am typing this as we are about a half an hour out…. My friend Marty would have enjoyed about 10 minutes of the flight. That would have been the part where they rolled a cart down the aisle with virtually nothing but mellon. Now I have to go and catch my flight to Vietnam… then on to Cambodia.
One interesting thing did happen to me in Los Angeles… the woman checking my bags ran me through the wringer about visas and made me wait. She was concerned about me going through Vietnam… In the end all obviously was well.
So I got to Hong Kong and it’s really interesting… Firts, if you htink airline security is tough in the US, then come here…. I got anything that could draw blood confiscated from my toiletries. They even took a pair of cuticle clippers… I mean really, what can anyone do with that other than give a mani/pedi…?
On the upside, there is wireless internet in the Hong Kong Airport :o)! OK, but i have been playing with the wireless and it doesn’t allow anything other than web browsing… all ports are locked down tight… :o(! Ah, but they require a fee, once paid (it’s nominal), all ports are open :o)!
So I am spending my last hours at home in Los Angeles before I go off on my adventure…. I leave on the red-eye tonight at midnight for first Hong Kong, onto Ho Chi Min City then Phnom Penh. Then keep checking here for pictures and comments on my trip to see Angkor Wat…. Nervous and excited at the same time :o)!