Monday, February 28, 2011


Drove to Cambodia last Thursday for a long weekend of family bonding and Angkor Watting with the kids.

To clarify, our driver drove us 2.5 hours to Cambodian border where he wished us well, we walked across border, and grabbed most reputable looking car & driver from the Khmer Camry cartel  (they don't let you bring your own car into Cambodia... adds to the adventure). I believe most dying US Camrys go to Cambodia for rebirth. 3 out of 5 cars there are such. Ours was low on air con & passing power, high on tunes, and got us from border to hotel in < 2 hours. Just a couple years ago the journey demanded 6-10 hours of dirty, rutted patience. Grateful now for newly paved 2 lane road....less adventure, but more sanity for traveling with hot & sweaty tots.  

Lone mountain on a winter landscape of flat, barren rice fields

Didn't catch in time, but left motorbike has a broomstick of 20ish dangling dead chickens. Also passed motorbikes with half dead pigs strapped to the back.

Faith & prayers all weekend long. Except for Rob's lone (dismal) adventure with beef, we stuck to fish & chicken. Cambodian curry was superb, as well as their famed amok fish. 

I arranged for the fabulous Ratanak to be our guide & driver for next two days. Stellar English & some Spanish, a fount of knowledge of old & new & architecture & pop music & American culture. "I've travelled the world through a library and television... Nat Geo, Discovery, Tom & Jerry," he laughs. I pray he can someday in person visit lands outside his own. He's hungry & interested & deserving to experience more of this world.

Morning tour of fishing village...boaters breakfasting at shore.

Bikes are EVERYwhere here... not so in rich Thailand where the masses pile onto motorbikes.

Fascinating engineering abounds.

Visible on stilts is the mark where waters rise during monsoon season when people take boats from their doors to get everywhere.  Can't imagine keeping a curious toddler safe here.

Pigs galore, melons on vines & beautiful children grow along the river.

Saw more naked kids in 4 days than I've ever seen.

Nice use of bouganvillea vine

Got out of the boat to explore town and shrimp drying on tarps. Again, water marks show how neighbors must boat to each other during wet season.

Hope this proves to be one of the UN's finer moments... definite pros & cons to ecotourism.

Out a channel to Tonle Sap lake, largest freshwater lake in SE Asia. Can't see across it, and they call it their Great Lake.

Setting fish farms

I think he's whispering, "You like that blonde girl, don't you?" A moment after this photo was taken, the elder elbowed the younger, exactly like my two daily tease.

Working fish nets in the cafe latte

Gendarmes... French influence still evident

Gorgeous color combos popped everywhere

I had always believed before Thailand that pineapples grew from tall trees. Nope, plants from the ground.


Post-lunch temple visit to Beng Melea, we all agreed this was our favorite temple in Cambodia... simply enchanting.

800 years old, overgrown with trees & vines, looks much like Angkor Wat supposedly did 100 years ago before reconstruction. This one has yet to be reassembled & I truly hope they keep it as is, for comparison's sake and wonderment.

Technique on this arch kept the inside bone dry during monsoons

Glad we're not squeamish about bugs & spiders, this one was impressive.

Years ago I painted a tree in Ry's new garden bedroom & made long pink drapes for windows. I soon after questioned her about a bent curtain rod. "I was vine swinging," she fessed, she was 3. And 6 years later, still a vine swinger.

Tag... you're it

Row of lotus buds that kind of look like faces.

Oh, Dad, you would love all the burly knots these trees weave.

We amazingly had the place pretty much to ourselves for the afternoon, except for these local kids who shared their playground with us. I wonder what they think of our intrusion.  

The grounds around Beng Melea were just finally cleared of landmines in 2007, thanks to German support. Still thousands of landmines present, mostly near Thai border.

This reminded us of the chateaux & moats of France

Ancient bridges did, too

Yet another interesting motorbike configuration to add to the list

Evening rush hour traffic back in town

Hazy Saturday morning at Angkor... as we approached, Ry said, "It feels like when we would go to Versailles," and her comparison was spot-on correct. Even her few years of age could sense the presence of something amazing. Angkor is splendid, but Beng Melea was still our favorite.

Colorful parade across the moat. Unlike Versailles, this was the biggest concentration of people seen all morning. It was picking up when we left, but we enjoyed having the temple mostly to ourselves. One of the many perks of having a great guide, he knew when to go & where to steer us away from other people.

One of twin libraries in the foreground

Gracing the temple are almost two thousand apsaras, each unique.

Old and new stone

The temple is built of sandstone, very matte, but where people have touched the 800 year old reliefs, shiny. Some of those beautiful apsara maidens have very shiny body parts.

Ratanak shared history & religious stories, and Ry was able to complete many of his sentences, as she just had an extensive (3rd grade) study of India last fall. Angkor was built as a Hindu temple, and Indian images are everywhere 

Cobras guard entrances... 3, 5, or 7 headed ones are just fine, but run if you see a single headed one :-)

Lions used to guard steps where we sat.

Small & large loose remains were scattered everywhere, especially at temples not yet reconstructed. Given Angkor's World Heritage Site designation, it seemed there may have been more security, but no. 

Ry loves this type of classroom

Angkor's interior is sand, with the pumice-like rock built up around it, and then sandstone facing. Here you can see the pumice where sandstone is broken away.

This was a great moment... the monk walked up to the tourist (I overheard he was Colombian) and started speaking to him in fine Spanish. Very humbling to be with Ratanak, listening to other tour guides and monks, and recognizing all of the language skills, knowledge & wisdom they have to share in spite of their "poor" status.

One of four swimming pools... it now drains for monsoons so mosquitoes have less of a chance 

Water damage

Sleepy Al beside the only apsara smiling with her teeth showing

Contrast this side of reconstructed moat wall...

... with this one now under contstruction...

... and yet to be worked on.

Cambodia's version of the tuktuk

Venturing on to Bayon

Much of Bayon was reconstructed by the Italians. Visitors were present, but it again really felt like we had the place to ourselves.

Angkor reliefs were primarily religious stories, and Bayon's historical accounts

The universal temper tantrum

And tween boredom by late, hot afternoon... did great early, then had enough, so Rob & I explored Ta Prohm with Ratanak while girls sat...

...overlooking buttress roots, Ry reminded from her rainforest studies.

The rainforest really took over these temples in amazing ways... giant ficas trees estimated at 300+ years

Spy the hiding face?

Several scenes from Anglelina Jolie's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider were filmed here. This is the entrance to the tomb... now gonna have to check out the movie. Cambodians love her for her charity work, and they call her their Queen. She'll be back soon to depict their queen in another film.

It was so silent here, only the occasional visitor walking by.

Kind of surprised to learn (poor) India is helping fund Ta Prohm's restoration.

Last night on the town of Siem Reap. Long live the family road trip.