Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cambodia Pics - Banteay Srei

Per Wikipedia, Banteay Srei "is a 10th century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Located in the area of Angkor in Cambodia, at 13.5989 N, 103.9628 E, it lies near the hill of Phnom Dei, 25 km (15 miles) north-east of the main group of temples that once belonged to the medieval capitals of Yasodharapura and Angkor Thom.[1] Banteay Srei is built largely of red sandstone, a medium that lends itself to the elaborate decorative wall carvings which are still observable today. The buildings themselves are miniature in scale, unusually so when measured by the standards of Angkorian construction. These factors have made the temple extremely popular with tourists, and have led to its being widely praised as a "precious gem", or the "jewel of Khmer art."[2]"

This is day three after getting up at 330am on Day one and 4am on Day three - do we look exhausted yet?

Cambodia Pics - City pics and Catholic Church

Here are some city pics...

Housing along the river in the city.

The inside of the Catholic Church - new pews - just mats to sit and kneel on instead!

The outside of the Catholic Church in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Cambodia Pics - Ta Phrom (Tomb Raider)

Per Wikipedia, Ta Phrom "is the modern name of a temple at Angkor, Cambodia, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara. Located approximately one kilometre east of Angkor Thomand on the southern edge of the East Baray near Tonle Bati, it was founded by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor's most popular temples with visitors. Indulging in what might be regarded as "descriptive excess," Angkor scholarMaurice Glaize observed, "On every side, in fantastic over-scale, the trunks of the silk-cotton trees soar skywards under a shadowy green canopy, their long spreading skirts trailing the ground and their endless roots coiling more like reptiles than plants."[8]
The temple of Ta Prohm was used as a location in the film Tomb Raider. Although the film took visual liberties with other Angkorian temples, its scenes of Ta Prohm were quite faithful to the temple's actual appearance, and made use of its eerie qualities."

Picture Angelina Jolie here where you see the roped off area...

Funny picture - looks like a butt!

Another scene from Tomb Raider...

We had to walk across this to get to Ta Phrom. We walked slowly and very carefully! Some of us walked slower than others......

Cambodia Pics - Angkor Wat

Per Wikipedia, Angkor Wat "is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation—first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. The temple is the epitome of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol ofCambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country's prime attraction for visitors. The modern name, Angkor Wat, means "City Temple"; Angkor is a vernacular form of the word nokor which comes from the Sanskrit word nagara meaning capital.wat is the Khmer word for temple. Prior to this time the temple was known as Preah Pisnulok, after the posthumous title of its founder, Suryavarman II.[1]"

We could not resist taking a picture of this. Apparently this is how they cut grass in Cambodia - with a machete. There was a LOT of grass there to be cut. Can you imagine squatting like this all day long for probably several days cutting grass with a machete? And to think some of us complain about cutting grass on a riding mower!

Monks talking with tourists are not real monks per our guide!

Sunrise at Angkor Wat....

Joe and I at sunrise at Angkor Wat - not too shabby considering we got up at 4am, skipped breakfast and Joe had not had any coffee yet!

Cambodia Pics - Bayon (Faces)

Per Wikipedia, "The upper terrace is home to the famous "face towers" of the Bayon, each of which supports two, three or (most commonly) four gigantic smiling faces. In addition to the mass of the central tower, smaller towers are located along the inner gallery (at the corners and entrances), and on chapels on the upper terrace. "Wherever one wanders," writes Maurice Glaize, the faces of Lokesvara follow and dominate with their multiple presence."[16]

Efforts to read some significance into the numbers of towers and faces have run up against the circumstance that these numbers have not remained constant over time, as towers have been added through construction and lost to attrition. At one point, the temple was host to 49 such towers; now only 37 remain.[2] The number of faces is approximately 200, but since some are only partially preserved there can be no definitive count."

Why Angelina Jolie fell in love with Cambodia

We now understand why Angelina Jolie fell in love with Cambodia. While our friend John was visiting us in BKK for two weeks, we took an excursion over a 3-day weekend to Siem Reap, Cambodia. This is where Laura Croft Tomb Raider was filmed - I still have yet to see the movie! I believe this is when Angelina fell in love with Cambodia and made the decision to adopt her son there. While we understand her love for Cambodia - no worries, we did not adopt any babies from there. We arranged a tour thru the embassy and it was phenomenal. The three of us had our own driver and our own guide for three days. They picked us up early in the morning and dropped us off in the afternoon at our hotel to freshen up and then picked us up for dinner/entertainment and then dropped us off at our hotel once we were done. Our guide and driver were absolutely the best. The driver especially was very kind. One day it was raining and he hiked a good ways into the site where we were to bring us all umbrellas. Another day he was waiting at the van with 4 fresh coconuts for us to drink the juice from - particularly refreshing after being in the heat and blazing sun all day. The heat was worse than anything I have felt in Bangkok so far - and that is no exaggeration. The city itself is very quaint and the people there were all very kind.

There were more hotels there than I have ever seen in any city and they were all very nice. Our guide advised us that Cambodia received a lot of money from the UN to maintain the temples as a World Heritage sight. Many Hotels were built as a result. One would think that perhaps they would improve the roads too while at it - but nope! The roads definitely reminded you that you were in third world as there were no paved roads anywhere. They were all dirt roads and most were muddy and filed with terrible potholes and mud puddles as a result of rain. It definitely added to the charm of the city! One day we asked the guide if we could have a traditional Cambodian breakfast so he took us to a stand where we had cold noodle soup, fried chicken, sweet papaya salad (my favorite) and coffee. Another day we had a snack that was delicious - they take a banana and cover it all around with sticky rice and then wrap a banana leaf all around it and bind it with string and then cook it on a grill. He called it a Cambodian Burrito and it was quite tasty! One thing you do not see in Cambodia is old people as this is due to all the deaths from the Khmer Rouge Regime. There are plenty of little ones floating around though and they are all working at the sites trying to get you to buy anything and everything. The minute our van stopped there would be at least 10-15 children around it waiting for us to get out so they could sell us stuff. One little girl nearly followed John all the way up a mountain - he eventually gave in to buy some magnets and then another herd of them hit him up. While annoying as can be, the children are adorable and know English very well. You would have no idea they were Cambodian if you had your eyes closed and heard them speak. They spoke with little to no accent whatsoever and per our guide they have learned English from all the tourists. They tell jokes too. One little girl asked Joe where he was born and Joe said New York City and then she asked me where I was born and I told her Maryland and she said no you were not lady, you were born in a hospital. They know the capital of every country in the world and they will recite them all to you. It was quite impressive for such young kids. Cambodia uses the US Dollar even though they have their own currency. Even the locals prefer to use the US Dollar as our guide said that he only has US Dollars on him and does not use the Cambodia Riel at all. After using Thai Baht for almost 6 months, it really felt weird to have US Dollars in my hands again – it almost seemed like monopoly money!

We had excitement on our first day there within our first hour. Joe sprained his ankle pretty bad so he was hobbling around the entire time. Spraining ones ankle would be easy to do here if you are not careful, as it is an uneven terrain and lots of steep steps etc. And because of this it is also not a good place to sprain your ankle! But Joe did - twice! Yes, twice. He also sprained it again on our last day here. There were lots of stairs and they were all very steep and go straight up - some where almost at a 90-degree angle. By the time we returned home, we were all three very exhausted and Joe and I were wishing we had taken an extra day off work to recuperate from our travels. Here is our itinerary of the site's we visited:

Day 1 Arrive Siem Reap. Visit South Gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon, Elephant and Leper King Terrace. Lunch. Afternoon, visit to Angkor Wat and Phnom Bakeng till sunset. Dinner.

Day 2 Breakfast at hotel, visit Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, Mebon and Pre Rup. Lunch. Afternoon, visit Prasat Kravan with unique brick sculptures, Srah Srong Pool (The Pool of Ablutions), Banteay Kdei and Ta Prohm. Dinner.

Day 3 Early morning, see sunrise from Angkor Wat. Return to hotel for breakfast. Then visit Banteay Srei and Banteay Samre . Lunch.Afternoon Visit Angkor National Museum.Transfer to airport.

Attached are some photos - we took probably 500 and it was very difficult to select which ones to use since we cannot post them all. I think the three of us loved Bayon (faces) and Ta Phrom (trees) sites the best. Ta Phrom is where Tomb Raider was filmed. If you are ever in Asia, we highly recommend this excursion – one of the best we have taken so far. The pictures do not do it justice! Enjoy the pics (attached in the next posting)!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Koh Tao - Aow Leuk II Snorkeling Pics

OK I know I am really late in posting these - it's only a month after a trip to Koh Tao but things have been very busy lately. We had our first guest from the US staying with us for two weeks and we have been go go go ever since we got back from Koh Tao. In any event, here are the rest of our pics from Koh Tao. The first two are food pics because everyone likes those. The rest are pics from Aow Leuk II Beach which is a very popular cove for snorkeling and scuba diving. There were LOTS of diving classes being taught there. The beach was pretty much empty - just us and a handful of European families. The water was the clearest water I have ever seen in my life - apparently that is why Koh Tao is the #1 diving destination in Asia - the visibility is so good. Joe has a handy new digital camera that can go underwater so we tried it out - lots of fishie pics. The fish were definitely abundant - the minute you set foot in the water they were swimming around your feet. You did not have to go far - right up my alley as I am not a huge fan of going out too deep! Enjoy!

I forget what fish this was - grouper maybe? It was white and flaky and very good!

River prawns - quite tasty.

My favorite of all - the one on the left is red snapper and on the right is white snapper. The red was quite tasty but both were delicious!

See the bungalows on the cliff that are water front? We did not stay here but I checked online to see their rates. Um yeah, they looked nicer than our room at our resort and they run anywhere from $10 per day to $60 per day depending on season, size etc. Not too shabby!

All those boats were the boats with the diving classes - you can even see the divers in the water. They weren't there too long though - they came at lunch time when most of us were off eating so they weren't a both to those of us snorkeling or just enjoying the peace and quiet.

On the left with the red roof is a restaurant - the food was really good.

See how clear the water is - you can actually see the coral - unbelievable!

The restaurant and more bungalows.

I loved this and had to get a picture. This is sooooooo Asia! So when you go out to dinner most restaurants have napkins at the table in some sort of container and the napkins are basically toilet paper. This restaurant actually had a ROLL of toilet paper and they stuck it in this canister for what I think is Lemonade? Or maybe Tea. Hilarious - it's held together with little twisty ties. Only in Asia!

Storm was coming so the beach cleared up pretty quickly. Joe and I stayed though - only a few drops fell and then it cleared right up.

Pretty fishie with lots of color! One of my favorites.

There were a million of these black and white striped ones...

This sea slug looking creature kind of freaked me out!

These too were a little freaky - they look like they can do some serious damage!

Such a pretty blue on these little fishies.

Pretty coral flowers...

Sea cucumber - this also freaked me out!