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Showing posts with the label Siem Reap

Stitching Travel Memories

Sunrise at Angkor Wat
I just recently discovered some apps like Diptic, Collage and Instagram which enhance a photograph in different and amazing ways. With Sunrise at Angkor Wat, I used Diptic to form a collage of various images I took at Angkor Wat last year to show the unfolding of day starting at around 5:30 a.m. until the sun crept into full view. It's beautiful to see the gradation of hues at intervals of just a few minutes. I refer to these images as "early bird catches early worm".

Bayon
In this photo taken at Bayon (also at the Angkor complex of temples), I used a filter from Instagram for a dramatic effect and to hide the haze at the lower edge of the photo. The frame further adds to the drama and sets the photo back in time. I describe this image as "a smiling face peeping through the corridors of time".

Casa de Fruta, Gilroy, California
This collage of eye candy was made using Collage app. It's a fun way of mixing various images into one so you …

Getting Around in Asia

Cinderella went to the ball in a pumpkin coach. Laurence of Arabia rode across the desert in a camel. Mushers and their teams race from Anchorage to Nome with sled dogs. Getting there is surely more than half the fun?
In Siem Reap you have the option to ride an elephant around the Angkor complex for what could be an elevated experience. I also love the orange throw over the back of the elephant for that royal touch!

The procession of tuk tuks above bodes well for independent travelers to Cambodia who wish to move about without the restraining expense of a chauffeur driven limo.


The jeepney was fabricated from used jeeps left by the Americans in the Philippines at the end of World War II.  The most colorful and extravagantly decorated jeepneys ply the roads in Metro Manila. What I like about riding the jeepney is the flexibility of getting off where I please by just asking the driver, "mama, para po dito" (Mister, please stop here).


The tricycle is what I call the transport of…

The Kindness of a Stranger

Vanna was my tuk tuk driver in Siem Reap. Some days he was also my guide.I met him at the hotel where I was staying which employs him to stand by and be available for the hotel’s guests for a minimum wage. He speaks some English. I thought we understood each other well. He drove me all over Siem Reap and all the way to the port at Chong Kneas. There had been heavy flooding in the villages and rice paddies near Tonlé SapLake and the roads were washed out in many places. Our tuk tuk was jumping up and down as it crossed potholes along the way. At one point we got stuck in the red mud. Vanna had to wade in the mud to free the tuk tuk. On our way back to town it rained heavily. The driver’s seat is up front and it has no overhead cover so Vanna was drenched but for the raincoat he had thoughtfully bought from one of the stalls at the foot of Phnom Krohm.

Vanna and his tuk tuk
One day I asked him to come and pick me up before dawn so I could see the famous sunrise at Angkor Wat. We were on …

Angkor Wat Under Wraps

My first impression of Angkor Wat was one of total disappointment. I happened to visit the site when it was undergoing restoration work on the front terrace. I could have cried. But there wasn't much I could do about it. So I concentrated on the other features of the temple and there was much to see and learn.


This is one of the long galleries that wrap around the temple. It faces west with a view of the library and causeway. Behind these columns is a wall decorated with bas reliefs. There are some beautifully carved vignettes like the mother playing with her child. It's best to spend a little more time here with a guide who can point out some of the most interesting bas reliefs and give you background information about them to better appreciate this incredible visual library.


We wound up at the back of the temple where we had a full view of the two rear towers. Ankor Wat, like all other temples in Cambodia, were built up (on a height) to emulate Mount Meru, the legendary hom…

Cambodia Land Mine Museum

There are an estimated 6 million landmines in Cambodia. These are for the most part concentrated in the Thai-Cambodian border. Aki Ra, a former child soldier in the Khmer Rouge and later on in the Vietnamese army (which captured and conscripted him), founded this museum to instill awareness of the danger and dire consequences brought about by these landmines and to help street children, some of whom are victims of landmines. These children are now housed in the museum complex.


As a child soldier in the Khmer Rouge, Aki Ra planted landmines. In this little glass pavilion are hand grenades, grenade launchers, rifles, which are just a handful of weaponry gathered by Aki Ra since he started his self help demining mission. All told, he's cleared around 50,000 landmines.


In the image above, bombs line the walkway leading to the museum. The Landmine Museum is located in the Angkor Wat National Park, about 30 minutes from the center of Siem Reap. If you're visiting Banteay Srei, tak…

Siem Reap Essentials

Where to stay:  Prince d'Angkor Hotel and Spa
Sivatha Blv, Mondul II, Sangkat Svay
Dangkom, Siem Reap 93136
Tel: +855 63 763 888
Fax: +855 63 963 334
http://princedangkor.com/
Buffet breakfast and wifi in room included


Convenient location in center of town. I had a spacious room and it was quiet although the hotel is on the bustling Sivatha Boulevard. I also appreciated the fact that my room was very clean. The hotel is a minute's walk to the supermarket at Lucky Mall where I could buy beverage and snacks for my sightseeing trips (It's important to take water and/or beverage of your preference wherever you go because it's so hot, you'll need to hydrate). The buffet breakfast was generous. There was something different for me to eat everyday and the staff were attentive to my needs. The hotel also employs tuk tuk drivers so I could easily and safely go around town.

Where to eat:  Lucky Shabu House
Lucky Mall, 2nd Floor
Sivatha Street
Lunch: 11:00 a.m. to 14:00 p.m.
D…

On the Wat Trail

Pre Rup
There are many temples in Siem Reap, each one unique and worth a visit.  Some temples are within a few minutes of the other so it makes good sense to view them on the same day. I saw Pre Rup from across a rice field on our way to Banteay Srei. This was such a pleasant surprise that I begged my guide and tuk tuk driver to let me explore the ruins. In this temple we can see the pyramid style of construction crowned by five lotus towers (in this photo you only see three).

Banteay Samré
Farther afield is Banteay Samré which is one of the least crowded temples we visited. There's a pleasant walk between tall trees leading up to the walled temple grounds. Unlike Banteay Srei where you can only walk around the perimeter of the temples, at Banteay Samré we could enter the central temple. It is bare now but once upon a time within this hallowed walls, only the high priests or Brahmin were allowed entry.

Phnom Krom
On our way back to Siem Reap from Tonlé Sap Lake, my tuk tuk driver to…

Wat Thmey

In what was once a killing field during the Pol Pot regime, there's a memorial to the people who were executed by the Khmer Rouge. It is believed that as many as two million people were killed and their remains left in one of many killing fields throughout Cambodia. Wat Thmey, a monastery with a large temple, is located on that killing field in Siem Reap and within its grounds is a collection of skulls found in the area. They say that after heavy rains, teeth and human bones rise to the surface and these would be gathered by locals and laid to rest in the glass fronted stupa within Wat Thmey.

Wat Thmey
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Images by Charie

Banteay Srei - The Citadel of the Women

Entrance to Banteay Srei
This is arguably the most beautiful temple in the Angkor complex. It is referred to as the Citadel of the Women and many would like to believe that this temple was built by women because of the intricate bas reliefs found in the walls and pediments throughout the temple. But in fact, this was built by a Brahmin and dedicated to Shiva. Her image is everywhere as the venerated Creator and Destroyer in the Hindu trinity.
Causeway leading to the inner sanctum
What's so appealing about this temple? Perhaps it's the intimate scale or the pink sandstone walls or the doors that lead to more doors behind which garudas sit in the sunshine. But at every corner you turn, there's something that will catch the eye. It could be a well preserved and artfully carved pediment or a delicate apsara or a column still standing since the 10th century. 

Banteay Srei is about 30 minutes away from the center of Siem Reap. It's a pleasant drive through green countryside wit…

The Floating Village of Chong Kneas

About 20 minutes away from Siem Reap is Tonlé Sap Lake where you can catch a boat to the floating village of Chong Kneas. During my visit in October, the water level of the lake was quite high. Monsoon rains had inundated many areas of Cambodia and Thailand. I saw houses under water along the road to Tonlé Sap and the surrounding rice fields were flooded making no distinction between land and lake. Cows lined the highway where they were safe from high waters. My tuk tuk driver deftly plunged into washed out roads or heavily potted ones like the one shown above. At one point we got stuck in a deep pothole but he thankfully got us out of it. I swayed in all directions inside the tuk tuk as we rode out of town. (It is not unusual to see red mud as it comes from red soil common in Siem Reap.)


From atop Phnom Krom, we had this view of the extent of the flood. The waters had risen to the roofs of houses.  
We made it to the dock without further ado and I boarded a boat to Chong Kneas. There …

The Faces of Bayon

Bayon was built in the late 12th or early 13th century by Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist temple in the center of Angkor Thom, the capital of the Khmer empire. There are more than 200 facial sculptures on 37 surviving towers. Four faces are carved in each tower staring at four different directions. These faces are believed to be the bodhisatva of compassion, Avalokitesvara or Lokeshvara.

There are studies suggesting that the faces in the temple are similar to that of Jayavarman VII from existing statues of him. This is not far fetched in light of the traditional belief among Khmer rulers that they were devaraja (god-king), but unlike other rulers who practiced Hinduism, Jayavarman VII was a Buddhist and would have aligned himself with Buddha and the bodhisattva (enlightenment being).
Khmer army marching to battle
Bas reliefs cover the walls of  Bayon in exquisite detail. There are scenes of battles, celebrations after the battle, everyday life, the next life. It's a picture bo…

Ta Prohm

Of the many amazing temples I saw in Siem Reap, Ta Prohm is definitely my favorite. It seems on the verge of collapse under the weight of the roots of towering trees. The scent of decay is pronounced and more so after a tropical downpour. While seeking refuge inside one of the temple structures, we were enveloped by an oppressive and dank air which no amount of incense could erode. But this is to be expected of an enclosed space that is being choked by its surroundings.

There's so much drama in this jungle which is why I like it the most. Piles of stones are everywhere. Moss and lichen cover the walls and roots the size of an elephant wrap over and around the structures. Built in 1186 as a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII (the greatest ruler/builder of the Khmer empire), it was abandoned until the 16th century when Portuguese explorers visited the Angkor complex.  

The jungle has been tamed but there are many traces of its past existence. In these grounds th…

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

I got up at 4:30 a.m. to meet my tuk-tuk driver, Vanna, at 5:00 a.m. to make the trek to Angkor Wat for the famous sunrise over the temple.  The air was nice and cool and I could have used a light sweater but what a welcone change from daytime temperatures! At the ticket checkpoint a few miles from  Angkor Wat, the attendants there asked for my temple pass which had expired the day before. But since I had no intention of going inside the temple (as it is under renovation and the front terrace is covered in  tarpaulin), my driver negotiated for me to enter the grounds but not the temple. This worked out perfectly and at 5:30 a.m., I was well positioned to view the sunrise.
First blush
From where I stood, I had a great view of the causeway and the first wall which has three round towers. Behind that are the three conical towers of  Angkor Wat. There were many people around who woke up early to see this momentous event. On the causeway leading to the temple was a steady procession of tour…