Pashupatinath Temple: A Unique Experience in Kathmandu

Visiting a new place can make us feel out of sorts.  That could be due to a number of reasons:  the climate is different, the people behave in ways different than ours, the food is different, etc.  That can be especially true when visiting a place with a different religion than the one(s) we know.  That was true when I visited Kathmandu, Nepal, which, itself, did not feel strange; it felt very comfortable there!  But I visited one place in Kathmandu that was I ill-prepared for;  I felt a lot of ambivalence about the place once I got there.  And it was not the conceptual part of the site that threw me for a loop, it was more the sensory perceptions once at the place… but, before all that…

Pashupatinath Temple

Before flying to Lukla to hike the Everest Base Camp trail, our agenda had us visiting the Pashupatinath Temple, on the banks of the Bagmati River in the east side of Kathmandu.  It was a group activity for us trekkers so I went along, eager to see more of the city and explore more of the cultural and religious aspects of Nepal.  Before getting there, we understood it was a Hindi religious site where, among other things, ritual cremations took place.  Before I get to that, a little more about the centuries-old temple…

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A bit up from cremation area is a bridge to cross into the main complex

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Many structures piled on

Pashupatinath, temple, Kathmandu, Nepal, templo, Hinduismo, cremation, Asia, explore, travel, photo, architecture

Along the river bank after the bridge

Lord Pashupatinath is the national deity of Nepal and the temple is one of the most important ones in the Hindu faith.  When I speak about the temple, I actually refer to the overall complex of temples (big and small) and other religious sites around the main temple, which only people of the Hindu faith can actually enter. The complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which designates it as a place of unique importance and meaning to the world at large.  It holds many religious festivals throughout the year – it must be quite a sight!  Pashupatinath, temple, Kathmandu, Nepal, templo, Hinduismo, cremation, Asia, explore, travel, photo, architecture

Pashupatinath, temple, Kathmandu, Nepal, templo, Hinduismo, cremation, Asia, explore, travel, photo, architecture

Lattice work

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Close-up of the woodwork

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While non-Hindus cannot enter the main temple, we got close to it and got to peek through the gate.  Pashupatinath, temple, Kathmandu, Nepal, templo, Hinduismo, cremation, Asia, explore, travel, photo, architecture

The main temple is built in a pagoda style and has a gilded roof.  The area around the entrance was decorated with beautiful artwork that I am sure has a lot more meaning than I understand (it shows deities but I can’t really explain… if you, reader, know, leave a comment to educate us!).  I was left wondering if it felt more solemn once inside…

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Entrance to the main temple

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Close-up of the area above the entrance (Shiva)

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Close-up of the side of the entrance (Ganesha)

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Detail on the outside walls of the main temple

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Peeking in through the main temple gate (golden rear end of Nandi, Shiva’s bull)

The structures around the complex were not homogeneous.  The materials and colors seemed diverse, perhaps because of being built up over many centuries?  The buildings and the architectural details caught my eye (and my lens) and it was a lot to take in – it was a feast for the eyes.  I didn’t know where to focus since it was all new to me.

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Cool building – like all the wood work

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Love this type of detail

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Friends conversing

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But the thoughts about my first visuals upon entering the complex lingered with me throughout the visit despite the great things I was looking at…

Cremations at Pashupatinath

When we arrived we had entered through a gate that brought us directly face-to-face with the cremation area by the river….

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Our first sighting of the temple was the ‘ghats’ where the bodies are cremated

There were monkeys all over the place.  Not sure if they like being by the water, if they are all over, or what…

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One of the many…

In any case, the area where the cremations take place can hold several cremations at the same time on either side of the river.  The body of the departed is placed on a “platform” (or ‘ghat’) that juts out into the river a little and there the funerary pyre is set.  The side of the river close to the entrance we took is simpler whereas the opposite river bank offers more shade for the relatives and friends of the recently departed.  Behind that area there are several structures at a higher level.  We were told that if the families have come from a long way, they may stay there.  Once the ritual cremation is done, the embers are allowed to die down and the ashes (and anything else that remains) are thrown into the river with the hope it reaches the Ganges River, one of the most sacred rivers of the Hindu faith.  Relatives of the departed step into the river as part of the cremation ritual, hence the steps that form the river banks at the temple.

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Finishing cleaning up the area

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Preparing for a cremation

Experiencing the world through travel is not always easy

I knew that this was a religious practice as I had witnessed, via TV, the funerals of people like Indira Gandhi and others who were cremated in similar fashion (open-air as part of a religious ritual).  So as I entered the complex, I felt “aware.”

And then the smells generated by the cremations hit me.  To say I was unprepared for that is a massive understatement.  I had not stopped to think ahead of time about how it would feel to be physically present (not just in front of a TV or computer screen) at an open-air cremation.

We were quite far from the river’s edge when the smell reached us.  What made it uncomfortable was that it reminded me of the smell at a cookout back home but I knew this was an important religious ritual we were seeing from a distance.  It was disconcerting, feeling guilty about making that comparison mentally, about thinking that I was in person seeing something that I would never expect to see back home as an eyewitness.  As I stood there, I hesitated on taking any picture of the scene but decided to do it as it would be from a good bit of a distance away and I felt I was doing so with a respectful intent.

Looking at those photos today, all the feelings come rushing back:  my awkwardness with the moment, the sensory memories…  But, traveling is about expanding one’s understanding of the world, about learning of others’ perspectives and beliefs, and about being OK with not always being comfortable with what one comes across.  I struggle with saying I am glad I had that experience – I am not sure I can say I am “glad.”  And I will have to be OK with that.  But I am glad to have learned more about the meaning of what I witnessed to the faithful for whom this is supremely important…

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Not sure what this prayer man is called but photo highlights what this place is about

 

How to Pack to Hike to Everest Base Camp

My hike in Nepal a couple of years ago along the route to Everest Base Camp (EBC) was a great experience.  Hiking in Nepal is unlike my experience climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or trekking in Patagonia‘s Torres del Paine.  In Kilimanjaro and on the ‘W’ circuit in Patagonia, one is walking along areas where humans do not live:  they are parks.  But to get to Everest Base Camp, one walks along hamlets and a rare town that either pre-date the route’s popularity due to hikers or that arose due to the demand.  Either way, the result is the same:  one gets to experience Nepalese hospitality and customs in a way that enhances the experience; it is not simply a hiking experience, a physical challenge.

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Taking a tea break during a sunny day at a teahouse

Trekking to Base Camp or just a view of Everest

In my hike, I did not have the time off work (yes, I have a regular job with the usual constraints on vacation time!) to be able to get to Everest Base Camp and return.  That was OK with me.  In the trek I joined with Trekking for Kids, there was an option to only go past the Tengboche Monastery to Deboche and then turn back around.  (Note: if you are interested, Trekking for Kids is planning to return there in late 2018 with both the full trek to EBC or the shorter one like I did called “Everest View”, see here more more details on that trek.)

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Deboche – not a big place at all!

While it would have been cool to see EBC, I was not crushed; I was just glad to be able to see Mt. Everest in person (and discover the more proximate and impressive Ama Dablam!) and experience the trekking route.

Considerations driving the packing list

Preparing for hiking along the route to Everest Base Camp was not vastly different than some of my other hikes…

The route to EBC continually goes up in altitude as one goes along (no surprise there!).  The trek itself, if you start in Lukla (the one with the crazy airport), starts at around 2,800 m (9,300 ft).  EBC itself sits at near 5,400 m (17,600 ft).  So that right there will make it cold, like with Kilimanjaro (particularly at night).  Add to that the fact that heating at the teahouses where one stays at is ‘limited’ to be generous (one exception: we stayed at a proper hotel in Namche Bazaar):  the rooms are not heated and the common space where one eats meals and hangs out before heading to bed only usually have a tiny stove in the center.  So, cold weather gear and clothing was key (again, no surprise there).

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The stove in the teahouse’s main room is a popular spot…

As with Kilimanjaro, you have to mind the amount of stuff you bring along as there will be limitations on what can be carried by the support staff.  So being smart about light items, re-usable items, and the concept of “just enough” vs. “just in case.”

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My “packing list” in a visual format 🙂

It is worth noting that some teahouses have a tiny counter that may sell some basics but I would not make my plans with that as the approach to packing – it could be hit or miss. Namche Bazaar, along the way, will have plenty of the basics available (including some medications) as a backup to anything forgotten.

Clothing and Footwear

  • Upper Body and Legs:  The main point to the clothing to be taken is to stay warm and be comfortable first and foremost.  Layers are key to both.  Base layers for the torso and legs, with an added layer for extra warmth, and an outer layer for the coldest of times are the basic framework for the clothing plan.  Wind/Rain top and bottom layers are also important though rain itself was not the biggest of factors when I went; I’d recommend the top having a hood.  Using wool as the material of choice is highly recommended:  it provides excellent warmth while wicking moisture away (keeping you from smelling and helping with the re-use of clothing items…).
  • Feet:  The boots you will need should be, as expected, able to trudge through mud, ice, snow and the like – and be very comfortable.  Liners and woolen socks complete the “outfit” for you feet.  Nothing here is different than for most hiking scenarios in cold weather / high places.  You could also bring a pair of solid walking shows (vs. boots) so you can take a break from the boots.  The initial part of the trail does not necessarily require boots so you could do this if you have space.  Also, you will need some shoes to wear at the teahouse every night so these walking shoes could serve that purpose perhaps.
  • Hands:  Again, nothing terribly surprising here but because of the great and sustained cold temperatures, a hardy pair of gloves is a must.  You may also want to bring lighter gloves as it is not always freezing cold (lower altitudes or inside the teahouse at night).
  • Head:  A skull cap, balaclave or ski hat are a must – keeping the head warm is very important, as we all know.  You may also want to wear something at the teahouses (or even when sleeping as it is cold in those rooms!).


Gear and other practical items

  • Sleeping bag:  While you will sleep on beds in the teahouses, they are not necessarily clean and the cold may be too much for the provided linen.  So a sleeping bag rated for very cold weather is important to bring.  I just brought the one I used in Kili which was 0 degrees Fahrenheit rated.  Very much needed!
  • Night light:  When headed to the bathroom in the middle of the night, this may facilitate a lot of things… like seeing in your room, seeing in the toilet, etc.  Don’t forget batteries!
  • Pillow:  A small pillow would be helpful though teahouses tended to offer pillow.  I had my neck pillow for the air travel but I still used the teahouse-provided ones – covering them, of course…
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Typical sleeping quarters in a teahouse

  • Trekking poles:  Parts of the trek are steep so trekking poles are most helpful providing lift, stepdown, and balance support.  Mine have shock absorbers to help when going down – most helpful for me to protect my imperfect knees!

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    Very steep heading to Namche Bazaar

  • Water:  Treating water is very important and the Steripen is the most practical way (in my opinion) as within a couple of minutes you have water that is safe to drink and tastes normal.  Batteries are the big thing here – bring plenty as you will use this device a lot and others may ask to borrow it; add to that that batteries deplete faster with the cold and high zones you will be traveling through.  Of course, you will need a bottle with a wide neck to be able to properly use the Steripen.  I also will add that I used a Camelbak bag inside my backpack as it was easier and better to sip water through the attached hose than to drink gulps out of a bottle that had to be taken out…


  • Wipies/Tissues:  These are multi-purpose… Clean up after a day’s hike if the shower facilities are not available/too busy/too-dirty.  Also, you could use these if there is not toilet paper available (or dry…) around.  Or other general cleaning purposes!  [I will say as a parenthetical observation that I’d rather use the portable toilet tents used in Kilimanjaro than some of the indoor toilets these teahouses had… the portable toilets were cleaned daily and did not smell as bad and the area under them was just earth, not a dirty indoor floor…]
  • Towel:  A small quick dry towel is important as teahouses do not offer towels.  Quick dry is very important as they will not dry quickly enough overnight, especially with the air so cold.  Along with that, bring your own soap and shampoo…


  • Medications and first aid:  The items here are more specific to each individual’s circumstances but perhaps something to help sleep, something for altitude (like Diamox), something for an unexpected bout of digestive issues (CIPRO; a couple of folks got very ill in our group), something for pains/aches (like knee pain… Ibuprofen was my choice), something to help with treating blisters, etc.  Talk to your doctor about anything specific to your needs.  Also, the Center for Disease Controls in the United States offers travel advice specific to each country and regions within – your doctor should know about it or be able to look it up upon your request.  The route to EBC is unlikely to have too many of the typical tropical diseases (yellow fever, malaria, etc.) due to the climate but you do enter Nepal at a much lower altitude.
  • Personal items:  The usual suspects toothbrush, toothpaste, sunblock, lip balm, deodorant, floss, hand sanitizer, etc.  Whatever you normally need (and your roommate would appreciate you using!).
  • And, of course, duct tape!  Prevents blisters from developing too much, fixes broken things, and who knows what other needs!  I roll mine either on a pencil or on the trekking pole to save space.

I leave you with my view of Mt. Everest!  Pin it to your board!

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Picturesque under a great blue sky!


If you are interested in getting a copy of my Microsoft Excel packing list, leave me a comment below and I will email you the list I used “as is” (no bells and whistles!).  Your needs may be different and I am not saying my list is exactly what YOU need but it may give you a starting point!  

 

I Used to Not Know How to Spell Phnom Penh

Early last fall, when I was planning my itinerary for the SE Asia trip, there was an extra day to spare.  With 5 days already in Bali and Singapore (and the phenomenal 57th story infinity pool) awaiting, the options became extending Siem Reap by one day, jumping from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, or stopping in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital.  As you may be aware due to my post about the Killing Fields, the choice was “PP” simply to avoid crossing another border (much as I wanted to “hit” Vietnam for the first time!).

It was a good choice.  The sites related to the Pol Pot genocide of the 1970s were important to see.  But it was also interesting to see this capital which seems to be booming (I suppose “booming” can be a relative term…) out its past as capital of a Communist regime.  I wish I had gotten to see the “before” Phnom Penh so I could better grasp how far it has come.

Needless to say, the modern building boom is probably good for the economy but some of it is just more of the same glass buildings one sees everywhere.  I seemed to have stayed in a good area (right by the Independence Monument) as main streets and side streets around the hotel felt much better than in other developing countries.  The park by the Independence Monument and the park towards the Royal Palace were very pleasant spaces near the Mekong River.  Lots of families walking the area and hanging out!

Though only 24 hours intown, I feel I did a good bit for such a limited visit – including a massage at the hotel I stayed (La Rose Hotel & Spa).  Phnom Penh was pleasant and relaxed, and it was a good stop as the trip began to wrap up.  And now I can spell Phnom Penh!

Here some of the scenes from Phnom Penh.

Around Cambodia’s Royal Palace

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Botumvatey Pagoda

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Dragon keeping an eye out on things…

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Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument

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Around the Royal Palace

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Caught cross-walking!

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The Royal Palace entrance facing the Mekong

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I mean, check that Palace OUT!

Independence Monument Park

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The Independence Monument

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The Independence Monument at night

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Gotta have a photo…

By the Mekong

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Looking down the Mekong from the Royal Palace Park

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Fishermen on the Mekong River

And real life happening in the smaller streets of Phnom Penh…

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Street scene

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Curiously looking at the tourists walking by

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Beautiful colonial style architecture

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When it is too hot inside, bring the sowing machine outside!

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This kid’s parents smiled when I asked if I could take their son’s pic – my favorite!


Pin to your travel board!!

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One Spectacular Pool in Singapore

As someone who likes to read about travel and far-away places, I come across many places around this planet which I hope to see someday (and some perhaps that are not as interesting to me…).  Sometimes I think I will never get to see places that catch my eye because my imagination fails me:  I fail to picture the how and why of me getting to those places.

One such place for me was an iconic hotel structure in Singapore:  the Marina Bay Sands.  You may have seen this hotel in a magazine or a travel show on TV.  You know, the one with three tall towers holding up what looks like a surfboard.Marina Bay Sands, hotel, luxury, Singapore, Asia, travel, tourism, Samsung Galaxy S7, photoWhile Singapore seems an interesting place, it is certainly too far from my home to go on a whim just because this hotel caught my eye.  But, as things sometimes unfold, what seems a random window of opportunity opened up for me to go to Singapore.  If you have been following my recent writings, going with a friend to a wedding in Bali took me to -what to me is- a far corner of the world.  The happy couple actually lives in Singapore so the chance to see the Marina Bay Sands Hotel came up.Marina Bay Sands, hotel, luxury, Singapore, Asia, travel, tourism, Samsung Galaxy S7, photoBut just seeing it was not enough – I had to stay there:  I wanted to enjoy the 57th floor infinity pool!  And so I did.  Sadly, my visit to Singapore was only over two nights and one day (Bangkok and Angkor Wat were also on the itinerary) so I only got to relax poolside one long afternoon.  But it was WAY cool and well worth it.

We arrived at the hotel at night and we learned the pool was already closed but that certainly was not going to keep me from going up there to see the view!  The gentleman had just closed the pool area but was kind enough to let us walk in.  Check out the amazing night view!Marina Bay Sands, hotel, luxury, Singapore, Asia, travel, tourism, Samsung Galaxy S7, photo Marina Bay Sands, hotel, luxury, Singapore, Asia, travel, tourism, Samsung Galaxy S7, photo

The next day, when we got to the pool in the early afternoon, the skies were incredibly dark.  I expected the storm to come our way and the pool summarily closed.  So with no time to waste, I urged my friend Phil to jump in quickly so I could snap his photo and then we would swap places and at least we each would have “the” picture of the city behind the edge of the infinity pool.

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Dark skies! (Me on the right… )

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My quick jump in the pool

Marina Bay Sands, hotel, luxury, Singapore, Asia, travel, tourism, Samsung Galaxy S7, photoGod smiled upon us.  Not only did lightning NOT strike while we were in the pool for the prize-winning photos, but the storms stayed away and we got to enjoy a whole afternoon poolside, even if under a cloud cover.  Lunch and drinks were part of the picture as was people watching – and some pretend-jumps off the pool into infinity.

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Great seating all around

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Chill time!

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Marina Bay Sands, hotel, luxury, Singapore, Asia, travel, tourism, Samsung Galaxy S7, photo

Great place to teach a kid to swim!

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One of the many “great” jump-off photos (because no one else thought to take one before)

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He was never seen again after this jump-off…

I have to say that those few hours may have been short and the day may not have been picture perfect but I would not trade a minute of enjoying that pool and those views!

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Spectacular view of the city

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Look at all those ships!

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View of old Singapore

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View towards the financial district

What to know about the hotel

  • The hotel is conveniently located across casinos and a luxurious shopping mall, if you are interested in those things.
  • A neat pedestrian bridge can be accessed from the shopping center to get to town.  It offers great views back towards the hotel.
  • Only hotel guests can enter the pool area; they control access which makes sense as space is limited.
  • There are a few different seating areas poolside.  I enjoyed the pool chairs right at the edge of the pool but you can be further removed from the water action (yea, we got splashed a couple of times by kids playing in the pool but no big deal).
  • There is a kids’ pool.
  • There are restaurants and bars up at the top of the hotel and those are accessible to non-guests.  It is enjoyable up there!
  • You can choose city-viewing rooms or sea-viewing rooms (where you can see all the ships going through the straits or going to port).
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One happy puppy!

I paid for every penny of my stay (no discount or freebie or anything else from the hotel) – I just wanted to share this amazing place!

 

The Killing Fields of Cambodia

Travel is supposed to be an experience to be enjoyed:  leaving our day-to-day behind, seeing new places, trying new foods, exploring, relaxing, etc.  However, travel sometimes is an opportunity that we get to understand other places, other peoples, and perhaps the past.  There are places like Auschwitz that one can visit to gain some of this understanding but it does come with a price:  what one sees defies comprehension when one is confronted with the places where brutality happened.

When Cambodia made it into the itinerary for my trip to Southeast Asia last fall, I realized one of the things to learn more about was the terrible regime of Pol Pot, a brutal Communist dictator who ruled the country for a few years in the 1970s.  I knew just a little of the history and I knew there was a movie from 1980s about it (The Killing Fields; I had no seen it).   Visiting Cambodia was of interest mainly because of Angkor Wat but when we realized we had a day to spare, we added Phnom Penh.  This stop would provide the opportunity to learn about Pol Pot’s crimes by visiting a couple of key places:  the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center (one of the hundreds of killing fields around the country) and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (a former prison and torture center).  (It is no fun to write a post like this but it is important to share what I saw and learned for those who may not get to see these places in person…)

The trip up to that point had been rest and relaxation coupled with exploring amazing sites (like all the temple complexes in Siem Reap).  We planned our visit to these terrible sites for the afternoon of our arrival in Phnom Penh.  Those visits would affect the tone of our trip but it was important to us to see these places firsthand.

Choeung Ek Genocidal Center

Our first visit was to the Genocidal Center which served as one of the many killing fields spread throughout the country.  The story of Pol Pot and the madness that ensued after he took power is best and more fully told in other sites or books; I will not even attempt to explain it here.  People were trucked into places like this to be exterminated either because they were supporters of the prior regime, because they were educated (vs. peasants), or because the regime and its minions just felt like eliminating them.

Choeung Ek, Genocidal Center, killing field, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, extermination, travel, Samsung Galaxy S7

Entrance to Choeung Ek

Choeung Ek, Genocidal Center, killing field, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, extermination, travel, Samsung Galaxy S7

Excavated ditches dot the grounds 

The center has done a good job of signage explaining the different aspects of how the center was run.  The center also has audioguides available for those who do not have a guide to take them around.  I recommend one or the other to properly grasp the place (we used the audioguides which allowed for self-pacing).

Choeung Ek, Genocidal Center, killing field, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, extermination, travel, Samsung Galaxy S7

Typical stand explaining the site

Choeung Ek, Genocidal Center, killing field, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, extermination, travel, Samsung Galaxy S7

Close-up of one of the signs explaining the center’s operation

It is a difficult place to be at.  There are reminders everywhere what happened there especially signs that warn of the bones and pieces of clothes that can still surface, especially after it rains…  The signs provide a stark reminder of what happened there.

Choeung Ek, Genocidal Center, killing field, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, extermination, travel, Samsung Galaxy S7

Pieces of clothing that surface have been placed in this box

Choeung Ek, Genocidal Center, killing field, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, extermination, travel, Samsung Galaxy S7

Mass grave

Bones retrieved from mass graves or that surface are placed in a tower built for the purpose of providing the remains of the many victims a respectful place to reside for decades to come – a poignant and very visible reminder of the many lives cut short by a madman and his zealots…

Choeung Ek, Genocidal Center, killing field, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, extermination, travel, Samsung Galaxy S7

The tower housing bones found

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

After visiting Choeung Ek, we headed to the Genocide Museum, the former prison used to torture those persecuted by Pol Pot’s regime.  It had been a school in former days and it got converted into hell-on-earth for those unfortunate souls who were taken there…Tuol Sleng, genocide, prison, torture, Cambodia, Khmer Rouge, Phnm Penh, Pol Pot, Samsung Galaxy S7

Tuol Sleng, genocide, prison, torture, Cambodia, Khmer Rouge, Phnm Penh, Pol Pot, Samsung Galaxy S7

Former school building (one of several)

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Hallway

Prisoners were tortured in former classrooms and any opening to the outside from those rooms was covered to keep the noise in the room and not heard outside since the former school was in the middle of an urban area.  The museum displays the many devices used to torture the victims.

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Outdoor torture spot

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Typical torture room

Photos of many victims are displayed.  It was painful to look at them but I made myself scan the boards full of the photos – it was the least I could do to honor the victims who suffered so greatly there.  The approach of the dictatorship was to execute entire families to avoid any “roots” of those families being left behind.  So, there were pictures of children among all the adult pictures…

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Some of the many photos on display to remember the victims

The site is somber, as can be imagined and the grey skies that day added to that feeling.

May the souls of the victims of this brutal Communist dictatorship (aren’t they all brutal?…) rest in peace.

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Memorial

Ta Prohm, Cambodia: Trees Take over a Temple

Before my trip to Cambodia, I knew about Angkor Wat (of course!).  But, I did not know about Ta Prohm.  I had seen pictures of it but did not know that it was a specific temple close to Angkor Wat and, much less, its name or extent of the wonders it contains.  I did hear about it more concretely from someone who had been to Siem Reap before right before I got there so it got on the “itinerary” of the temples to visit while in Siem Reap.  It is hard to say that it is my favorite over Angkor Wat or Bayon.  In fact, it is hard to pick any of those over the others; each has something that feels unique enough to lift it in my “estimation.”

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Amazing place

Ta Prohm’s claim to fame, if you will, is how trees have taken over the ruins of this former temple complex from the 12th/13th century.  We are able to see this because the temple has been left in the same condition it was found (for the most part; some work has been done to stabilize structures, make it safe for visiting, and enabling access).  This uniqueness earned it a spot in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and rightly so!

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Entrance

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Chatting with our guide

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The most famous trees growing through the structures are Tetrameles nudiflora, which is like a mouthful for a non-botanical person like me (so I had to look it up!).  They create surreal images – and surely, if the trees were cut, many of the structures would collapse!  These trees grow super tall and the roots look like the buttresses of pre-Renaissance European cathedrals and can be quite gigantic as one of my pictures shows.  Banyan trees can also be found.  These trees grow their roots downward from where the see landed (not directly on the ground but, say, on a tree or building) and they end up enveloping the “host” tree or structure, eventually seemingly strangling the host.Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7, banyan Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7, banyan

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Yea, these trees are HUGE!

What to Know

  • It will be hot and humid as the day progresses so starting with sunrise is ideal though it makes for a short sleep night…
  • Visiting Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Phrom, and a couple of other smaller sites, starting at sunrise, took us until noon/1 PM at our speed of walking, stopping to take photos, etc.  That is quite a long day already considering hotel pick-up (for us anyway) was at 4:45 AM.
  • Bring water, snack and sunblock!

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How I Explored Angkor Wat, Cambodia

It is pretty daunting to write a post about Angkor Wat.  Not only how to do the place justice but there are probably a million write-ups out there about this gem in Cambodia.  All I can do is share (words and photos) how I saw it and perhaps it will help those who have not been there visualize it, and those who have been there remember their visit…

We were told by a few people to not miss sunrise at Angkor Wat.  Considering all the travels away from home at that point (ATL to Chicago, Chicago to Bali (via ATL!), and then Bali to Bangkok to Siem Reap), waking up at an absurd time in the morning did not seem as absurd as it would at any other point in my life.  So, arrangements were made for a 4:45 AM pick-up at the hotel to go to see our local star rise behind Angkor Wat…

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Yea, looking a little rough after the 4AM wake-up (thanks, Phil, for capturing this winner!) – but happy to be there!

First stop:  Get the darn ticket.  One can get a day pass or a multi-day pass.  I was sorta scratching my head as to why the people taking us had not gotten the tickets ahead of time.  I found out why soon enough:  they take your photo and print it on your permit to enter the temple ‘zone.’  Since we were packing it all in into one day, the pass cost us $20US.  Not bad really, especially considering the scale of the area ‘littered’ with temple complexes.  All that has got to be kept up, etc.

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My pass to enter Angkor Wat; skillfully photo bombed by my friend Phil

After getting our ticket, our  guide took us to the main vantage point from which one can ooh-and-aah one’s way through sunrise.  There were clouds in the distance so we did not see a beautiful orange-yellow disk rise from the horizon.  But seeing the temple with the sky around it changing colors from dark blues, to mid-blues, to purples, to orange-ish, etc. was pretty neat.

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Sunrise

I decided to take a fast-pace video over a 15-minute stretch to see what that would look like.  No, it did not result in a magical show but it still was worth the effort to hold the smartphone as still as possible in my hands for that long.  Since I was half asleep anyway, I barely noticed the 15 minutes had elapsed.  (The 15 minutes are compressed into a one minute video below. Let me know if you think it was worth my 15 minutes!)

After snapping a couple of pix of each other, my friend and I moved on from that spot to get to the causeway that would lead us to the main temple we all know as Angkor Wat.  It still was not full light so the pictures were either brilliant or so-so, depending on how demanding a viewer of photos you may be – I will let you reach your own conclusions 🙂  We were also advised to not go back to the hotel after sunrise, as many do to nap and have breakfast, but -instead- to have the hotel pack us a breakfast and just eat it on-site so we could then explore the complex before it got crowded later in the  morning (it was also a good idea since it only gets hotter as the day goes by so the earlier the visit, the less suffering!).

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About to enter the causeway

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STILL looking rough but with a great backdrop! (thanks again, Phil!)

On the way to the main temple, I especially liked ‘the library’ ruins on the left-hand side of the causeway – mainly because it gave me a good way to frame the main temple!  (Always looking -not always successfully- for a good photo spot!)

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Here the library…

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… and what I did with the library! I kinda like this shot!

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Getting closer to the main temple – this is a great photo spot

We entered the main temple area from a side entrance by climbing some stairs and our guide explained some of the carvings as we headed to the inner courtyard.  From there we walked along the side of the central ‘structure’ (I struggle with what to call the different parts of the complex), and observed a couple of places where the stuff under the exterior stone was exposed.

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Amazing carvings – could spend hours there!

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Our entry point into Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, sunrise, sky, Samsung Galaxy

A look at what’s under the outer stones… more stones! (though different looking)

After turning the corner, we saw the staircase that would lead us up to the top terrace of the main temple.  The staircase to be used was not the original steps; rather, a staircase was built on top so that our visitor feet would not destroy the ancient stonework – and probably to keep us safe too.  It was a very steep climb but going up was not as scary as going down.  I am not scared of a steep climb or descent, but I also do not want to suffer a bad fall!

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After getting up

Once we got upstairs, it was REALLY cool.  From up there you see above the tree tops and can easily see how the jungle took over complexes like Angkor War once abandoned.

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View down to the upper terrace and the jungle beyond

There were four inner courtyards atop the temple and it was neat walking the outer hallway looking out in every direction in the compass while then turning inward and seeing the various temples or altars with Buddhas.  I do not recall how much time we spent up there but I enjoyed admiring it all.

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One of the inner courtyards

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Looking upwards from the terrace level

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First, a standing Buddha…

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… and then sitting Buddhas…

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… and finally, a reclining Buddha!

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, Buddha, Samsung Galaxy

Father and son (I assume) in prayer – nice to see it is an active faith site

So, Angkor Wat delivered on my expectation on seeing something quite unique in my experience and, clearly, from the experience of many as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (not one of the token ones, mind you, but a real one!).  Seeing the father and son praying made it even better as it is not just an archaeology site, but a site of living faith – very cool to see.

Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, travel, explore, viajes, Asia, photo, Samsung Galaxy

I am dumb as doorknob when it comes to selfies – I could not get out of the way of the tower much as I was being instructed to do!

Angkor Wat had been on my ‘hope-to-see-someday’ list and definitely the top spot for me to see in Southeast Asia.  I am grateful for the opportunity to see it in person and explore it – photo bomb on my credential or not 🙂  Now I need to decide what will go in its former spot in my ‘hope-to-see-someday’ list…  nice problem to have!

Angkor Thom’s Main Temple: Bayon

While Angkor Wat is the better known of all the temple complexes in Cambodia, there are others that are a must.  Bayon is one of those.  It is imposing and a veritable maze, making it fun to explore.  Bayon (built in the 12th-13th century period) sits in the middle of Angkor Thom which was the capital of the Khmer Empire back when (it is said between 80-150K people lived there at its peak back then).  Bayon was at the center of that capital city as its most important temple.  If you look at a map, the moat around Angkor Thom is much larger than the one around Angkor Wat.  (All these sites got “lost” in the early 1600s for a few centuries.)  Movies like Lara Croft:  Tomb Raider have had scenes shot at Angkor Thom.

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Bayon (Angkor Thom is the larger square around it) in relation to Angkor Wat

We approached Angkor Thom and had a great view of the wall around Angkor Thom and a bridge (or causeway) decorated on either side with sitting statues.  One drives through a gate that towers at the end of the bridge with each side of the tower carved with the face of a divinity.  I believe we went through the south gate.

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Causeway entering Angkor Thom from the south

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View across the causeway of the south gate

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Statues on the causeway

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The south gate

In any case, one approaches the main temple at Angkor Thom, Bayon, among a green field with palm trees.  Having first seen Angkor Wat with its dramatic towers and monumentality, Bayon felt a little less imposing yet so different it looked magnificent.

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Approaching Bayon – majestic!

From then we walked around different former hallways and around many towers and carvings.   It is said Bayon is more baroque while Angkor Wat is more classical Khmer style.  I am not an expert but certainly can tell that Bayon was much more loaded with carvings and more elaborate.  Bayon is certainly striking due to the many towers carved on four sides with faces of deities or other figures but it lacked the big open spaces within it that Angkor Wat had.

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Imposing

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The explorers look diminutive as our guide tried to capture it all

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Interesting things no matter where you look

As in many places, it is fun to watch other tourists engage with the site – and take their photo while they do so 🙂

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Strike a pose!

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One of the many tourists 🙂 (thanks, Phil I. for snapping this winner!)

While Angkor Wat is overall more imposing, Bayon is definitely different enough to warrant the time to explore it – hope you get to do so!

Sunset over Tonlé Sap Lake in Cambodia

As I mentioned in an earlier post about arriving in and exploring Siem Reap, we had asked the hotel to organize a drive that took us out of the town and into the countryside.  The hotel arranged for a car to take us to see the the sun set over the Tonlé Sap lake.  That was a great suggestion.

I don’t know how long it took us to drive out far enough to the part of the lake that looked west.  Was it 45 minutes?  Can’t recall.  In any case, there were small boats on the lake, I assume for tourists but not sure.  However, we had a private car take us around because we just felt like taking it very easy.

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Driving past the local market intown

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Beginning to leave the town

Having our own transport allowed us to go into areas that I would guess tourists do not visit – our driver did really well (I thought he had said his name was Seagull – we found out a little too late it was Sygold – lol).  Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

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A real tuk tuk: cart attached to motorcycle

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We got to walk around the humble homes of folks who live by the lake which not only afforded us great opportunities for sunset photos but also to see more of local life, even if for too short an experience.Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7, kids, soccer Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

And the combination of the setting sun with the lake, the vegetation, and the local homes certainly made for a beautiful sunset.

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My poor attempt at a subtle photo of a family picnicking…

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It was a great first day in Cambodia to see the sunset and a different reality than ours at home and even folks in the town of Siem Reap – if you have the chance to do this while visiting Angkor Wat, I recommend it!

What to Know

  • Going to the lake is pretty easy and does not take too long.
  • As it is sunset, when mosquitoes get more active, put on some bug spray; I have to say I did not feel mosquitoes and I forgot to put on bug spray but Cambodia has malaria risk so I was glad I was on anti-malarial.
  • Bring water.  And there were no nearby facilities that I could see – but plenty of bushes!
  • Be ready to kick a football/soccer ball if the opportunity arises!

 

Siem Reap – Cool Place in the Tropics

The plans for my visit to Cambodia were anchored, as you may well imagine, in seeing world-famous Angkor Wat.  For that, we planned to spend 1.5 days and 2 nights in the town of Siem Reap which is just less than a few handful of miles from the historical sites.  There are many many more temples to go explore and one can certainly spend 2-3 days just focused on that.  I felt I was more on a sampler visit due to the overall travel plans (anchored on a wedding in Bali) and the limited time off work.

Paradise in Siem Reap

We arrived right in Siem Reap (very nice and modern small airport) from Bangkok after noon and headed to our hotel, the Borei Angkor Resort right in the town.

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Final approach (thanks to my bud Phil I. for the photo – he had the window seat!)

The hotel was a phenomenal spot as may be others.  The spaces were very open.  The pool was big enough and had a section with jets which were great after a lot of walking around the next day.  And it helped that I stayed at the Privilege Floor 🙂  (Disclosure:  No freebies, discounts, etc. were given to me for me to write about the place – I paid for it all myself and I write about it because I really enjoyed it.)

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Welcome!

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The main lobby

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Looking up from the pool

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The pool…

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Not the fanciest of photos but it sure takes me back there!

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Looking out from the front lobby to the hotel entrance

The staff was super eager to help and no one more so than our hostess, Judy, who ensured all the logistics of our sightseeing and the hotel stay were in order (everything was perfect!).  We also enjoyed a server at the lounge who had a peculiar way of laughing and who called everyone “fabulous” though I could swear he called me “father” instead…  He definitely made the place very lively!

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With Judy, the hostess, and Chicago Phil

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View of the town from the room at sunset

In any case, we had decided not to hit the temples that first afternoon for a couple of reasons:  one, it would be peak heat and ‘suffering’ wasn’t high on the list of priorities…; two, people had said it was best to hit the sites at sunrise and then stay on-site through the morning, when some or many tourists would return to their hotels for breakfasts and/or extra sleep.  (More on the visit to the temples in a future post.)  We quickly dropped our bags, changed and headed to lounge by the pool for some nice R&R with some Angkor Wat beer 🙂  I think I ordered a sandwich or a pizza poolside for lunch – scary that I can’t fully recall! (Phil, ayúdame!)

The local market in Siem Reap

We had planned to do a drive in the countryside later that first day – more about that in another post – but after that drive, as we were passing the local market, we decided to jump out and do a quick walk-around of the market and that area of the town.  I have to say it was definitely a chill place.  While there were certainly tourist-oriented market stands and eateries (goodness, there was even a Hard Rock Café – yikes…), the market also served locals and it was neat to just meander through it.

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Not the type of ‘meat market’ I’d hoped for 🙂

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“Vienna Calling”, perhaps?

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All sorts of goods from food & spices to textiles

Colorful town

The town felt lively and the colorful lighting on the bridges certainly contributed.  Overall, I felt very safe and maybe I should have explored more and sat down somewhere to watch life go by.  But I don’t always enjoy full clarity every moment of every trip – in hindsight!  No worries, I still can say it was a neat place.

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Around town – market on the left

local market, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Around town –  maybe I should do that to the bridge in my backyard…

local market, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Around town – the fast lane!

What to Know

  • The town is very walkable and felt safe.
  • There are good eateries around the market – get a good recommendation from a trusted source, be it your hotel or an online review!
  • If you are looking for souvenirs, what you find in the market will be the same touristy stuff you will find elsewhere in the country – and at a slightly higher price since it is, after all, a very tourist-centric town.

 

Visiting Temples in Bangkok – Wat Pho?

One of the neatest things for me about visiting Bangkok was seeing Buddhist temples everywhere.  I am no student of their faith and much less of all the specifics of the architecture of these temples but they are impressive and that’s why I am glad I made the time for a stop -however brief- in Bangkok as I traveled between Bali  and Cambodia.  Time was short so we had to keep it only to the main temples in Bangkok (plus the one we visited during our bike tour of the countryside).

Once we finished our bike ride outside of Bangkok after lunch that day, we headed into the heart of Bangkok to visit Wat Arun and Wat Pho. (Be careful with this latter one as asking about it may lead your fellow traveler to think you are messing with him and almost earn you a fist to your face!  Remember “Who is on first?“, etc.  Yea, that.)

I will not try to tell you the story of these two places as there are plenty of resources out there for that. These temples are very colorful thanks to what seem to be porcelain tiles and mosaics everywhere.  It is great to admire from a distance but getting up close allows one to see the details of the decorated exteriors.  Also, know that these are the very abbreviated names for these temples (which are really each a temple complex on its own) – names there can be quite long!

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Ferry on the Chao Phraya River

Wat Arun – Temple of the Dawn

Wat Arun dates from the 17th century but the main towers one sees are much more recent.  We started our temple visits by arriving here but crossing it quickly to get to the ferry to first visit Wat Pho on the other side of the river.  Once we finished with Wat Pho, where we spent most of our time, we crossed the river back to check out Wat Arun.

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Wat Arun temple complex

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Greeted at the entrance by some warrior

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy, Buddha

Sitting Buddhas

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy, mosaic

Mosaic details

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Around Wat Arun

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Around Wat Arun

The highlight for me happened rather unexpectedly.  We walked into one of the temples.  There was a monk sitting near a box where one could drop a coin and he would pray over you.  Not certain how this all worked, I walked away to a donation box not close to him.  As I walked back to the back of the temple, the monk called me over to him and signaled for me to sit on the floor.  He proceeded to give me a blessing.  Unbeknownst to me, my friend Phil started video’ing the whole thing and I ended up with a neat ‘souvenir’ from this random event!

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

The main temple

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy, blessing, Buddha,

Being blessed by a monk

Wat Pho – Where the Reclining Buddha is

The Reclining Buddha may be what makes this temple complex most famous but it is quite an impressive site.  But first, the Reclining Buddha is not just napping – he has reached the ideal state and the posture signifies that (vs. a sitting Buddha or a standing Buddha).  The Reclining Buddha is very long (46 m; 150 ft) and based on how it is housed within a building, one can’t just stand in front of it and capture it head to toes in a nice, clean photo.  Which is kind of cool, come to think of it.  This unique piece was built close to 200 years ago and it impresses.

Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia

No easy way to photograph

Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia

Rather large feet

Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia

Good angle from the headrest down

But Wat Pho is much more than its famous resident statue.  Pagodas (towers) built by different kings which house their own Buddhas and other parts related to the monastic complex are worth exploring (there are well laid out signs to explain to the visitor the complex and its contents).  The ceramic tile-work on the roofs are different depending on the king or period in which the structures were built.

Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, AsiaWat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia

What to know

  • You can go way more off-the-beaten path than what we got to see.  But these two are a must!
  • You can use ferries/boats up and down the river in Bangkok to move between the temples.  No need to just suffer city traffic.  Plus, at some point or another, you WILL need to cross the river!
  • Temples do close earlier than a tourist may expect.  Know the times or use a local guide.  We went for the latter as we didn’t have to think about anything plus he knew a few other things (like best photo spot at a given temple, etc.).
  • Temples are about someone’s faith.  They ask that you do not wear shorts or sleeveless shirts.  It was sad to see how many people showed either ignorance or disrespect.  One doesn’t have to subscribe to the beliefs of the locals, but one should respect them.  Yes, it is hot and humid.  Wear a wicking t-shirt and some hiking pants that convert to shorts and one will be alright in that weather!

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Cycling around the Thai Countryside

One of my friends mentioned how in her time in Bangkok, she enjoyed bike rides in the countryside.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, she also recommended visiting the unique railroad market by the Mae Klong rail station, about 1.5 hrs. outside of Bangkok.  My friend and fellow traveler Phil and I agreed that it sounded like a great idea so I contacted the individual that had taken her to both places and arranged for the bike tour as well.  We did not have a full day to spare so, unfortunately, the bike ride would only be about 2 hours.  Nevertheless, it would allow us to see something much different than the city so we felt it was still going to be worth it.

After visiting the railroad market to see the 9AM train go by (we almost missed it!), we headed towards the Amphawa Floating Market (which, unfortunately, was closed that day) to begin our bike ride.  Amphawa, floating market, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure, photoAmphawa, floating market, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure, photo

It had been a couple of years since my last bike ride (a bike tour in Buenos Aires that went flawlessly) so it took me some pedaling to re-learn balance and I had a couple of mishaps early on due to that (one of those more painful than the other…).  I found my biking groove and, combined with fairly easy terrain, went forward with the bike tour for the next 1.5 hrs or so with no further issue.

Bangkok, Thailand, river, Mae Klong, bike tour, travel, adventure

Awaiting the river crossing with our guide (photo courtesy of fellow traveler Phil I.)

Bangkok, Thailand, river, Mae Klong, bike tour, travel, adventure

About to cross the river on this beauty

Riding by farms and plantations

Bike tour, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure

Our guide in the lead, followed by me (photo courtesy of Phil I.)

Bike tour, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure

Passing a bunch of empty coconut shells at one of the farms  (photo courtesy of Phil I.)

Bike tour, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure

Beautiful water (topped by some algae?) at one of the banana plantations

Bike tour, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure

Love the shadow of a banana plant on the surface of the water

Bang Kung Camp

We made a stop at the Bang Kung camp which is a former navy camp from wars past (with Burma, I believe) dating from the late 1700s.  The camp has statues depicting the fight training the soldiers went through.  The camp also had a temple that was overcome with vegetation as the camp was abandoned for a couple of hundred of years (but is now open for the faithful – and bike-tourists!).

Bangkok, Mae Klong, railroad market, Bang Kung, Amphawa, bike tour, thailand, travel, adventure

Map showing the market, the floating market and the camp

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Outside of the temple; and our guide Andy and I taking a break (photo courtesy of Phil I.)

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

In front of the temple

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

In front of the temple

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Inside the temple

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Training for a fight!

Bang Kung camp, Bangkok, Thailand, bike tour

I had to blow up one of the photos because one of the fighters looked life-like…

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Statue honoring an important leader of the war with Burma

Along the way, a church

We pedaled mainly either on well-paved roads or minor side roads along coconut farms and banana plantations.  It was all very serene and it was a very enjoyable, pleasant bike ride.  Along the way we passed a Catholic church, not quite labeled that way, it was called Our Lady of Help Christion (sic) Church.  It looked closed so we did not go in.  I have to say it felt out of place but it was also cool to see!Our Lady Help, Mae Klong, church, Catholic ,Bangkok, Thailand

Our Lady Help, Mae Klong, church, Catholic ,Bangkok, Thailand

In front of the church with my fellow adventurer and much better cyclist

Lunch time!

The ride ended with a late lunch in a small restaurant perched on the river bank of the Mae Klong River, upstream from where we had started.  And just as we got there, it started to pour!  It was perfect timing, great food, and a cool setting to rest from the busy morning while enjoying more of the delicious Thai food (see my post on food in Bangkok!)

Mae Klong, river, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, bike tour

View of the Mae Klong River from the restaurant

Mae Klong, river, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, bike tour

View of the Mae Klong River from the restaurant

food, foodie, Thai, cuisine, travel, explore, eat, Bangkok, bike tour

Shrimp tempura and chicken curry – delicious

The bike tour was a phenomenal idea and a good change of tempo, especially as it got us out of the hustling, bustling city to see a beautiful countryside and breathe some fresh air – I need to be sure I always look for options like this in future travels!

What to Know

  • We hired Grasshopper Adventures for the bike tour (fully paid by us, no freebies given for me to mention them).
  • Wear your helmet.  You are in the developing world and, should an accident happen (like it happened to me!), it is better to be safe than sorry when you may or may not get access to the medical care you are used to.
  • While it is hot and humid, it was very pleasant while on the bike.
  • You can do a short bike ride like we did or a day-long one.

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