I Used to Not Know How to Spell Phnom Penh

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Royal Palace, gold, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, ilivetotravel

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

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Royal Palace, park, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, gold

Botumvatey Pagoda

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Royal Palace, park, photo, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy S7, dragon

Dragon keeping an eye out on things…

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Royal Palace, park, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, friendship monument

Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Royal Palace, gold, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7

Around the Royal Palace

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, travel, adventure, explore, ilivetotravel, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7

Caught cross-walking! (Thanks Phil!)

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Royal Palace, gold, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7

The Royal Palace entrance facing the Mekong

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Royal Palace, gold, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, ilivetotravel

I mean, check that Palace OUT!

Independence Monument Park

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, travel, adventure, explore, Independence Monument, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7

The Independence Monument

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, travel, adventure, explore, Independence Monument, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7

The Independence Monument at night

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, travel, adventure, explore, Independence Monument, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7, ilivetotravel

Gotta have a photo…

By the Mekong

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Mekong River, fishermen, black and white, photo, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy S7

Looking down the Mekong from the Royal Palace Park

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Mekong River, fishermen, black and white, photo, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy S7

Fishermen on the Mekong River

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

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, street life

Street scene

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, street life, child

Curiously looking at the tourists walking by

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, architecture, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7

Beautiful colonial style architecture

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, street life, old woman, sowing

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

Cambodia, Phnom Penh, child, boy, Royal Palace, street life, Samsung Galaxy S7, photo, travel

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

The Killing Fields of Cambodia

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

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 (photo courtesy of Phil I.)

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)

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

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.

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

Outdoor torture spot

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

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…

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

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.

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

Memorial

Trees Take over a Temple: Ta Prohm, Cambodia

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

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.”

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

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!

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

Entrance

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

Chatting with our guide

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

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!

Save

Save

Angkor Wat: Finally!

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

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 it.  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…

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

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.

Angkor Wat, temple, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, Khmer, travel, tourism, sights, bucket list, Asia

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.

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

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!).

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

About to enter the causeway

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

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!)

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

Here the library…

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

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

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

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.

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

Amazing carvings – could spend hours there!

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

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!

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

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.

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

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.

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

One of the inner courtyards

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

Looking upwards from the terrace level

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

First, a standing Buddha…

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

… and then sitting Buddhas…

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

… 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

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7

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.

Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, Camboya, templo, budismo, Buddhist, travel, explore, photo

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.

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7, moat

Causeway entering Angkor Thom from the south

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7, moat

View across the causeway of the south gate

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7

Statues on the causeway

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7, gate

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.

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7

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.

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7

Imposing

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7

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

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7 Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7, carving Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7, Buddha

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7

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 :)

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7

Strike a pose!

Angkor Thom, Bayon, temple, Khmer, Cambodia, Camboya, Cambodge, travel, explore, adventure, tourism, photo, samsung Galaxy, S7, ilivetotravel

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

Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

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.

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, sunset, Tonle Sap, drive, countryside, Samsung Galaxy, S7, photo, travel, Asia, explore

Driving past the local market intown

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Cambodge, sunset, Tonle Sap, drive, countryside, Samsung Galaxy, S7, photo, travel, Asia, explore

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

Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7, tuk tuk

A real tuk tuk: cart attached to motorcycle

Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

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.

Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

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

Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Siem 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, S7Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, Cambodge, travel, adventure, outdoors, sunset, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

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!

 

2016 – A Year in Review

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, independence monument, plaza, travel, explore, Asia, photo, Samsung Galaxy

To say 2016 was a strange year is understating it.  It started right off the bat with a scary family health issue (which, mercifully, is much much better by now) that took us all quite by surprise.  The year also had other small ‘hiccups,’ which is just life on any given year.  Nevertheless, and as is often the case, God certainly brings good out of the bad, and provides other great things to keep us balanced (or, sane!).

I want to share some of those great things, at least the ones that related to travel, exploring, hiking, relaxing, or enjoying food/wine to wrap up this year.  While I did not get to write as much this year as I normally do, I certainly never stopped dreaming of travel or of sharing the experiences.  Here is to a great 2017 for all!

Elton, Sir Elton

A work trip in early January resulted in getting invited to a private concert with Sir Elton John.  I got to stand close to the stage and enjoyed his music and showmanship (and the complimentary drinks with two great co-workers)!  While the year started with Elton John’s music, I can say that the song of the year (in my head, anyway) is “One Night in Bangkok,” if nothing else because I heard it too many times in anticipation of a trip that happened much later in the year.

Elton John, concert, CES, music, icon, travel, Las Vegas, photo, red piano

Brunswick in coastal Georgia

A brief work trip in February took me to coastal Georgia, to the sleepy-ish town of Brunswick.  I took some time to drive around the old part of town and caught a great sunset as I hunted for a place to sit down and eat.  Not bad!Brunswick, Georgia, sunset, sun, cloud, silhouette, golden, sky, photo

Oldest church in Atlanta

The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Atlanta is the oldest church in Atlanta.  I got to work at the homeless shelter in the basement overnight a night in winter.  I loved the reflection of the church on the modern building across from it…

Shrine, Immaculate Conception, downtown, Atlanta, reflection, glass, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – or its reflection

Hiking in north Georgia

Spring brought many opportunities to go hiking around and north of Atlanta.  Whether with my regular hiking buddy, Phil; or with my friend Troy and his two oldest children, Rehm and Caitlyn; or with a group from church that included my friends Chris and Wendy, springtime was full of hiking.  Here are photos from my hikes around Vickery Creek, up Pine Mountain, up to the top of Stone Mountain, or to and back from the awesome Hike Inn in north Georgia!

Vickery Creek, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Around the Vickery Creek trails

Vickery Creek, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Around the Vickery Creek trails – the dam

Pine Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Trails around Pine Mountain

Pine Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Trails around Pine Mountain

Hike Inn, sunrise, mountains, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

View of sunrise from the Hike Inn

Hike Inn, Georgia, mountains, hiking, trekking, Atlanta, photo

The group at the starting point to get to the Hike Inn

Stone Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

No kids were harmed in this photo on the rail line in Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Around Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Again, no kids were harmed… really…

Colorado spring!

In June, I got to visit my friends Annette, Kent and Austin to celebrate two great events in their lives.  It also gave me the opportunity to tour the Stanley Hotel which inspired Stephen King, and to finally hike around the table mountain right west of Arvada.  Oh, and I got to see a few other friends that I had not seen in a few years!

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park,  flower, Stephen King, Colorado, table mountain, explore, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The Stanley Hotel

hiking, Colorado, table mountain, outdoors, nature, photo, Samsung Galaxy hiking, Colorado, table mountain, outdoors, nature, photo, Samsung Galaxy, flower

Celebrating with my Mom and sister

In July, my Mom, sister and I made a long weekend getaway to the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota.  We got to relax, laugh, and -of course- eat a lot of delicious food!

family, Ritz, Sarasota

With my Mom and sister!

Sarasota, sunset, purple, orange, palm tree, travel, rest

Great colors as the sun sets west of Sarasota

chocolate mousse, food, foodie, travel, photo

Mmm!!!!

creme brulee, dessert, food, foodie, photo, tasty

Creme brulee

Wine in California

I was fortunate to be able to go to California for work which allowed me to visit ex-Atlanta residents Jenny, Jason, Phoebe and Zoe.  While the kids were in school, my hostess and I escaped for a wine tasting at Testarossa – great locale and great wine!  Among the best things to do in Cali – wine tasting!

Testarossa, California, winery, wine tasting, fun

Entrance to the tasting room

Testarossa, California, winery, wine tasting, fun

Awesome setting for a winery!

Cheap fare to Stockholm

John, a college friend who knows how to find a good airfare, suggested a long weekend ‘jump’ to Stockholm.  A little bit mad, perhaps, but I could not say no to have another opportunity to explore this great city.  And then we drove away from the city to see what we’d run into.  Good stuff for another post!

Stamla Gan, Stockholm, Sweden, travel, explore, tourism, Samsung Galaxy

Great view of the heart of Stockholm

Sweden, countryside, cottage, yellow, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Sweden’s countryside

food, mussels, Stockholm, Sweden, travel, explore

A great dinner on the first night in Stockholm

red ivy, Stockholm, Sweden, travel, explore, tourism, Samsung Galaxy

Beautiful Stockholm!

My travel capstone in 2016 – Asia

Great stuff up to this point but my trip to Southeast Asia certainly took the cake – not just for the long distance to get there (37 hours!).  I got to explore and sample Bali, Singapore, Bangkok and the countryside near it, and amazing Cambodia.  Wish I had had two more weeks to include Laos and Vietnam – and/or just for more time in these places.  Leaving something unseen for a future trip hopefully and grateful for the opportunity to see what I saw!

Bali, Indonesia, Asia, Seminyak, pool, W Resort, W hotel, awesome, Samsung Galaxy S7

The view from my room included a great view of the pool area

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

Cycling around the countryside outside of Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand, tuk tuk, ilivetotravel, travel, adventure, explore

Tuk tuk adventures…

Bangkok, Thailand, temple, reclining Buddha, ilivetotravel, travel, adventure, explore

Standing Buddha with the reclining Buddha

Cambodia, Cambodge, sunset, lake, travel, explore, adventure, Samsung Galaxy

Sunset in Cambodia

Angkor Wat, temple, ilivetotravel, sunrise, ruins, explore, travel, Asia, Cambodia, Cambodge

Looking haggard after an early early wake-up to see Angkor Wat at sunrise

Ta Phrom, Cambodia, Cambodge, Angkor Wat, temple, ruins, banyan tree, travel, explore, adventure

Ta Phrom and its banyan trees!

Singapore, ilivetotravel, Marina Bay Sands, infinity pool, up high, travel, explore

Atop the Marina Bay Sands! (Thanks Phil I. for the photo!)

 Have a happy and blessed 2017, everyone!!!

Siem Reap – Cool Place in the Tropics

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

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.

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, landing, flight

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.)

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Welcome!

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

The main lobby

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Looking up from the pool

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

The pool…

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, pool, Samsung Galaxy, S7

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

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

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!

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

With Judy, the hostess, and Chicago Phil

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Asia, travel, explore, adventure, photo, Borei Angkor, resort, Samsung Galaxy, S7

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.

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

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

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

“Vienna Calling”, perhaps?

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

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.

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

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.

 

%d bloggers like this: