Tag Archives: Cambodia

Our last day in Cambodia – eating our way through Siem Reap

30 May

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia.  For other posts in the series, please click here.

Our final full day in Cambodia we didn’t go to the temples, after four days we wanted a day to see what Siem Reap had to offer in terms of shopping and food and a little relaxation before we headed back to cold Shanghai.

At the big market I bought a T-shirt and a pair of pajama pants (with elephants) and we looked at the spice mixes for the different curries and amoks that are so prevalent in Cambodia.  We also luxuriated with some massages to work out the kinks from our climbing the last four days.  And – we ate.

We tried to squeeze in all of the restaurants and dishes that we hadn’t had a chance to try yet and managed quite a variety!  Here are some of my favorites:

Sour soup was available at most restaurants and it was a basic chicken stock with lots of lime juice.  Here’s one sample.

The traditional sour soup

The traditional sour soup

Another place we went had a beautiful sampler platter of different small bites including our third try of fresh spring rolls.

An impressive sampler platter

An impressive sampler platter

And finally we had Cambodian hot pot for dinner.  Cambodian hot pot is like a combination of Korean barbecue where you grill your own meat and Chinese hot pot where you boil the vegetables in broth.

Had to have at least one Angkor Beer while I was in Cambodia!

Had to have at least one Angkor Beer while I was in Cambodia!

Adding soup to the hot pot while the grill gets hot on top.  Noodles and veggies can be seen on the side

Adding soup to the hot pot while the grill gets hot on top. Noodles and veggies can be seen on the side

The grill is on the top and as the meat grills it drains into the broth below where you cook veggies and noodles.

Grilling the meat and cooking the veggies

Grilling the meat and cooking the veggies

Our mixed plate to grill included alligator meat and all other kinds of beef, pork, chicken and squid.  We ordered a double portion and gobbled it all up.

The alligator and squid (with picture labels)

The alligator and squid (with picture labels)

Waiting for the food to be ready (and wearing my new T-shirt)

Waiting for the food to be ready (and wearing my new T-shirt)

The final treat we had was fresh mango ice cream before we headed back to the airport and the cold weather of China.

A perfect end to the night - mango ice cream!

A perfect end to the night – mango ice cream!

Our trip to Cambodia was a hands down success – we scratched the surface of this welcoming and beautiful country with its myriad of temples, excellent food and friendly people.  I would be happy to go back in the future but for now I’ll continue to explore.

Thank you for following along with me as I shared our photos and stories from our trip.  Which was your favorite?  Where else should I visit?

Cambodia Day 4 – A recommended sunset

21 May

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia.  To see other posts in this series, please click here.

As we talked about our trip to Cambodia we had lots of plans.  I wanted to ride on a bicycle through the temple complex and Li had certain restaurants he wanted to try.  One thing that came highly recommended was to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat.  That wasn’t going to happen.  Instead we tried to see where the best sunsets could be found.  Our third day there we had stumbled across beautiful skies at Bakon Temple.

That was, though, a happy accident.  There was one location for sunset viewing that was recommended in all the tourists books was Phnom Bakeng.  This temple was at the top of the highest hill in the area and was supposed to offer unparalleled views.  The books also recommended you go early because it got quite crowded.

True to form we arrived over an hour before sunset.  On the way up we saw more temples and another beautiful view of Angkor Wat from above.

A hidden temple through the lush scenery

A hidden temple through the lush scenery

Angkor Wat - an aerial view

Angkor Wat – an aerial view

The elephants followed us up!

The elephants followed us up!

Then, we settled in and watched the crowds.

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It was truly amazing how many visitors they crammed at the top of this monument.

Slowly, slowly, the sun traveled west and the sky started to change color.

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I tried to block everyone out and enjoy the beautiful colors, but it required a lot of effort.  We took more photos and finally watched the sun slip over the edge.

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It was a beautiful sunset and now I can cross it off the list – but after having seen both, I think I preferred the first, accidental sunset more. My travel tip then it to go to Bakon Temple for Sunset.  It’s a magical place and much more peaceful.

Which would you prefer?

Cambodia Day 4 – A Balloon Ride

16 May

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia, to see other posts in the series, please click here.

One of the items in the tourist brochures we looked at that appealed to both of us was a hot air balloon ride over the temple area.  We did some research and there were two types of balloons – one a free hot air balloon and the other that was attached to a cable and winched up so it wouldn’t blow away.  We decided on the second option, as it was more flexible and also more affordable.

We started our day trying to go up in the balloon, but after snapping a photo, we were informed that the wind was too strong and to try to come back.

Our first attempt to ride the balloon early in the morning

Our first attempt to ride the balloon early in the morning

We then went to explore several other places and then returned again after lunch.

Once again they told us that they weren’t sure when/if we’d be able to fly.  This time though we really didn’t feel like going back into the hot afternoon sun and decided to sit and wait for a while.  The ticket takers said we could wait, but we didn’t need to pay until they decided if it was safe to fly.  We watched group after group come, listen to the weather report and then leave.  Finally, after waiting for over an hour they told us that we may be able to go up.  We took a couple of “happy pictures” with the balloon from below and then waited along with a group of German tourists for our turn.

Yay!  We finally get to take a ride.

Yay! We finally get to take a ride.

Look at the blue sky and puffy clouds - it was still pretty windy up there.

Look at the blue sky and puffy clouds – it was still pretty windy up there.

Even though the balloon was very large, only 8 people could go up at a time.  We watched the earth get smaller and smaller as the winch let us float above the fields below.

My guess is that it was a German balloon.  That's a good thing - I trust German technology

My guess is that it was a German balloon. That’s a good thing – I trust German technology

The winch letting us up

The winch letting us up

The beautiful pattern of the fields below

The beautiful pattern of the fields below

Finally then, we were able to see Angkor Wat from above.  To think that so many hundreds of years ago this temple was there – before hot air balloons or airplanes – was mind boggling.

See Angkor Wat over Li's shoulder?

See Angkor Wat over Li’s shoulder?

Angkor Wat from above

Angkor Wat from above

The ride only lasted about 20 minutes, but we had a wonderful time.  I would highly recommend it if you are visiting the Angkor Wat complex.

Heading down after a great ride.

Heading down after a great ride.

After finishing our balloon ride we then headed to Phnom Bakheng hill which was the recommended spot to watch the sunset.  Stay tuned to see if it could match the sunset of the night before!

What’s the longest you’ve waited in line for a tourist attraction?  Disney World doesn’t count!

Cambodia Day 4 – Elephants on parade

14 May

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia, to see other posts in the series, please click here.

I have always been a fan of elephants.  For some reason on our fourth day in Cambodia we saw them in multiple places and in different ways.

The first elephants were real elephants that we saw from our car window as we were waiting to pass through one of the gates inside the park.  They were coming out and going in – which led to a couple of fun photos.  We also saw a series of tourists who had paid to sit on their backs and get the true “Cambodian” experience.  Safe inside our air conditioned car, we weren’t up for that this trip.  For me, it brought back memories of riding an elephant in 2006 up to the Red Fort in Jaipur, India.

A traffic jam - Angkor Wat style

A traffic jam – Angkor Wat style

I wonder how much it cost for that ride - an Elephant's Eye view

I wonder how much it cost for that ride – an Elephant’s Eye view

Finally passing through the gate (behind yet another elephant)

Finally passing through the gate (behind yet another elephant)

The next set of elephants were the elephants carved into the Elephant Terrace.  We had met our tuk tuk driver at the Elephant Terrace at the end of the first day, but it was only passing it again that we realized that the elephants were actually carved into the side of the terrace.  We had completely missed it the first time around!

Elephant Terrace - more elephants on parade

Elephant Terrace – more elephants on parade

Another place we noticed elephants was in the carving over the doorway in another temple.  The elephant is right in the middle surrounded by other figures.  I don’t know what elephants symbolize in Cambodian culture, but they were in many places.

Delicate elephant carving above the door.

Delicate elephant carving above the door.

The final elephant statues were set off to the side of one of the temples.  It was pretty close to life size and gave me a great place to take a rest.

I think the elephant is grinning too!

I think the elephant is grinning too!

What else would we experience on Day 4 in Cambodia?  Stay tuned for more…

Cambodia Day 3 – Sunset behind Bakon Temple

9 May

This is part of our travels in Cambodia, if you want to see other posts in the series, please click here.

After our epic car ride of the afternoon, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go to the last set of temples that Li had picked for our long day, but the driver assured us we could make it before close, so off we went.

There were three temples situated together to the south west of Angkor Wat, which was where we headed.  Even though the road was much better, we still weren’t sure if we would make it as the shadows lengthened and we saw children, animals and people all heading in for the night.

Finally we pulled up to our destination – Bakon Temple, the largest of the three in the group and the only one that we would have time to see that evening.  We showed our passes and went in to the grounds.

Our first view

Our first view

This temple had a large Buddhist monastery painted in Technicolor to the right side when we entered.  There were teenage monks in bright robes checking out the last few visitors straggling in.  We paid them little mind though, because just over the edge of the temple in front of us the sun was starting to set and the sky turning violet.  Rather ungracefully we scurried up and over to see what sunset would be like at Bakon Temple.

Before the sun dipped too low, Li and I climbed to the top to get a view.  It was pretty impressive.

At the very top - posing with others as well

At the very top – posing with others as well

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Then, we settled down by the back edge of the temple and watched the sun slip lower and lower over the trees until it finally disappeared.

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Tired and at peace, we walked back around to the front and met our driver who drove us back into town.  We had finished our third day in Cambodia.

A final look with purple clouds

A final look with purple clouds

This sunset was picture perfect and quite solitary.  What type of sunset would we see the following evening?  Stay tuned to find out.

Cambodia Day 3 – Exploring Beng Mealea temple

2 May

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia, for other posts in this series, please click here.

Beng Mealea was an amazing temple and definitely worth the long road to get there.  As we looked around there were so many interesting views to absorb that in total we took several hundred photos.  It was difficult to choose which ones represented the temple most accurately.

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Too many photos! How could I choose just a few?

I tried to choose photos that represent my idea of the temple, though they may not give you an exact idea of its size or it’s structure.  These shots remind me of that afternoon exploring.

Even more so than some of the temples we visited earlier – the carving popped out of nowhere – it was in the places you would expect – walls, arches, doorways – but also within the blocks heaped on the floor.  It would have been an enormous life-size jigsaw puzzle to put things back together again.

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Another unique things about the temple was that you really needed to climb to get to different places.  There were random blocks of stone piled on top of each other and it was a maze to figure out where to go next.  We “hired” a local guide to show us the way which was worth the $3 that we paid.

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And the guide then led us up, up, up to where we were walking on a catwalk over the temple.  We were Indiana Jones exploring in the jungle – nature closing in on all sides, looking for a hidden treasure.  It was a perfect release after the car ride there.

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Nature is so powerful – the trees and their roots continuing to pull apart the gigantic blocks that earlier kings constructed.  If we continue to believe we can control nature, I don’t want to be on that side of the bet!

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Making our way down again we were greeted by more locals asking us to buy drinks or maps or guides.  This child seemed like a young Tarzan, comfortable in the natural world.

Our own Tarzan?

Our own Tarzan?

And as a final memory I snapped this picture of Li by one of the enormous trees on the grounds.  It reminds me of the photos in the Sequoia forest in California where you had trees so large you could  drive a car through.  This tree isn’t quite that wide, but look how small a person looks beside it!

How many people could you fit inside?

How many people could you fit inside?

Looking back, I believe we could have spent an entire day there – happily exploring each room and watching the colors change as the sunlight went from east to west.  Instead though, we had one last place to go before that day was done, so we returned to our car and went to chase the sunset.

Have you ever been somewhere where you felt like Indiana Jones?  How and why were you there?

Cambodia Day 3 – The road to Beng Mealea temple

30 Apr

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia, for other posts on our trip, please click here.

After a quick lunch (at the least impressive restaurant of our trip and one of the more expensive), we headed to Beng Mealea temple.  It was way off the beaten path – normally represented with a small arrow to the right side of the map, indicating that it was not close by.  Our driver seemed to know his way though and we settled in for a drive and Li fell asleep.

Unfortunately – the road was under construction.

It was one of tensest car rides that I have taken.  The road was quite literally dug up with large piles of sand and rocks.  Large pieces of machinery appeared at random, punctuated by motorbikes and farm machinery.  The sand tracks were slippery and deep ridges threatened to stall the car.  To make things more complicated traffic was moving in both directions and the road for much of the way was one way.  It meant that we had to wait in small turn-offs and also were never sure when another vehicle would appear over a ridge.

There was one point where our driver started to drive along a newly plowed path, then wound up getting off the road, stuck in the dirt – turned around and the backing up for several football fields in length.  We finally maneuvered our way around after about two hours of nail biting (on my part, Li stayed asleep through most of it) and towards the end of the day arrived at Beng Mealea temple.  Nearby the temple grounds was the sign below.

This only started 10 years ago.

This only started 10 years ago.

Signs about restoration are all over Siem Reap – different governments have played an important part in restoring this part of the country.  In this instance it was the German government that started clearing the land mines, but they just started doing it in 2003, 10 years ago.  It is difficult to understand or appreciate.  Our driver told us that both of his parents had been killed in the conflict and I don’t think he was much older than I am.  The horrors that this land has seen are so recent that it is almost impossible to understand.  The long drive and this sign emphasized it even more.

Beng Mealea has not been fully restored and it was a different type of exploration – climbing over and under blocks and different pillars.  Below are some of the views as we arrived.

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I wonder if Ta Prohm had been that way ten years ago.  Later that evening at our hotel we saw pictures of Khmer Rouge fighters taking an outing to explore the same grounds.  It was eerie to think we had been at the same place just a few hours before.

Beng Mealea was an amazing temple – one that called for photos and I’ll share more of them shortly.

How do you connect a history of a place with its monuments?  When does the history over shadow the place itself and what risk do we take if we forget?

An aside – I have been having a difficult time putting pen to paper (or rather hands to keyboard) recently.  It seems that there is so much to write about that I am getting stuck in the details.  Please stay patient with me as I work through it.

The seventh quarter review

21 Apr

Hard to believe that in a few months I will hit the two year mark with Zhongguo Jumble.  The time continues to speed by, days blurring together.  I feel very lucky that I have the blog to look back at to remind myself what I was doing and where I have been.  For some reason my following has tailed off over the last month – so if you’re out there, please give me a shout out!

The seventh quarter has been a busy one – lots of travel and visitors which has meant that finding the time to blog has been a bit of a challenge.  Even with that pressure though, I remained fairly consistent and had some great comments on my posts from the last three months.

Here are three of my favorites.

  • Chinese Voicemail – Weixin – this post about this app on my phone sparked a lot of comments as well as plenty of views.  Weixin has been in the news lately as the largest mobile phone company (China Mobile) is contemplating banning it because it is free.  They claim to have lost money from text messages, especially over the Chinese New Year season.  I’m not sure how it will turn out – but for the moment I am enjoying the photo sharing.  At a training I went to recently we even made our own Weixin group where we are doing follow-up actions.

Weixin logo

  • Musk cat coffee – this post got lots of interesting reactions to the fact that this restaurant was in my office.  Musk cat coffee is coffee that has gone through the digestive track of an animal that is based in Indonesia.  A couple of months after the store has opened, it seems to be doing a brisk business, but I don’t know of anyone who has tried their specialty.
And what exactly is a musk cat?

And what exactly is a musk cat?

  • My adventures in Cambodia – I have posted on the first three days of our adventures in Cambodia and all of these posts have gotten great feedback.  Continue to be patient with me as I go through the last two days of photos.  More great shots to come!  The entry that received the most feedback was the one I did on Angkor Wat – the most famous temple in Siem Reap.
View from the very top of Angkor Wat - think 1000 years ago how high this was - even taller than the tallest trees

View from the very top of Angkor Wat – think 1000 years ago how high this was – even taller than the tallest trees

I’ve got more travel and some great adventures coming up in the next quarter, so keep tuned.  Your comments inspire me to keep sharing about my daily adventures and occasional travels.

Did I miss one of your favorite posts?  If so – let me know which should have been at the top of my list.

Cambodia Day 3 – Kbal Spean

18 Apr

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia.  For more posts from our trip, click here.

After our trip to the ladies temple we headed back to our car and went to the next site.  This site was different from the rest as there was no temple – instead it was a mountain hike to the source of the rivers which flow throughout the entire country of Cambodia.  Kbal Spean is a place full of stories and it would have been helpful to have purchased the book at the previous temple to hear them all, but we decided to move forward.

Ready to explore

Ready to explore

Because Banteay Srei had been so crowded, Kbal Spean felt out and out deserted.  This was a place off the beaten tourist path.  After the first 15 minutes of the hike we found out why – the hike was a hike – in some places so steep you needed a hand hold and in others very slippery as you descended.  I can’t imagine trying to climb that hill in the rainy season – even in the dry, dry weather we lost our footing several times.

Looking up

Looking up

After getting to the top (eventually), we saw some carvings and esoteric statues, but in general – it felt deserted – like some place you stumbled on in a dream.  We rested a long time at the top, taking in the calm water and laughing at a baby that a French couple next to us had carried all the way up.

The carving at the top of the mountain - Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma

The carving at the top of the mountain – Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma

More carvings - likely over 700 years old

More carvings – likely over 700 years old

On the way down we followed one of the local “guides” who showed us a beautiful water fall and other pathways where there were butterflies and more carvings in the river.  It was a direct contrast to the previous temple and I could understand why they believed these waters were powerful – to grant fertility and life and good health to those who worshipped at the river.

Climbing back down - via the waterfall route!

Climbing back down – via the waterfall route!

A final look

A final look

Enjoy the photos and the calm natural feel that I can sense when looking back through them.

In that vein I would like to send a birthday wishes to my sister and hope that those good things will follow her not only on her birthday, but always!  Happy Birthday!

Cambodia Day 3 – Banteay Srei

16 Apr

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia.  For other posts in the series please click here.

After two days of tuk tuk travel, we had booked a car for day 3.  Li had an ambitious schedule that he negotiated with the driver that had us going from the north east to the south east side of the temple area.  Looking at the distance and the dust on the road, we wanted windows that closed to attack such an itinerary.

Our start times were consistently earlier and this morning was no exception.  We had no time for a leisurely breakfast to make sure we got on the road.  The car was air conditioned and very comfortable and we headed out ready to explore.

Our first stop was the “ladies temple,” so called because of the delicate carving there.  Unfortunately about 30 buses of Chinese tourists had the same idea to see it as well.  Of all the temples we saw over the week it was the smallest and we hit at peak time.  The carving was nice, but in general not up to the hype.  My advice is to go in the afternoon if possible to make sure that you can truly appreciate the details.

Going back through our photos (now almost two months later) I am struck by the lack of other tourists in our photos.  Li has a knack for making it seem like we are the only people in the area.  Rest assured though – this temple was packed to the gills!

Have you gone to a place which has been a bit of a let- down?  From the photos, you can see that it is still very beautiful – but just not what I expected.  This was also the temple where we got “scammed” by one of the local touts.  They were selling books about the history of all of the temples which they offer to sell for $1 USD.  I finally decided I would buy and then all of the sudden the price jumped up to $11!  When we started to pay attention, it seemed like this scam repeated itself over and over again.

We didn’t buy the book – and now I’m letting our photos speak for themselves.  Would you visit?

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