Friday, December 23, 2011

Cambodia FACES...

Traditional Khmer dress.  These women were all dressed up at Angkor Wat temple. 
A school for orphaned children next to the market. 
"How much you paay Laaday??  I giv you good priiii!"  Yep, that's what we heard for the two days we were walking around the markets.  They preferred to use the USD because their Riels were basically worth nothing.  Bargaining was fun though.

"Welcome to Coffee Angkor Wat".  Katie and I enjoyed a traditional Khmer lunch at this local restaurant.    I had a chicken and onion stir fry dish with rice.  (of course I had rice... comes with almost EVERY dish)  There was also a few fresh veggies and fresh pineapple, but I had to contain myself and stay away from it.  Didn't really want to spend the rest of the trip in the bathroom.  Lunch was delicious though. 
The kitchen of the restaurant we ate at.  Now you see why I didn't want to eat any fresh foods from here... never know, the bathroom was probably right around the corner too. 
Katie and I enjoyed fish foot massages and an hour foot massage for.... $3!!!  Man, I could have stayed there all night for that price.  It was recommended by our tour guide... his favorite place.  I did go back to the hotel and got an hour full body massage for $8.  I could get used to that.  :)
The Night Market where we went shopping, got foot massages, and ate a delicious local dinner at a "resort restaurant".  I did enjoy the lemongrass tea and spring rolls! 
For all the nurses out there.... Here's the local ER.  Yep, check out the nurses sitting outside and the old fashioned treatment beds inside...  Very thankful for American healthcare!
Locals hanging out and playing hackie-sac.  Check out all the tuck-tucks in the background.  
A couple taking wedding pictures at Angkor Wat.

Resting after a long day in front of Angkor Wat. 
There were a few of these types of bands around Siem Reap.    They were raising money for the land-mine victims of Cambodia.
A little local boy hanging out around Banteay Sarei.  Definitely one of my favorite pics of the trip.
Locals on the side of a country road making sugar cane candy.

The next step in making sugar cane candy.  Didn't eat any after seeing the random dogs wandering around.
A local relaxing outside her house.
There were small children selling all sorts of things all over Angkor.  It was kind of hard to say no a lot of the times. 
Children hanging out while working at Ta Phrom. 
Artistans Angkor is a trade school for locals to learn a valuable trade from wood and stone carvings, silk making, painting, or sewing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kingdom of Cambodia: Angkor

Angkor Wat is one of the most well known temples in Angkor.  The whole Angkor area is part of the UNESCO world heritage sites.  Here's a view from the reflection pond near the main gate.  Angkor Wat is the largest religious building in the world taking up over 500 acres.
One of the back gates of Angkor Wat.  No mortar was used to build this temple, so you can see the limestone slabs starting to shift and fall apart.  This gate was never finished with its carvings on the columns. 
Two Buddhist monks resting by the lake catching the sunset over Angkor Wat. 
There were wild monkeys wandering around Angkor Wat. 
Katie and I resting by the lake after a long day of sightseeing.  Our tour guide was amazing.  He was so informational about the history of the temples and area and spoke pretty good English which definitely helped.  I learned so much from him.  Definitely opened my eyes about a lot of things.      
A long corridor of pillars in Angkor Wat.  These corridor walls were lined with stone carvings depicting the battles and wars of the ancient kings and Hindu and Buddhist gods.
Angkor Wat was considered a mountain temple because it had three levels to it.  Peasants weren't even allowed inside the temple to pray.  Common people were only allowed on the ground floor with the corridors of stone carvings.  Priests were allowed on the middle level in this picture.  The King and royalty were the only ones allowed on the top level to pray.
The Kings and royalty area in Angkor Wat.   
Phnom Bakheng is the only temple in Angkor actually on a hill.  It overlooked Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.  There was also a great view of Cambodian countryside from the top.  It was a lot greener than I imagined. 
View of the countryside from Phnom Bakheng.
Main gate to Angkor Thom.  This gate was the first one to depict the 4 types of Hinduism coming together along with the 3 types of Buddhism.  Angkor Thom means "Big city" in Khmer.  There are many temples in Angkor Thom including Bayon, Phimeanakas, the Royal Palace and the Elephant Terrace.    
Bayon was my favorite temple in Angkor!  I even liked it more than Angkor Wat.  Yes, Angkor Wat is amazing and big, but it was almost too massive that you couldn't appreciate all the little details to it.  Bayon was much smaller in that aspect and easier to explore.  It's most known for its massive stone faces on its many towers jutting up from the upper terraces.
The "happy" and "sad" face in the same view.  There were four expressions of the Buddhist god, Lokesvara, used for the different faces, those being two of them along with "face with open eyes" and "face with closed eyes".  Throughout the temple, there are about 200 faces following you where ever you go... creepy!  But cool none the less :)
Katie and I in the random doorways of Bayon.  These temples make for awesome photo shoots... trust me it's a photographers dream!
The very famous kissing face shot.  Of course I had to do it!  Good thing we had our wonderful guide telling us where all the good photo shots were.  He just added to my large collection of pics from the trip.
Another one of the guides ideas...
A cool view of Bayon.  The architecture during the Angkor period reminded me a little of the Mayan architecture... massive stone blocks in forms of pyramids and towers.
Phimeanakas from across the pond.  Like most temples in Angkor, this one had very skinny and tall stairs leading to the top.  It was meant for people to get on their all fours when they were going to pray to the gods.  Trust me, you definitely needed to climbing most of the stairs here!  It wasn't bad going up, but coming down was a different story!
Cool view of the pillars from the top of Phimeanakas overlooking Angkor Thom.

View from the top of Phimeanakas.  Think about how many stairs we had to climb up again...  Good thing we were in shape for this trip!
The top of Phimeanakas.  That was where people were supposed to go to pray to the Buddhist gods.
Elephant Terrace is a huge stadium in Angkor Thom built for polo matches  and ceremonies during the Angkor period.  Only the king and royalty were allowed to sit on the actual terrace.  The three-headed elephants were part of the front of the terrace.
There were tunnels all below the terrace that was covered up with sand until just recently (about 10-15 years ago) when it was discovered on accident.  These tunnels had beautiful sculpting on the walls depicting gods and battles of their history.  Not sure why they were covered up in the first place, but glad they discovered it!
The sandstone sculpting on the walls beneath the terrace where the King sat.  I couldn't believe how detailed they all were!
A monk looking out to the Elephant Terrace.
Banteay Srei is one of the older temple of Angkor about an hour north of the main Angkor compound.  We had to drive through the Cambodian countryside which was extremely interesting and eye opening.  It was full of locals working in the rice patty fields and small open-air shacks on stilts to prevent flooding from ruining the house.  There were also locals lining the road selling goods and fresh fruit/veggies (trust me, even though it looked semi-good because it was so fresh, I did not eat ANY fresh foods in this country!!)  Didn't want to risk it :)
Katie and I in front of the library at Banteay Srei.  This temple had the most intricate details of the stone carvings and the only temple in Angkor made from sandstone.
One of the buildings at Banteay Srei.
Banteay Samre was another temple of Angkor (I know they're all looking pretty much the same by now... but bear with me).  This particular one was guarded by the lions.
Banteay Samre.  An example of people using all fours to climb to the top of the temples.
Ta Prohm was another one of my favorites.  It's one of the only temples that hasn't had any restoration done to it.  There are trees growing through the temple that are now holding the whole temple together.  Mother nature is doing her job on destroying most of the rest of the temple.  Apparently the temple will most likely crumble when the tree finally reaches its life span (about 100ish more years).
Look at how massive these roots are!
Mother nature doing its course to the temple.

This part of the temple was used to film Lara Croft:  Tomb Raider.  There are two trees actually formed into one.  The one inside is dead and the outer tree is still living.
It looks like a huge snake winding its way on the temple.  Crazy!