Archive for the ‘Cambodia’ Category

Cute Monkeys

Cute Monkeys

Our journey along the Mekong continued south into Cambodia- smaller than Laos, but with more inhabitants (around 15 million people). The streets got busier, the traffic got more intense. And the people were- incredibly friendly. Rarely have we felt so welcome in a place, with people stopping just to say hello, and even if they want to sell you something (“You buy something!” “Hey Mister, tuktuk”) it is always with a smile, which persists even if you decline.

We were astonished to notice that colorful pyjamas in all sorts of patterns seemed to be the latest fashion for many women on the street, worn while they went to the markets to shop, as they were cruising around on their scooters or just as they sat in a cafe with an iced coffee.

Anna and Simon in front of Ankor Wat

Anna and Simon in front of Ankor Wat

We started our tour of he country in Kratie, a town at the Mekong, from where we headed on to Siam Reap. An undeniably touristic place due to its location- right at the gateway to the biggest temple complex on earth: Angkor Wat. Most people have heard about Angkor Wat, and have a mental image of an impressively large building in mind, but it is important to note that Angkor is more than just Angkor Wat- it is a huge area dotted with temples of all different sizes and ages, the biggest of which is Ankor Wat itself. We rented bicycles in town and went our way to see what was once the capital of the Khmer empire- the temples are the remains in stone of what once used to be a bustling city of a million inhabitants, until the empire crumbled in the 15th century, and the area was deserted, allowing nature (and here, especially the jungle) to reclaim the temples, while the wooden houses slowly rotted away.

Ankor Wat

Ankor Wat

We did very much enjoy our adventure of exploring the many buildings- some are by now in a symbiotic state with nature, with huge trees sprouting out of roofs and temple walls, and wrapping  around stones and pillars. The temples are diverse in shape, size and architecture, many of them a maze of hallways and courtyards, other build high to impress by their size, most of them with elaborate stone carvings and incredible attention to detail. The Bayon, one of the more famous temples, sports more than 200 huge faces carved into stone, watching over you from above as you walk around the temple. We saw elephant statues, artificially created ponds, and bridges lined with statues of both gods and demons. Angkor Wat itself impresses with its sheer size- it is the biggest religious building on earth.

We spent three days around the temples, and used the evenings to replenish our energy by getting a massage- and a fish pedicure again, as in KL the previous year. Siem Reaps main street is full of fish-tanks containing “Dr Fish” that nibble on your dead skin cells, a very ticklish affair- Simon was laughing through the whole 15 minutes of it. Before heading on to the capital, we stopped in Battambang, a city to the left of the Tonle Sap lake that forms the heart of Cambodia. We went on a tour to the surrounding countryside, which included a ride on a bamboo train (merely a bamboo platform on wheels- and it goes fast, very fast), as well as a visit of a temple on top of a hill and a bat-cave. The bats begin flying around 6.30 every night, and it is amazing to observe, how the formerly empty cave opening in the mountain turns into a bat-highway all of a sudden, as millions and millions of them leave their sleeping place to hunt for food.

The mountain is also home to a reminder of Cambodia’s troubled past- the so called killing cave, used by the infamous Khmer Rouge during their murderous regime to dispose of people they had clubbed to death at the caves. We found out more about the Khmer Rouge during our stay in Phnom Phenh, where we visited one of the secret prisons from back in the days, in which people were subjected to unimaginable tortures for crimes they had never committed, accused of treachery and sabotage on no grounds- and many of the perpetrators still walk free and live unpunished to the present day, which is hard to believe.

All in all, we very much enjoyed the capital- it has a nice atmosphere, some beautiful old buildings, a constant busy bustle without being too overwhelming, a host of interesting markets, good food and again- friendly people. We spent a few days walking the streets, and even got to sample a “German” beer brewed in Cambodia! Heading on into Vietnam by boat, it was decided that Cambodia is a place to come back to!

Buddha Statue

Buddha Statue

Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple

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