Siem Reap, Cambodia - the girls trip

 

 

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Siem Reap/Angkor Wat, Cambodia

 February, 2015

 

Exactly one year ago today, Cousin Maria, Jane, Sue, and I took a "girls" trip to visit Siem Reap for Jane's 50th birthday.  It was also part of Sue and Maria's big Asian Adventure.  Although it was only three days, we packed in a lot and had a fabulous time.  It was my second visit to Siem Reap, but I was still in awe at how amazing and beautiful this area is.

 

 

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 Getting up at 4 am to see the sunrise at the stunning Angkor Wat temple was worth it.  The great temples of Angkor Wat are situated in the province of Siem Reap Cambodia. These ancient temple ruins are considered the largest religious complex in the world.  Interestingly, this area was abandoned for nearly 1000 years, hidden by the jungle.  In 1890, a French explorer rediscovered the "lost city."

 

 

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Angkor Wat was dedicated to Vishnu, a Hindu deity.  This was unusual for this time as most were dedicated to the reigning king.  In the late 13th century the temple transferred from Hindu to Buddhist use and is still used by Buddhists today.  Angkor Wat has also become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag. 

 

 

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There were many tourists at the temple, but it did not distract from the experience.  I actually favor this photo of all the tourists, each doing their own thing, while they anxiously await the sunrise. 

 

 

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We were so lucky as the weather could not have been more perfect for the sunrise! 

 

 

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As I mentioned in our other girls trip, the Maldives, it is fun traveling with girlfriends as we all LOVE posing for group shots!

 

Poses

When Angkor Wat was named a World Heritage site in 1992 it was also added to the List of World Heritage sites that were in danger.  People were pillaging and stealing the ancient artifacts.  In 1993, UNESCO launched a campaign along with the Cambodian authorities to restore and safeguard Angkor. 

 

 

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UNESCO continues to be a part of Angkor’s future to ensure that tourism and development do not compromise this cultural treasure.  However, the structures are in jeopardy from the sheer amount of visitors who walk on the ruins each day.  There are rumors that authorities may shut down parts of the monument.  This would be so unfortunate for future visitors but I can understand why they would make this decision.

 

 

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 Cambodia - cathy996

 

 

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That evening Jane managed to surprise us all for her birthday.... she had made a donation to buy a water pump for a needy village in all of our names.  We were able to go and visit the village, meet some of the children and people who live there, and see the water pump.  What an amazing gift for us... but can you image what this clean water will do for this poor community? Only 30% of rural people have access to safe drinking water, 19% to adequate sanitation and 50% to health services. About 4 million people, or almost 40% of the population, live below the poverty threshold.  Jane is a very thoughtful and a very giving person.

 

  Water pump

 

 

Elephants!

Of course riding an elephant was high on Maria and Sue's list of things to do in Asia.  It certainly made for a unique photograph with the temples in the background!  

 

 

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  Elephant ride

Many people do not realize the vast amount of temples in the Angkor Wat complex.  In three days, you can only visit a small handful of them. 

 

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 Ta pram

One temple not to be missed is Ta pram or the jungle temple made famous by Angelina Jolie and the Tomb Raider movie.  Construction on Ta Prohm began in 1186.  Unlike most of the temples of Angkor, it has been largely left to nature, hence the fantastic overgrown roots.  Ta Prohm is often described as the most magical place in all of Angkor.  

 

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You feel like an explorer as you wander the temple grounds.  Not to mention, it is a playground for photography.

 

 

 Tree

 

 

 

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 Bayon Wat

Know as the temple of faces, Bayon Wat is one of my favorites.  From a distance, it looks like a pile of blurry stones.  But as you get closer, the magic appears...

 

 

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Built by Jayavarman VII the temple has 54 towers and 216 faces.  No one knows exactly whom the faces represent. 

 

 

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Each tower has four huge carved faces on each side.  The faces are 13 feet high (4 meters) and oriented toward the four points of the compass.  They all have closed eyes, which gives a very peaceful Zen feel.  It is another site that is fantastic for photographs.

 

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Cambodia

 

 

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Statues

 

 

 Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei is a 10th-century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. The modern name of the temple means “Citadel of the Women.” 

 

 

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Because it is 20 miles from the main group of temples, it is not as crowded.  It is also very different from the others as it is built with rose-pink sandstone.  The temple is elaborately decorated with floral motifs, female deities, and monkey guardians.

 

 

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group temple

 

So many picturesque Doorways...

 

 

Doorways

 

 

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Back at our hotel

 

We enjoyed a cooking class where we learned how to make traditional Cambodian dishes. 

 

 

Cooking class

 

Cooking

photo by sue

 

Our last afternoon we relaxed at our hotel pool.

 

Pool

 

 

The local village

 

Flash back to April 2011, the first time D and I visited Cambodia.  We stayed at the same hotel and visited the village next door.  Below is a photo of D sharing photos with the children in his viewfinder. 

 

 

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It was a very special experience for us. We even bought a water filtration system for one family in this village.  D had a great idea and printed out photos that we took on that trip, so that I could give them out when I visited with the girls.  Many of the staff at the hotel are from the village so all we had to do was show the photos to them and they were able to tell us whom the parents are. 

 

 

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This was a grandmother of the little girl in the photo.

 

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I was very excited, as were they.  One of those priceless moments!  Thanks Sue for taking these photos of my reunion!

 

 

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When I walked away, I looked back and they were still laughing and enjoying the photos.  I just wish D were there to enjoy it.

 

 

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We continued on to visit more of the peaceful little village.  The hotel is outside of the city so not only do you get to feel what the local life is like; there are hardly any tourists.

 

 

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Below is a typical house in the village - no electricity, no running water, basically a palm leaf hut.

 

 

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Cambodia has a population of 15 million people.  Cambodia is slightly larger than state of Missouri and lies between Thailand and Vietnam in mainland Southeast Asia, with the northern border adjoining Laos.  Decades of war and internal conflict have left it one of the world's poorest countries.

 

 

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Most likely her blackened teeth are from chewing betel.  Betel chew is made up of several ingredients - betel leaf, slivers of areca palm nut, and lime paste.  It releases a mild stimulant. There is also a tradition to lacquered teeth, but I think this is from betel because it is on her lips. 

 

 

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{above photo by sue - fantastic!}

 

 

A Buddhist cemetery

 

 

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The predominant religion in Cambodia is Theravada Buddhism where death marks the transition from this life to the next.  The belief is that all life/being evolves in a successive cycle of birth, sickness, old age, death and rebirth/reincarnation.

 

 

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In Theravada Buddhism it is traditional to cremate.  Cremation is usually carried out in the temple and the ashes placed in an urn, which is then placed in a stupa (also called a chedi).  Only one person is laid in each stupa.  The size of the stupa reflects the status of the deceased.

 

 

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Prayer flags at the temple grounds.

 

 

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Bringing the cows home at the end of the day...

 

 

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I pulled the photo on the left from mine and D's visit in 2011 - it is the same man in the photo on the right I took on this trip.  Sporting that same dapper look with his hat and scarf.

 

 

Cambodia
 

 

A note about Cambodia's history: 

The Khmer Rouge is a very important part of its history.  There is so much to be told it would take me an entire blog…..what I will tell you is when the Khmer Rouge ruled between 1975 to 1979, it is estimated that 1.4 to 2.2 million Cambodians were killed.   Half of those deaths were from executions, and the rest were from starvation and disease.  Most of the people killed were the wealthy and educated.  This horrible part of history devastated Cambodia and they are still trying to recover and it is still one of the poorest countries in the world.

 

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Always my favorite, the beautiful children...

 

 

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I'll end this post with a handful of random photos that really captured the essence and the fun we had on this trip!!

 

 

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It's all about the photos!

 

 

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{above photo by sue}

 

 

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Temple posing


 

 

Bond girls

 

 

Happy 50th birthday Jane!!!  Thank you for sharing your special day with us!!

 

 

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Cousins!

 

  temple

 

 

Maria and Sue - catching the spirit of the temple.

 

 

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Maria - supporting the local economy by purchasing handmade bracelets from a young girl.

 

 

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{above photo by sue}

 

 

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  GIRLS

 

 

And if anyone can guess what Jane is doing... you win a prize!

 

 

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Good Night Cambodia!

 

I love the colors in this photo... taken at the "golden hour (the golden hour also called the magic hour is just before sunset - or after sunrise when the sun's light is redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky).  I have taken only a handful of photos caught at this exact moment.  But when you are able to catch it, the light makes for a very special image.

 

 

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It was a perfect sunset TO END A PERFECT TRIP.

 

 

 

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