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!



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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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.


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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.  










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







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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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 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...









Back at our hotel


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



Cooking class



photo by sue


Our last afternoon we relaxed at our hotel 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.





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



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



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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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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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A very short trip - Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Phnom Penh, Cambodia

June, 2014


D had two days of business, then we were going to sightsee over the weekend - but after his 2nd day of meetings, D was running a very high temperature.  So..... we flew back home immediately.

The city of Phnom Penh, the capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia, is the largest city in Cambodia.  More than 2 million people live here.



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They really do not have taxi's in PP so D took a tuk tuk to work.  He was quite the character and spoke pretty decent English. He drove us around for the two days we were there, including taking me shopping and showing me some sights.  I could not understand his name so I told him I would call him sugar - he loved this! 




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I had a delicious salad at The Daughters of Cambodia, a restaurant that trains and employs underprivileged women.  There is a small shop downstairs selling handmade items and the cafe is on the second floor.  I highly recommend it for a nice lunch.  The cheese bread on the side was to die for!


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Our first night we went ot a local movie theater to see The Grand Budapest Hotel.  The theater was precious!  Notice the bamboo sofas?



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People of all ages exercise in the evening, in large groups, at the parks.



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If you want to see more of Phnom Penh, click here to view our trip in Mach 2013.



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A long weekend in Phnom Penh Cambodia


Phnom Penh, Cambodia

March - 2013

We flew to Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city in Cambodia, for a long weekend.  The flight was only two hours.  We had a wonderful time, eating, sightseeing, and just relaxing.


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We toured the Royal Palace, a complex with several buildings, built in 1866.  The buildings, with their beautiful towering spires, are a great example of the classic Khmer architecture found in Cambodia. 



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The current King, Norodom Sihamoni, lives here.  The King of Cambodia is an elected monarch, making Cambodia one of the few elected monarchies in the world. The King's role is a symbolic figurehead; he does not have any power.  His father, a king the people really loved, passed away earlier this year.  

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We were not allowed to tour the royal residency, but we did see the Throne, the Silver Pagoda where the floors are all silver, and a few other buildings.   The current King is 60 years old and he never married.



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Wat Ounalom, built in 1443 is the most important Wat in Phnom Penh. They say it has a hair from the Buddha’s eyebrow.  It consists of 44 structures.  Many which were damaged during the Khmer Rouge but have since been restored.    



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Isn't this Buddha interesting adorned in make-up and jewelry?  We saw several like this.


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Look closely to the right of the Buddha below, worshippers left nail polish as an offering.  Must be the Buddha of beauty.



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I was intrigued with the miniature temples outside of the main temples.  They are approximately three to four feet tall.  I could not find any information about what they are used for...  maybe to burn incense?



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We also visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a heart-breaking site, as over 20,000 prisoners were killed there.  Originally a high school, it was used by the Khmer Rouge as a Security Prison called 21 (S-21) from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979.



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Our guide lived through this horrific event and he shared his story with us.  As a child, he was sent out to the countryside where he worked as a slave from sunrise to sunset without any food or water.  He lost most of his family members during the Khmer Rouge era.



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We also met Chum Mey, one of only twelve known survivors of the Khmer Rouge S-21 Tuol Sleng camp.  He survived two years in the death camp but unfortunately he lost his wife (she was pregnant) and his first-born child.  They were murdered right in front of him.  We purchased a copy of his book and he offered to let us take his photo.   He is now 83 years old.



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This was the room where he was imprisoned.  He probably survived because he was a trained auto mechanic and had valuable machinery skills.  



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This unusual flower grows on the Cannonball Tree also called the "Buddha tree".  They possess antibiotic, anti fungal, antiseptic and analgesic qualities. The trees are also used to cure colds and stomach aches.  



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Below is a flowering banana tree.  In Asia, the banana flower is considered a vegetable and it is edible.  If you take away the hard outer leaves, the inside is very tender.  It can be eaten raw, but many recipes require cooking.  I have never tasted it - but will now be on the hunt to give it a try. 



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Sweet children



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We enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant next to our hotel.  Two bowls of noodles, spring rolls, and a coke for $3.  It was very good, as was all of the food we ate during the trip.



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A visit to the market...



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Must have been a good day!


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This little piggy really went to market!



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?????   I am guessing these rings on his back are from cupping, an ancient Chinese practice that balances the Chi in the body.  It relaxes muscles and is said to have similar effects of a massage.



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 A gas station -

Notice the chickens for sale in the cage next to her... and the gas!



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Look how the mound of veggies and the motorbike is leaning one way and he is leaning the other way to balance it.


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We really had a fun time in Phnom Penh.  Our hotel was beautiful and the people of Cambodia are happy, friendly people.  Quite an achievement considering the past 35 years of history in their country.



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Cambodia - Part 3 - the incredible temples of Angkor Wat



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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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Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1992, Angkor Wat is not just one Wat (temple); it is a large park with over 1,000 temple sites, but most of them are now barely standing.  Today, 200 of the temples have been restored in some way to allow visitors to tour. 

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We visited eight temples during our stay.  One day we hired a guide and a driver with a car to show us the major temples.  The next day, we hired a tuk tuk driver to visit a few lesser-known ones.  The Khmer Empire built most of these stunning temples from 879 to 1191 AD while they were at the height of their power.  The whole area is about 250 miles, which also includes the surrounding forests.


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Wat Athvea


Our first stop was the small temple of Wat Athvea.  The temple's design and the distinctive style of its devata (sacred female images) indicate that King Suryavarman II, who also built Angkor Wat, built it in the early 12th century.

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Wat Athvea and Angkor Wat are the only two temples that face west.  It is thought that the reason was that King Suryavarman intended one of them to serve as his funeral temple.

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Below is one of three well-preserved devatas, each decorated with lotus crowns, heavy necklaces and belts, armbands, finger rings and rich sampots (Khmer style waist wrap).  Their likeness is comparable to women found at the highest level of Angkor Wat, implying that this temple was founded for an important reason.

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During Khmer Rouge times the temple was shrouded in jungle and the wat was used as a sanctuary from the Khmer Rouge.  Today, it is still an active Buddhist temple and cemetery.

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It was in the village just across the street from our hotel.  Because of the location, this temple is not on the tourist route.  We visited it three times as it was part of our daily walk and we never saw any other tourists.


 Ta Prohm Temple


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Ta Prohm, the Jungle Temple, was one of our favorite temples, often described as the most magical place in all of Angkor.  


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This temple was built about mid-12th century to early 13th century (1186).  It was a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of King Jayavarman VII.


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Fig, banyan and kapok trees spread their gigantic roots over stones, probing walls apart, as their branches and leaves intertwine to form a roof over the structures.  



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Here is a funny shot of the roots through the doorway.  You tell me what this looks like!

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Ta Prohm has been left untouched except for the clearing of a path for visitors and structural strengthening to stop  further deterioration.   Delicately carved reliefs on the walls sprout lichen, moss and creeping plants giving it a beautiful green glow.


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This temple really brings to mind Indiana Jones or Lara Croft (which was filmed here).  Visitors are no longer allowed to climb onto the crumbling stones, due to the potential damage to the temple and the safety of the visitors.


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Sadly, Ta Prohm was looted quite heavily in recent years due to its relative isolation and many of its ancient stone shrines have been lost.

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Bayon Wat



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From a distance, Bayon Wat looks like a pile of blurry stones.  But as you get closer, the magic appears...



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Faces begin to materialize in the stone......



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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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The Bayon  also houses very unique bas-reliefs on the exterior walls depicting real-life scenes from the historical sea battle between the Khmer and the Cham.


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There are also extensive carvings of scenes showing everyday life, including market scenes, cockfighting, chess games and childbirth.  The intricacy and details were amazing.


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The Bayon has thousands of female figures carved into the stone.  It primarily features two types of sacred Khmer women: Apsara (celestial goddesses) dancing on lotus flowers, usually located on pillars;


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and devatas, who stand gracefully in niches surrounding the structure.



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I really liked this temple.  It had so many interesting angles to view the faces providing so many photographic opportunities.

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Angkor Wat



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Angkor Wat, City Temple, is the main temple.  It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, the worlds only flag which features a building.  It was built between 1113 and 1150.  Unfortunately it was under construction so all of our photos have green tarps in them.   

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This 12th century temple was constructed by King Suryavarman II, it was his personal mausoleum (tomb) and as a temple to the Hindu god Vishnu.  It was designed as a pyramid representing the structure of the universe: the highest level at the center of the temple represented Mount Meru, the home of the Hindu gods. The moat around the complex represented the oceans that surround the world.

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What was so interesting to us (and scary) was how you could walk along the edge and there was no railing.  Look down at the people in the photo below to get a good perspective of how high up we were - just hanging off the side!

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A peaceful photo of a young monk relaxing in the sun.



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The most famous decorations of Angkor Wat are the Apsara.  There are more than 300,  always bare-breasted and usually dancing, representing an ideal of female beauty.  I was intrigued with these figures  with basically the same proportion as Barbie, so I did a little research.  History dismissed the women as  ”wives to entertain the king in heaven” or ornaments “to decorate bare sandstone walls”.  Recent research suggests that these women served much more profound roles than mere decoration. And perhaps these women were the driving force behind the civilization itself.


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On the temple steps this women was selling a bucket of beetles, supposedly a favorite snack in Cambodia.  We did not sample them.

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It was an exhausting day seeing all of these temples and hearing so much history.  But we really enjoyed seeing such mythical and spectacular structures.  We were very pleased with our guide and our driver.  


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The next morning we decided to rent a tuk tuk instead of a car to take us to some of the lesser know temples.  Above is the view from the inside of a tuk tuk.  Not sure how safe they are......but we thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

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Passing all kinds of other motorized vehicles including a moped with three girls pulling a  fourth girl on a bike.


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Banteay Srei


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Banteay Srei is 23 miles from the main village and on a tuk tuk  it took about 2 hours to get there.  The name Banteay Srei "citadel of the women" or "citadel of beauty" is referred to as the lady temple, not because of the carvings, but the fact that the reliefs on this temple are so delicate that the hand of a woman could only have carved them. It is built of red sandstone, which can be carved like wood.

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What I was referring to as the monkeys are actually called Dvarapalas (temple guardians).  Their function is to protect the temples.

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Banteay Srei is the only major temple  not constructed by a monarch, but by a courtier.   It is known for its small scale and the extreme refinement of its decorative carvings, including several famous narrative bas-reliefs dealing with scenes from Indian mythology.


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The ride on the tuk tuk through the villages was as fun as visiting the temples.  Many women were making and selling sweet sticky rice in bamboo along the roadside.  This first photo shows a woman melting the sugar cane for the rice.

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The rice is then placed in a bamboo tube and the end is plugged with a piece of coconut husk wrapped with banana leaf to keep in the steam so the rice will cook  (see basket below).



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To cook the rice, the bamboo tubes are placed over charcoal. 



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Our driver showed us how to peel open the bamboo to get to the sweet treat.  The rice was very sweet and had a handful of black beans in it.  


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Banteay Kdei



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Banteay Kdei appears much as it did when early explorers first discovered it.  It was built in the late 12th to early 13th century during the reign of Jayavarman VII.   It was originally erected as a Buddhist monastery. 

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What I loved about this temple were the colors.  We were there in the early evening and the setting sun cast a glow that created beautiful rich purple and green tones.


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This temple was built of soft, inferior sandstone and many of the galleries and porches have collapsed.  It is in a state of ruins.   But this ruined appearance doesn’t take away from the temple’s charm and beauty.

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The back entrance has a spectacular tree, which is spreading its roots over the ruins.  For years it was difficult to reach this temple, but recently a road was built to get to the complex.

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We found that we really preferred the more ‘ruined’ temples, as opposed to the neatly preserved ones. 



Pre Rup


Pre Rup was one of those monuments that was more beautiful from afar.  The temple’s name means "turn the body".  Cambodians believed that funerals were conducted at the temple, with the ashes of the body being ritually rotated in different directions as the service progressed, hence the name, Pre Rup.


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Our tuk tuk driver was very good about stopping along the way for us to take photos of everyday life.  In the distance we saw several young girls fishing for something in the water.

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They were laughing and having such a good time.  We walked to the marsh edge to talk to them... well our tuk tuk talked to them.  Of course D wanted to take off his shoes and go in the water.  I convinced him that this might not be the most sanitary thing to do - he calls me his "joy smasher" when I tell him not to do things like this. 


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This girl was very shy and she never came up to us.

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What were they catching?  Snails.

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Like the children of the village, the girls got a kick out of seeing their own image on D's camera.  Except for the shy one.



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The late afternoon sun cast a delicate glow on this oxen in the field.  It makes the scene look like a painting.


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Beng Mealea




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You would think after visiting so many temples they would all start to look a like, but this was not what we experienced.  Each one was so different, so spectacular and interesting in its own way. 

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Beng Malea was special because it is one of the only temples that has been completely left alone.  It has not been restored in any way, they do not even prune the trees.

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The history of the temple is unknown and it can be dated only by its architectural style, similar in style to Angkor Wat, historians think it was built during the reign of king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century.  The roots of the trees were taking over their ruins.

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This temple had such an erie feeling to it.  Again, we were amazed at how we were allowed to climb all over the ruins – no railing to stop us from falling of the edge!  

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 I felt more comfortable sitting down when I was near the edge. 



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There were many beggars, both adults and children wanting to be our guide.  This was the only temple were we experienced this.


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We kept saying no to their offers, but one man just started following us around pointing at things - giving one word descriptions and telling us what direction to go in.  He became our unofficial guide. 

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At first we were annoyed but then we embraced him as he would not leave.  At this point, it became humorous.  And in the end, the temple was so complex, he was actually helpful so we gave him a tip.

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An interesting sign at this temple.  We all have heard about land mines, but to see this sign was pretty eye-opening.  And the area we were walking on was cleared just four years ago.

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As usual we took too many photos 4000 in Cambodia.  I  put a few more of my favorite temple shots in a slide show.




And a handful on my art blog ma vie trouvee.

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To end this blog......more crazy moto bike shots.  How is she keeping that shoe from falling off?


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Out of curiosity I looked up the law for helmets on moto bikes in Cambodia - as of 2009 it is a law for only the driver to wear one.  

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But what about all that precious cargo!  How cute is he?

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We hope you enjoyed all of our photos of Cambodia.  This is a country we truely fell in love with!


Cambodia - Part 2 - A village on stilts and one on the water


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In Kompong Khleang, we visited a stilted village and a floating village on the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia.  It was one of the most fascinating experiences of our lives. 


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With all the traveling we have done, we have experienced many cultures and have seen so many different ways people live - from the very wealthy to the very poor.  But this community struck us as the most unique and different way of living we have ever seen.  It was as if we dropped into the middle of a National Geographic Magazine.

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We hired a driver as this village was a two-hour drive from Siem Reap.  Because it was the dry season, we were able to drive thorough the local village before getting to where the boats dock.  The village was an amazing sight in itself, with the stilted houses sitting so high up in the air - up to 15 feet! 

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During the rainy season (November - May) the road will be completely flooded and the water level will go up the bottom of the houses. 

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Like Sojourn village, the people were exceptionally friendly and were NOT begging for money....the children were just busy waving and and calling out "goodbye, goodbye".  Sweet.

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Fishing is the main income for the entire community.  As we drove through the village, we saw trays of fish lying out in the hot sun to dry. 


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The people of Kampong Khleang, make Cambodia's famous fermented fish paste, Prahoc.  This paste is unique to Cambodian cuisine and is made by fermenting whole fish, or shrimp, with ground rice and salt.  

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The smell was extremely pungent.  This is where we wish we had scratch and sniff capabilities on our blog   :  ). After the fish are dried, they are seasoned and packaged for sale.   Thinking you would never eat this?  Chances are…..if you have eaten Cambodia food you probably have, as it is used in almost every  savory dish.

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We rented a private boat and our driver came with us - he had also been our driver the day before and we really liked him.  He was able to give us information about the people and their life on the water.  Our "captains" were two fairly young boys where the younger of the two had the job of emptying the water that was seeping into our boat.  No safety requirements here!  But if you look at the top left of the photo - there were safety vests.

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There were so many great photographic opportunities along the river, but keep in mind we were in a boat…..moving most of the time, so the photos are not as sharp as I would have liked.


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We were awe-struck as we started our journey down the river.  The height of the houses teetering up on the stilts (look at the brown house in the backgound below) were a sight to be seen.  By the end of June, the lake will be come within a foot of the house below. 

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We also found it amazing to see that the men spend most of their life IN the water.  Not "near" the water or "on" the water, but in the water... usually up their necks all day long.

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Tonle Sap is one of South East Asia’s largest fresh water lakes.  It is connected to the Mekong River.  There are over 200 species of fish on the lake.    The fishing industry in Cambodia is so important that even the currency, the riel, is named after a small fish used in the fish paste.


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Kompong Khleang is the largest permanent settlement on the lake. with over 20,000 people living there.

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Some houses were built right on the water's edge. They are temporary thatched huts which are dismantled during the rainy season and moved along the causeways on trucks.


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The community undergoes dramatic and continual changes due to the seasonal flood levels caused by the reverse flow of the Tonle Sap river.  On the water's edge or on the lake, they are all used to moving their entire houses around.  Below, a house is being pulled by a boat to a new location.

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Every moment of this journey was a surprise.  We saw children playing in the water - 

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women washing their clothes -

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Women cleaning fish to be dried-

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A family doing daily chores - maybe getting ready for a meal? Grandma must be in good shape having to go over the side of the boat all day long.

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Lots of men fishing with nets -

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And families traveling across the river.  Looks like they are as curious about us as we were about them.  This was definately NOT a tourist site.  In fact, we only saw one other group of tourists, a couple, the entire time we were there.

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How sweet - she is blowing us a kiss!

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The houses along the riverbank became sparse as we traveled about 20 minutes into the heart of the river where we began to see the floating village in the horizon. 

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The floating village has about 100 families and is completely separate from the stilted village; both in location and ethnicity.  The floating village sits in the middle of the lake and is populated by Vietnamese.  The stilted village is Cambodian and is connected to the shoreline.

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How about this little guy hanging on the end of the boat with no supervision….and we sometimes worry if the kids are in the next room by themselves!

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I imagine him to be thinking - gee - can't a guy get any privacy around here?

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This really took my breath away - to see this small child hanging off the side of the boat like this.  I have to share just one more photo.....humm guess no diapers are needed for him!


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Here is another one, a little girl not much older.  Looks like she is washing dishes. And again, no adults in sight.

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How about these four little boys?  Think of how much mischief four boys would get in to on dry land...can't even image in a boat on the water!

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What an incredible way to live – to do everything by boat…..pull up to the local restaurant:

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Shop for clothes:

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Seventy percent of the villagers make their living as fishermen and the remaining 30 percent have mainly fishing-related occupations, such as boat building, making nets and processing the catch.  The houses looked nicer than I had expected.  Some were by themselves

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Others were in clusters -

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There were big ones painted bright colors.

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They even had two schools.  This one is called the "Love Your Neighbor School".


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We were guessing this to be the school for the older children as it has a playgound off the back.  As you can see, the schools are beautiful new boats.


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Look how they keep the wood up high so it does not get wet.  This is the dry season so no big storms will be coming through and raining on the wood.

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There is a concern as to how much longer the villagers will be able to live this way.  The fish are decreasing each year and illegal fishing for commercial use are huge problems.  When they come in and farm for profit, it does not leave enough fish for the villagers to live.

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As we were sitting out there on this boat – surrounded by a floating village… was one of those moments were I thought - WOW – not in a million years would I ever have imagined I would have such an opportunity to see such a fascinating, remarkable, wondrous sight. 


Cambodia - Part 1 - Sojourn Village


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Our recent trip to Cambodia was one of the most memorable trips we have taken.  We both fell in love with the country, especially the people.  I have a hard time putting it into words - Cambodia had a heart.

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A little history on Cambodia:

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No one knows for certain how long people have lived in what is now Cambodia.  Studies suggest that people using stone tools lived in caves in the area as early as 4000 BC. 

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Cambodia has a population of 14.8 million people.  Around 96% of the population is Buddhist.  Cambodia is slightly larger than state of Missouri and lies between Thailand and Vietnam in mainland Southeast Asia, with a smaller stretch of the northern border adjoining Laos.  

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For most of its history, agriculture has been the most important sector to the Cambodian economy, with rice being the principal crop.  Rice has been grown on Cambodian soil since well before the 1st century AD.

{A women washing her lettuce in the water collected from the rain}


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With only 4 days, we selected Siem Reap as our main destination.  It is where all of the beautiful temples are located.  I cover the temples in a separate post.  In researching hotels, I stumbled upon a little hotel/bed and breakfast, Sojourn Villas, which was outside of the touristy part of Siem Reap.  It had only 10 rooms, 6 of which are individual huts. 

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Our entire stay with them was fabulous; the room, the staff, the food, the tours, but most of all we loved the exposure we had to the three little villages next to the hotel they help to support.


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Fifty percent of the staff working at the hotel come from the three little villages, giving them opportunities and an income they would have never imaged.  The hotel also created the  Treak Village Enrichment Program, which helps to improve the lives of the people living around Sojourn.  This program focuses on four key areas - supplying water filters and the repair of water wells, trash collection, and planting trees. 

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Early evening we took a stroll through the village.  We were a little intimidated at first as this was definitely NOT a tourist attraction.  But this quickly went away as soon as the kids came out to say hello!

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They were so precious and did not beg for money.  They just wanted to meet us and have their picture taken. 

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Their favorite thing, which evoked many squeals was to see their own image on the camera.

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As we continued our walk,  every group of children we saw were delightful.  They could not speak other than to say hello and goodbye.  When they saw us they stopped what they were doing and came running for a picture.

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They all chimed hello...hello... hello...


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The next day we took a paid tour by one of the young staff members at the hotel.  Fifty percent of the tour cost went directly to the village.

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We had a million questions to ask and we thought this would be a good way to learn about the village. 

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Look at these wee ones chasing the ducks.



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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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All of the houses are built on stilts for many reasons - because of floods, to keep out wild animals, and it provides shade during the hot day.  With no walls, the air can flow freely.  We even saw a few put the cows and oxen under there for shade.


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The hotel is trying to help them clean up their community and each month an award is given to the family who has the cleanest property. Last month's winner can be seen below.  The award?  A 100-pound bag of rice, which can feed the family for a month.

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And to help keep the common areas clean, the hotel hired this woman who picks up trash and sweeps the common areas, all of which are dirt.

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Notice the chicken inside of the house.

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Fortunately we had our guide with us the day we saw this man carving a head of the king out of wood so we were able to ask him about it.  His wife and baby are in the photo above.  


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We bought one of his carvings.  D was a little iffy on it as it is not our style - but I am so happy I did.  It is a beautiful piece of art.  He was not finished so our guide went back the next day and picked it up for us.  The king's head is supposed to bring good luck.


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This is the local store.  It is under one of the houses.

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D decides he wants to buy something to help support the economy so he purchases a bag of chips and a homemade...did you get that HOMEMADE rice cake thing - it looked liked the marshmallow rice-crispy cakes we ate as children.  I told him not to eat it... so did the guide!  But you know D...


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D handed the storeowner a dollar and said to keep the change, but the guide made D take back the change.  I think it cost him 20 cents.

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We kept seeing these odd little stands with lots of bottles filled with liquid.  Our guide told us it was gasoline for the motorcycles and mopeds.  Gas is very expensive and they buy it off the black market.

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We walked to the local school where he told us that only the older children attend.  It was time for the morning session to end so we got to interact with the older kids.  They were learning English in school so they asked us very simple questions - what is your name? how old are you? and they giggled a lot  :  )

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The guide was a bit embarrassed that they asked our age and he explained this was what they were learning - we told him we did not mind at all!

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Such a cutie and quite the character ......hanging with all the girls!

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D took a close up of each one  - you can see them in the slide show at the end.

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This is a very common scene - a family of three on a motorcycle.

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How about a family of four?  And notice only the man has on a helmet.


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We were amused at how much they carry on motorcycles.


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When this truck came around the corner it reminded me of something from an action movie.

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Just across the street from out hotel was a temple where many of the young monks live.

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Our guide was so sweet and we learned so much from him.  The hotel has provided two deep-water wells and they supply water filters to each family. Access to safe drinking water is one of the most urgent needs across Cambodia, where one in seven children die before their 5th birthday, mostly due to water related diseases. 


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Our last night we made sure we got back to the hotel before sunset so we could visit the village one last time.  It was around dinnertime so the families were very active.  Look how each of these little girls have pretty necklaces on.

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Many of the little children ran around without pants on.  Some were completely naked others had on tops.  The boys would start to wear pants around the age of five, the girls a little younger.


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Every time I saw them I laughed - it was so cute.  And trust me, we saw a lot of little naked ones!  The photo below is my favorite.  Working away with her little broom but stopped to wave.


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Just like the previous days, they all came running when we came.  We never saw any other tourist the entire four days we were there.  It was quite a distance form the main part of Siem Reap so I think most people would not visit unless they were staying at the hotel.

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This group was really wound up! D was trying to photograph the little girl and the boys were jumping all over him.  And the parents were around...busy with their tasks.  They did not seem to mind us photographing the children.

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These guys were drinking a special concoction....they could speak a little English and invited D to have a glass.  His mean wife told him no - I was less worried about what it was than was there water in it??  Remember this entire village does not have running water!

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With the sun just beginning to set, it cast a beautiful light on this family working out in the field.  It looks like a painting.  The image on the far right is a scarecrow.

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Everyone was bringing in his or her animals for the night.  This kid was pulling his oxen with his bike. 

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And this woman was walking her water buffalo home on a leash.

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D walked over to say hello!

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 And for the last photo from this special village, our tuk tuk driver from the day before.  He drove us all day to see temples and then to our restaurant in the evening.

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When he saw us walking around he went and got his young daughter to show us.  Isn't she beautiful?

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As you can see, life in this village is fairly simple.  It made us look at life with different eyes.  D made copies of all the photos and we mailed them to the hotel and asked them to please pass them out to the people we met in the village.  We doubt they have photos of themselves.

We took over 4000 photos in Cambodia.  I broke it into 3 different posts and albums.   We hope you enjoy all of them!  Click on the arrow below for more photos of the village.


A note about Cambodia's history: 

The Khmer Rouge is a very important part of it's 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.