Angkor Wat the 8th wonder

Angkor Wat sometimes called the 8th wonder of the world. A claim to fame for wonders as diverse as: The Grand Canyon, Giants Causeway, The Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, The Moai statues of Easter Island, The Palm Island in Dubai, The Sydney Opera House and Andre the Giant (an old school wrestler) to name but a few. Having actually made it to some of these so called 8th wonders, and undoubtedly been impressed, I can say without a doubt Angkor lives up to the hype. It is after all the largest religious building in the world, and an UNESCO world heritage site! My word can it get any better?

Main entrance at Angkor Wat

After arriving at Siem Reap and surviving the onslaught of tuk tuk drivers we are whisked off to our guest house after securing our driver for a tour of the temples. Day one: After a little debate as to what it is we should see first we default to the wisdom of Mr. Lee our driver. We start with the heavy hitters... Angkor Wat, what can I say that hasn't all ready been said. Awesome, huge, marvelous... all accurate descriptions but used too often (for more info on Angkor click the link). Built in the Hindu tradition as a model of Mt. Meru it was later converted into a Buddhist shrine. The scale of the Wat could have you exploring it for days.

One of the twin libraries of Angkor Wat

The fearsome and ever present Hora

After clamouring around the grounds for a bit we head into the temple and check out the relief carvings and the inner grounds. Unfortunately the actual shrine (which is smaller than most living rooms) was closed, but the steep stairs up and oppressive heat may have made the humble shrine a bit of a let down when compared to the grandiose surroundings.

Relief carvings in Angkor Wat

After having our fill of Angkor Wat it was time to move on to the ancient city of Angkor Thom, home to some mighty impressive temples in it's own right. We enter the walled city through the south gate and paused to marvel at it and bridge that lead us into the city. The city has 5 gates all together. All gates have similar bridges with gods holding Horas and the face of Jayavarman VII atop the gate repeated in quadruple. A sight that, to this day, fills people with fear and respect.

One of the gods holding the body of the Hora

Cyclists pass through south gate under the watchful eye of Jayavarman VII

Next up... Bayon who's 200 plus carvings of the face of the Buddha of compassion may make you feel like you are being watched. An impressive sight, it is almost impossible not to catch a face in your photos. But who am I kidding, this is what you have come here to photograph! It is every bit as magnificent as Angkor Wat and a testament to the skills of the Khmer sculptors. It is generally believed that the face of the Buddha is a copy of the king's Jayavarman VII face. (not at all conceded!) Why not, after all he did consider himself a god-king.

Bayon's Buddha of compassion.

Who's that watching over my shoulder 216 times

Next it was off to what is called the largest jig-saw puzzle in the world
, Baphuon. This temple was disassembled before Cambodia was plunged deep into chaos during the 70's. During which the records for re-assembling were destroyed. The back wall has an enormous reclining Buddha a mere 9 metres high by 70 M long, adjacent to the Royal palace area where we headed next.

Can you see the reclining Buddha?

While in the royal palace area I spot a monkey making it's way toward a group of us, along a wall. The monkey scampered down and is fed and attended to by several tourists. Not content, the monkey spots a young Cambodian girl with a bag full of (what we assume is) milk. A bound, a grab and snatch, and a bound away and the monkey steals the drink from the little girl . Completely shocked and terrified, it takes some time for her mom to calm her down. Unaffected the monkey attempts to drink the beverage. Nothing sweeter than milk stolen from the hands of a child! Cheeky monkey! However, you are warned that food can be targeted by monkeys while touring the temples of Angkor. You have been warned.

Pre-monkey, with bag of milk

Post-monkey terror syndrome or (PMTS)

Naughty little monkey!

Day two involved a 5:30 A.M. wake up call to witness the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We arrive far enough before the sun does but not nearly early enough to beat the crowds. We are directed to the "best area" to see and capture the sun rise. We crowd in with hundreds of others to wait the arrival of the sun. Granted the lotus pond does have a nice aesthetic but we tire of the crowd and skip over to the other pond sans lotus for our sunrise photo opp. No need to clamor for space here, we are able to have just us and the Wat in the frame. Sometimes it pays to breakaway from the shot everyone has to have. I mean, really who misses the pink lotus blossoms in the pond?

Angkor Way at sunrise

Contemplative Jason

As we head back ready for breakfast we pause at the stillness of the Wat and the calm of the moat around it. We are not alone in enjoying the peaceful setting. A Buddhist monk has plunked himself down on the banks of the moat and stares meditatively towards the Wat. We did continue our tour of the temples that day but moments like that seem to resonate.

Angkor Wat Moat

Monk at Angkor Wat

Day three... abbreviated. Up until now we had completely obliged our tuk tuk driver and went where he suggested. But at 40 minutes one way on a bumpy dirt road and with our aging and aching backs we decided not to go to Banteay Srey. Instead we headed directly to the Rolus Group temples. These are pre-Angkor era and because of their age they are in a greater state of ruin. But this still seemed like a great way to end our tour of the temples of Angkor.

Corina with Rolus Group elephant sculpture

Begun in 802 until 1431, the temples of Angkor have to some extent been left to the jungle. Not even a king as great and powerful as Jayavarman VII can keep the jungle at bay for all of time. It is not uncommon to see massive trees sprouting from temple walls like those of Preah Khan and the ever popular and impressive Ta Prohm. So stunning, they have been used in films such a Tomb Raider. It is both sad and satisfying that these once great temples are being returned to the earth they were carved from. But time marches on with a fervour and ruthlessness far greater than any army, Khmer or otherwise.

Preah Khan

Is it safe to say that there is no other reason to go to Cambodia than to see Angkor Wat? Well that's not true. We will always remember the people and especially the kids of Cambodia. We must not forget the turmoil they were put through under Pol Pot. This is the the most important thing to take away from Cambodia. But the most impressive (anywhere to date) thing to take away is Angkor. To come to Cambodia and not see it wild be fool-hearty. No doubt it will deliver as the 8th wonder of the world (with apologies to Andre the giant as I don't want to anger him).




we've been in cambodia for little more than a week and already the kids have captured my heart. they are a scruffy, beautiful, pesky, and dusty bunch and they know how to charm you. they've charmed us out of money, food, and a pen. we have read the guidebooks that warn you only to support businesses that help kids (which we have done) and not to give in to their begging but...really...could you say no to this face?

this little girl saw our bag of pineapple scraps and mango and made a beeline for jay. we'd already eaten most of the pineapple as we walked through the temples of angkor but she put out her hand and said, "food"?

this boy was selling books outside a temple and when we said no to the books he challenged me to a game of tic tac toe. as we were playing he said,"ïf i win you give me money". for some reason i never asked what i would get if i won but it was a moot point.

this blue dog and his friend just kinda moped around as we walked through a temple. they didn't ask us for anything but after i took is picture i gave him 1000 riels (25 cents).

just hanging around a temple with his sister, this boy posed for me and another tourist.

the boy on the front of the boat would leap onto the tourist boats and sell water and pop and then leap back onto his boat as the father trolled alongside.

we went on a boat tour of tonle sap near siem reap as suggested by our tuk tuk driver. there is a floating village on the lake and many tourists take tours around with a few stops at local businesses along the way. when i read about it online the price of a shared boat ride was $6 per person. when we arrived at the docks we were told the price was $20 per person and that we would have our own boat. jay and i had already spent $15 on the tuk tuk driver and spent the morning at angkor wat so another $40 was out of our budget. we turned away to leave and the tour guy followed us back to our tuk tuk. our driver explained that the tour would support the local people and gave them jobs. the tour guy dropped the price to $30 all the while making sure we knew that every other tourist paid the full fare and ribbing us about spending money in other countries but not cambodia. jay was still resistant but i said...we're only in cambodia once...so we went.

it was interesting to see the village but it became disturbing when it became apparent that children were put on display to entertain the tourists. this little girl is waving a snake at us and asking for food or money. when i took the photo i didn't think much of it but when we were on the floating souvenir store and looked down at another boat there was another snake and child combo. this time the mother was putting the snake's head into the child's mouth.

i'm sure not all the kids we see are coerced into putting on shows and begging from the tourists. there is evidence of loving parents and families in cambodia. but when you are bombarded with children begging from you at every opportunity it is difficult to see past that. i see the desperation in their eyes and my heart breaks.

chum riep leah,


not just a pretty beach

when i thought of thailand before our trip, i thought of sandy beaches, clear blue water and sunny skies. but thailand was so much more than that to us. we fell in love with thailand and are already planning how we can come back again!

thailand is a place of celebration. we celebrated new year's eve 2009 on koh mak. lucky for us nye coincided with a full moon and we witnessed a small ceremony of lanterns being sent off into the black night skies.

thailand is a place of tradition, worship and ritual. we've seen many wats in our 4 weeks in thailand and we've seen many monks clad in their bright orange robes. the monk in the picture above welcomed us into his wat saying, "buddha is waiting for you". he chanted some words in thai and then in english, "i want happiness for 100 years. i want a new home". over and over again. in the end he gave us each bracelets for good luck and asked for a donation.
thailand is a place of impossible to read signs. this sign says happy new year 2010. we only know this because there is an english translation on the other side of the bush.

thailand is a place where dogs wear people shirts. well...to be fair...while we were in chiang mai it did dip to 22 degrees at night. brrr! poor doggies!

thailand is a place full of beautiful children and quick smiles. this little boy giggled when he realized he'd been caught in the act. i showed him his picture on the back of our camera and he giggled some more :)

thailand is a place where i want to be when i grow old.



why we will never rent a scooter...

...ever again.
read about our thailand scooter experience at ron & ali's blog and you will know why!


we wish you a quick recovery ron!
corina & jay


chillaxing flats

after the hustle and bustle of visiting 3 cities (dubai, hong kong & singapore) within 12 days, the flats were more than ready for some beach time. they had a great time lying on the beach mats with auntie corina and uncle jason. when they got bored of that they swam in the ocean (good thing they are laminated!), built sand igloos and ate the local cuisine.

from left to right: flat owen, flat sasha, flat ellie, flat jane, flat hannah showing off one of their sand igloo creations in pulau penang, malaysia.

the flat petroffs wishing it was their turn to fly into the sky and look over batt feringhu. uncle jason said, "no way! it's too dangerous for flat kids to parasail on their own and there is no way i'm going up there with you." they pouted for awhile but auntie corina promised banana roti for dessert and they forgot all about parasailing :)

the flat penners enjoyed sharing auntie corina's veggie pad thai in koh chang, thailand. flat ellie went crazy for the local specialty thai iced tea with milk. she sucked it down so fast that her flat belly started bulging! flat hannah warned her, "slow down before you burst!".

flat owen was getting a bit rangy after all this beach time and lying around. flat jane thought it'd be a good idea to go tree climbing and to get out of uncle jason's and auntie corina's hair. they agreed!

a favourite stop for everyone, flat and real, was koh mak, thailand. reading by the pool, drinking ice cold beer (cokes for the flats & a. corina) on the pool edge, playing catch with friends in the pool...good times.

flat owen and flat jane catching some rays on the colourful lounge chair set out on the long pier. the perfect way to end a sleepy day on koh mak.
sawadtee-ka from the flat girls
sawadtee-krap from flat owen


scenes from bangkok

tuk tuks...ubiquitous in thailand cities...are a cheap way to get around when you are tired of walking or you can't figure out what bus to take.

the streets of bangkok are lined with food vendors. you want fruit...you got it! you want durian...the guy cuts it up for you and seals it in smell proof packages for your trip home.

the market place is a great place to catch up with friends or make new ones.

if you dare...jay has only had one bad reaction to seafood from the street vendors.

more tuk tuks waiting to take you..."where you go?"

khao san road is big with the backpacker types...but since we're wannabees (another post on the subject to follow)...we didn't spend much time here.

as you can see khao san road is full of farang (ie. european/white folks) and way too busy to be enjoyable...unless you are a true backpacker (yes, more wannabee chattering).

the river is a great way to bypass the notorious bangkok traffic. waiting for the ferry on the floating dock is a true test of your balancing skills. and you better act quickly when the ferry arrives or you'll be left in it's wake.

this is a slow boat...for those that have time to chillax...
just one of many homes/businesses/warehouses you'll see from the river.

even in a fast-paced city like bangkok, there's time for reflection while the world whizzes by on shore.
ka ka ka,