Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bayon Temple

Another temple I visited at Angkor Wat was Bayon Temple. While approaching it appears to be a big jumble of stones rather than a temple. If the Flintstones built a temple, I imagine that this is what it would look like.


It is also the temple with 217 huge faces carved into it.


These are supposed to represent King Jayavarman VII, who built this temple. I guess the old guy was pretty full of himself.


This temple also has some of the best bas-relief friezes at Angkor Wat, but the lighting was poor and none of my pictures really do it justice.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the largest temple in the temple complex that bears it's name. And it is huge. The grounds surrounded by the wall is almost a kilometer square, and the temple itself is 300 meters by 150 meters. The conventional way of viewing Angkor Wat is to go in the morning, and watch the sun rise behind it. Bad idea, I have decided. The sky was cloudy the morning I went, and I imagine that more often than not it is that way. Also the lighting was not good, so not many of my pictures turned out very good.

Central spire, from within the central courtyard.


A sight you do usually see in the tourist guides, cattle grazing the grounds of the temple.


A pair of Khmer girls in one of the libraries. They were asking people to take their picture, then asking for money. I couldn't resist. Begging and hawking is allowed outside of the temples, but not in them, so these girls hid every time they saw one of the security gaurds walking around.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Traveling in Cambodia

A few words about traveling around Cambodia: It is a hellish experience. Of course, you read countless tales on the internet that say that, but you also read that "Now that the highway from Sihaunukville to Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is finished, travel is fast, safe, and efficient." It is fast, but as for safe and efficient, don't believe it.

I took the bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, and it was one of the worst travel experiences of my life. The buses are Chinese made, uncomfortable, and noisy. They also have underpowered air conditioning. The AC they have might be adequate in Northern China, but it doesn't cut it Cambodia, one of the hottest countries in Asia. The bus is just a big glass and metal box that traps heat, so it actuallly gets hotter inside than the outside temperature. Traveling to SR I almost suffered heat stroke, I did suffer heat exhaustion. I got dehydrated after about four hours, and the last two hours were horrible. They only stop the bus once on the trip. I bought some water but it did not turn out to be enough. The khmer woman sitting next to got worried about me, she turned her air conditioning vent on me and even started fanning my. I must have looked a mess, all red and miserable looking. Well, we finally reached Siem Reap, I promptly bought a liter and a half bottle of water, which I consumed in about 15 minutes. After that I started to feel human again. I got a tuk tuk to take me to my guesthouse, and collapsed in the cool, cool air conditioning for a couple of hours before heading out to see the town.

Cambodian version of the tuk tuk, the easiest way to get around throughout Cambodia, a small carriage hitched to a motorcycle.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Elephant Takes

Last night they were shooting a movie with an elephant on my doorstep. Yes, right on the same doorstep where last year I saw 11200 monks! (My street is more interesting than your street--I've got "And to Think That I Saw That on Mulberry Street beat all to pieces). Actually it was a pretty small shoot, one elephant, one actor and a crew of less than a dozen. So I doubt that it is for a Hollywood blockbuster. The scene they were shooting involved the actor (his back to the camera) looking at the elephants leg and then putting a bandage on it while muttering to himself in Thai. The director and camaraman are to the right of the light. The blond guy pointing is just a flunky. They shoot the scene three or four times, then I got bored and wandered off. But still, another interesting day here on Nimman Street.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Been awhile since I posted, but I have been busy, and am just now able to relax and blog.

I was still finishing my tale about my recent trip to Cambodia. What were my overall impressions of the country?

Well, the Cambodian people were very friendly. They were even more friendly than Thais, and they are famous for being friendly. Everyone was happy to talk to you, anytime, anywhere. You could see their gregarious nature everywhere on the street, where people constantly stopped to speak with each other, and then would move on to speak to the next person they encountered. They also liked to play. Children played tag in the streets, adults played badminton and saiy (kind of like hackey-sack with a big shuttlecock) in the parks. Cambodians live much of their lives outside, on the streets. This is understandable, since apartments are small and have no air conditioning. So people congregate outside, sitting on plastic chairs or stools under awnings to avoid the incredible heat. (More about the heat later).

Phnom Penh has broad boulevards and adequately wide streets, a legacy of the French. Their are many old colonial French buildings throughout the city, some well maintained and beautiful.


Some neglected and falling down.


(Not my pictures)

Phnom Penh is a study in contrasts, beautiful mansions and fancy apartment buildings, only a street away from shanties and flimsy walk up tenements. Most people here are very poor, but the streets are filled with Lexus SUVs. (In case you miss the point that the person is driving a Lexus, they all have "Lexus" painted in big letters on the side.) The Lexi (is that the plural of Lexus?) come as a result of NGOs and foreign governments handing them out like candy to their staffers and local bigwigs.


(Not my picture)

There is an extreme imbalance in wealth and income in Cambodia, partially driven by local corruption, partially driven by the billions of squandered dollars of the international donors. That topic is big enough for a post (or twenty) of its own, so I won't even get into it now.

Cambodia is a fascinating place. But it is also very frustrating at times. Nothing is organized, everything takes twice as long and three times as many people as it should, the streets are covered with garbage, it is hot and sticky. But. . . . the people are wonderfully friendly, the atmosphere is fun and lively, and you will see things there you will never see anywhere else. I will definitely go back again.