Monday, August 17, 2009

Temples of Angkor

The capital of Cambodia's ancient Khmer empire, the temples of Angkor are as every bit as spectacular as you hear about. Angkor Wat, the worlds largest religious building is, to say the least, impressive. Watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat is a new highlight of my trip and certainly a memorable experience (up there with the Taj Mahal and Amritsar). Other notable temples include Ta Phrom, or the 'Tomb Raider Temple', that is being slowly digested by the jungle. And my favorite, the enigmatic temple of Bayon in the fortified ancient city of Angkor Thom. I'll let the pictures I took save me a few words.

I'm back in Bangkok now and in the midst of deciding where to spend my last few weeks in Asia. My initial plan was to fly to Burma for a few weeks and then hit the beaches of Malaysia before going home but I'm a little culture and templed out right now so I'm leaning towards exploring the remote beaches of Sumatra in Indonesia.

In other news, the Austrians and I made a pit stop at one of Cambodia's military bases so that we could fire a couple rounds from a machine gun. This was a pretty expensive detour but worth every penny! I purchased a full M-16 magazine and fired off 30 rounds at some targets. So freaking cool. Fastest 50 bucks I ever spent.

It was a bit of a journey to reach Bangkok from Siem Reap, but I do enjoy returning to a big cultural city every now and then to create a little contrast. Bangkok is truly a multi-cultural city. While Khao San road is every bit as crazy as it sounds, the diversity of Chinatown and Little Arabia make for great day trips. This city has it all from cool chilled out cafes and restaurants surrounded by simple street stalls serving up some of the best food in SE Asia to shopping mega malls and soaring skyscrapers shadowing ancient Buddhist temples. In the evenings you can chill at a riverside cafe or head down to Patpong and gawk at the sex tourists before checking out a ping pong show! Bangkok has it all. I love it.

Vang Vieng, Laos.

No machines to pour the foundation. Working together one bucket at time.

Cruising around Vientienne with the Austrians.

How many people can you fit in a Sawngthaew (pickup truck with benches in the back)? In my experience: 36. This is where it broke down.

Cycling around Champasak, Laos.

View from the top of Wat Phu Champasak, an impressive archaeilogical site in Laos.

Children working the rice fields around Champasak, Laos.

Sunset view from our balcony over the Mekong River on the island of Don Det in the '4000 Islands' of southern Loas.

Can't get enough.

Cruising around the Mekong.

Children of the family we stayed with on Don Det.

Lounging after sunset.

Partying in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

A view like this makes waking up with a hangover not so bad.

Deep fried cockroaches anyone?

Ya we're cool. Actually shooting an M-16 is freakin' awesome!

Sunrise over Angkor Wat.

Exploring ancient temples of Angkor.
Definitely a 'wonder of the world'.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hammocks, Tuk Tuks and Jelly Fish

Laos was stellar, Cambodia I'm still trying to get a feeling for. The 'four thousand islands' in the south of Laos was spectacular. Laying in hammocks on my riverside balcony watching sunsets and jumping in the Mekong. So sweet.

The problem with both of these countries is the tourist cartel that seems to have formed. It should be incredibly cheap to travel through here and yet it's no cheaper than Thailand. The harassment for a Tuk Tuk here ín Phnom Phen endless. I know I'm use to it from India but it's still annoying and at least in India I didnt get the feeling that everyone around was trying to bamboozle me (this is my new word of the month). I'm still traveling with the three Austrians I met back in Chiang Mai almost four weeks ago. Yesterday was George's birthday so we didér up with a night on the town.

As far as big cities go Phnom Phen is pretty cool. My first day here I visited the sombre S-21 detention center, the site where the Khmer Rouge tortured and sent to slaughter thousands of Cambodians during their short lived reign in the 70s. Three hours in a place like that can really alter your mood for the day.

Went down to Sihanoukville for two days in the south of Cambodia. Not really the best beach town but it was nice to get back to the ocean. Went diving in less than 2 meters visibility, saw a jellyfish the size of a beach ball and lost my dive master due to the pour vis but nothing else to report.

Heading to Siem Reap tomorrow to check out Angkor Wat, definitely looking forward to this!