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Cambodia

Final hours. Airport in an hour :(

Intrepid Indochina Family Adventure

15-04-2012
Today was our final day of vacation before the long journey home. We decided to just relax and enjoy the pool.

We met Hoang for breakfast before he took off to Saigon to meet his next group. Lorna, Isaac and I decided to go into town for a look around but were surprised to see most of the shops closed. Some closed for New Year's, others are only open at night. We poked around for a bit and came across two separate New Year's celebrations with kids in costume, singing and playing instruments. Of course I left my camera home so I just took a snap on my phone. It was kinda nice to walk around while it was quiet and to look in a few local markets. I got my amok seasoning!

Once again it was so hot so we came on back to the pool. The kids stayed for hours but I couldn't take the heat so came back to the room to finish packing and relax. We then headed back into town for our final supper together. Well, not final. We are already planning to meet again for another adventure.

We leave tonight at 11:50 pm, on Sunday, April 15th, fly 5 hours to Seoul, Korea, 4 hours there, 12.5 hours to Chicago, 3.5 hours there, fly to Toronto, then Halifax, and finally home, arriving at 1:20 am on the 17th. Crossing the international date line...picking up the day we lost on the way over.

This vacation definitely moves to the top of the list for the best vacation ever. I love the people, and the culture. I also love traveling with Isaac. He is an excellent travel companion who appreciates every experience. My only complaint was that he lost his new hat and after me loaning him mine reluctantly, he lost that too!!. But I think I'll let him come home anyway.

Bye from Cambodia...until the next adventure.

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Posted by curlygirl 15:24 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia family intrepid reap siem Comments (0)

Monks eat Pringles too,and the evolution of our own Buddha

Intrepid Indochina Family Adventure

sunny

14-04-2012

We woke this morning at 4 am, well I did with my first bought of a bad tummy (which quickly passed). We were all a little off after a bad restaurant last night.Except Isaac, who is probably ok because he ate crickets! I woke Isaac at 4:30 and we headed to see sunrise over Ankor Wat. It was nice and peaceful and we could hear the nearby monks chanting which was cool. After sunrise we walked around that temple but were so overcome with the heat (at 7 am!!!) we cut it a little short and went for breakfast. The best pancakes, with yogurt, honey, mango, banana and passion fruit with an iced coffee on the side. From there it was a 40 minute drive to the last temple we would visit. This temple is the oldest and smallest but the most ornate. Definitely worth the trip. The sun was hotter at this point. 38 degrees but I felt the humidity had dropped a bit. More manageable for me at least. We were certainly glad we got up early this morning as we meet with hundreds of Thai tourists and Thaksin (ex Thai prime minster, currently banished) supporters descending on Ankor Wat.
We have noticed, in many fits of laughing, that Isaac is beginning to look Asian and we refer to that look, as the laughing Buddha. See him in his pose in the pix.

I did chuckle today, as we watched the people make offerings of food to the monks for New Year's, as one guy brought a tray with Pringles and Coca Cola. Even the offerings to ancestors often include pop (sometimes empty cans) and junk food. I guess everyone needs a little treat now and then!

On our way back to town we stopped to photograph the water buffalo grazing in the rice fields. I considered running out in the field to get a little closer but Lorna reminded me of the land mines so I opted to stay far away. Although, most of the land mines have been cleared in this area. We also stopped at a small home in a village to see how they used/processed sugar cane. This was simply a home where they operated a small store with products from their land. I watched a two year old girl climb a small stick in the garden, and roam around unattended while a pot of hot sugar boiled nearby. How do these kids grow up without injury? I wondered if the stick was there for palm tree climbing training as the older son climbed the tree twice daily to collect the palm sugar. Even this simple home was decorated for New Year's. Quite an event here.

The drive was lovely, passing many small farms and women on the side of the road selling their fruit and vegetables. I could easily picture my mother sitting there behind a pile of mangoes beaming with as much pride as she currently has for her tomatoes. I would have loved for you to have seen some of this mom. I know you would have had such respect for the ingenuity and productivity of these farmers and Isaac would have liked to have his Nan along. Not sure how those knees would deal with temple climbing or how you would stand the heat.

This afternoon we simply sat by the pool swam and relaxed. Oh yes, I snuck off to a side room for a $7 sixty minute Thai massage. Just might have to do it again tomorrow at that price. It was nice to chill for a bit, and not be roasting. I think we'll do the same tomorrow.

This evening we went into town for a little stroll and our final meal with Hoang. We also had a birthday cake for Jackson since he turns 12 tomorrow. How cool to celebrate your birthday in Cambodia. We are still going strong after our early rise. It's amazing how much energy we all have. I took the Batman tuk tuk home with the boys while the other followed in the Rolls Royce tuk tuk. Oh, at the airport when we arrived there were two Rolls Royce. There are a lot of expensive cars here. Apparently they are quite cheap and much cheaper than Vietnam. There is also, in contrast, much poverty and hardship.

Must get some rest so we can enjoy our final day. Leaving tomorrow at midnight.
Today's pictures are mostly the temple and of people.

Love Shelley and Isaac

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Posted by curlygirl 15:19 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia family intrepid reap siem indochina Comments (0)

Sweating Kneecaps and other Parts at the Ankor Temples

Indochina Family Adventure

13-04-12

Happy Khmer New Year! It started 7:15 tonight and the town is ablaze with lights and large stars everywhere. It also means there are lots of Thai tourists in town. Yikes. You can see the village people being transported in masses bundled into one truck, all gathering for the New Year's celebrations.

I woke like clockwork at 6 am and I woke Isaac at 7 for our trek at the Ankor Temples. We met our Cambodian guide and driver at 8 am and set out for the first of many temples. I always thought the temple complex was called Ankor Wat, but have already learned that Wat is just one of the temples in the Ankor complex, Ankor meaning city. Oh, and Siem Reap means, Siam defeated. Siam being today's Thailand.

At 8 am, it was already stifling. By 9, and about 30 minutes at the temples, my clothing was wet through (my knees being one of the worst spots and I am not exaggerating). The only comfort was that everyone we saw, was also dripping with sweat. Ironically it doesn't smell. Even Isaac doesn't smell like a teenage boy in all this heat! Probably too much information but I thought I'd share. The 3 showers a day likely helps!

This morning we visited The Ankor Tom complex which was huge and spectacular with such intricate details. Many faces of Buddha, all different, everywhere. We climbed one of the temple complexes for the most spectacular view. Not an easy task in the heat, but worth it. We spent a total of 2.5 hours before deciding we needed a break from the heat. We had lunch at a nearby restaurant serving the local specialty, Amok. OMG! I should have listened to my guide day one in Cambodia. It is so good, like a coconut curry served in a coconut. I am getting the Amok curry spices before I leave. I had squid Amok and Isaac had the Chicken Amok. He is insisting I cook it at home.

After lunch the kids went with a local, a stranger for a quick motorcycle ride. No helmet. I know, I know but it is just the way and they so wanted a little spin. I have seen up to 5 people on one of these little moped bikes, including infants. Regularly, without helmets in wild traffic. At least Isaac rode around a field. How relaxed life is over here. From there we went back to the hotel to drop our laundry. 50 cents a kilo and then the kids and I went to the pool while Sharon and Lorna took a rest/break.

At 3, it was back to the temples for more exploring. This temple was really impressive and is the one with all the tree roots growing around it. Really really awesome. We visited one final temple for the day to watch the sunset. It was too cloudy but still fun.

After sipping on some coconut milk, we headed back to town to find a local delicacy for the boys. Grasshoppers, frogs, snake, crickets, and beetles all barbecued. We brought them with us to the restaurant and Isaac and Jackson tried the frog, snake and crickets. Isaac ate 3 crickets. I nibbled on the snake.yuk! As hard as I tried I couldn't eat the cricket and decided there really was nothing to be gained. There are lots of land mine victims begging in the town and one was delighted to get our creature leftovers for his supper. How sad is that. Also, seeing how young the kids are selling goods to tourist breaks my heart.

Any way, those are the highlights. Signing off early as we are getting up at 4 am to see sunrise over Ankor Wat. This is the final day of our tour. I can't believe it.
Oh wait! Isaac really wants me to tell you the story of how he became famous with some tourists by grabbing my boob! We were attempting to pose for a picture in the roots..the one where we look like we are chatting and he so gracefully stepped over a root and caught himself on my boob in front of an audience of tourists. They laughed as hard as we did and started shouting, "You love your mama" and were patting him and heckling him after. Oh my. We are a calamity.

See you soon, Shelley and Isaac

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Posted by curlygirl 15:14 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia family intrepid reap siem indochina Comments (0)

Now where did I put that Dong and how will I find my Tuk Tuk

Intrepid Indochina Family Adventure

12-04-2012

Hello from Siem Reap.

You know you are a foreign land when you have said both the above phrases in the first hour of your day. My Dong is the bit of Vietnamese money that I had poked away for Hoang's tip and a tuk tuk, as you may recall, are the little carriages attached to a motorbike and the main form of taxi service in Cambodia.

Today was a much lighter day. I woke at 6 and Isaac woke about 7:15. The others wanted to sleep in a bit so we went on to breakfast and took a tuk tuk to the Russian market. The 20 minute ride each way cost us a total of $5 US. That was with the tuk tuk driver waiting 2 hours for us to finish. That's why I wondered how I would find my tuk tuk. The market is mayhem and I had to find my way back to the same spot and then identify the correct tuk tuk and driver. It's like a challenge on the Amazing Race! Even more bizarre is that he doesn't take any money until you get back to the hotel. What if I never found my poor tuk tuk driver?

The Russian market is basically the same as any market but was frequented by Russians in the 1980s. It has the usual, fish, meat (bad smells) and fruit along with handicrafts, silk and lots of knock off clothing. They say some of it is the actual brand since many brands are made here. Gap, Abercrombie and Fitch, DC etc. We managed to spend a few more dollars and get a few more deals. I even got a couple of xmas gifts and presents for my sisters....tease tease!

We went back to the hotel on the right tuk tuk. Yay!!! and got our things ready to check out for noon. We grabbed a quick lunch at the local hot pot. It's like a fondu but with broth not oil for cooking, and headed to the airport for our flight to our final destination (weep weep) Siem Reap.

The flight on Cambodian Ankor airlines was a quick and very smooth 30 minutes. We have 3 full days here and two of those will be spent exploring the magnificent temples of Ankor Wat.

We went for supper at a local bar and the boys had a ball playing pool with Hoang. From there we wandered through the market and stopped to have a fish massage. Have you seen it on TV? You put your feet in a pool of fish and they all come and chew on your feet. I was in stitches. Isaac lasted longer than I did. From there we wandered around the market and decided to stop for the $1 ten minute foot massage. No time for the $2 thirty minute foot massage. Maybe tomorrow. Siem Reap is a bit more touristy and seems to have lots of fun activities.

We did lots of laughing today. A nice change from yesterday. Tomorrow we are off to the temples at 8 am.

Love, Shelley and Isaac

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Posted by curlygirl 14:54 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia family intrepid reap siem indochina Comments (0)

The Killing Fields - Phnom Penh

Intrepid Indochina Family Adventure

11-04-2012
We are back from a very full day in extreme heat. More than I have ever experienced. It was 40 degrees and humid and we were on the go, non stop from 8:30 this morning until 8 pm. It is the first time I ever felt completely drained from the heat and at one point this afternoon, I thought I might faint. We were all overcome but stopped often for lots of water. The kids were wonderful, despite the fact that we were all soaked with sweat, they did not complain. Our attention was captured all day.

We had a very solemn start to our day. Our morning was spent with a local guide understanding the horror of the genocide that happened in Cambodia as recently as 1978 under the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. This was a very graphic and intense experience that moved us all to tears multiple times. We began in the Tuol Sleng Museum, a high school that was turned into a prison and the largest detention and torture center in the country. More than 17, 000 people were held here and brutally tortured before being moved for execution at the killing fields. Like the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge documented and photographed everything and all this is on display at this museum. When the Vietnamese liberated Cambodia, and this prison, they photographed everything they found, including the dead in their beds of torture. The rooms remain in tact and the photographs are on the walls. Even more horrific than that are the hundreds of pictures of the prisoners and guards (known as the killing machines), many of whom are woman and boys and girls around the age of Isaac, brainwashed and trained to kill brutally. Our guide is the first child of parents who were force to marry, unknown to each other, to populate the Khmer's working class. He has heard many first hand accounts and he himself spent many years, living and hiding in a cave from Pol Pot's army even after the genocide had ended. After the tour we had the opportunity to meet two of the seven survivors found at the prison. The only two living survivors. This was also very moving. Kajal was unable to complete the tour but Jackson and Isaac listened with interest and seemed to process. This was evident when we met the first survivor and Isaac bowed to him with respect without any prompting..see the picture of them bowing to each other. Even more incredible was when Isaac went to sit by the second prisoner, who is partially deaf and blind from the electric shock torture he endured. He was a little man and Isaac looked so big beside him. When Isaac went to stand it was as if they had some strange connection and he grabbed both Isaac's hands with both his hands, hugged him and kissed him on the cheek and held him for a moment. When he let go poor Isaac was sobbing. It was very touching and he did not do the same with others.

From there we drove to one of the 354 killing fields where 8985 people were found buried in mass graves bound and blindfolded .Their remains were found as such. Imagine how many people were killed. Three million people were killed over 3 years and today more than 50% of Cambodia's population is under the age of 16. This was a beautiful place. Trees, birds chirping, baby chicks, butterflies. A peaceful graveyard. The recovered skulls have all been stacked behind glass. All with cracks because the Khmer Rouge did not want to waste bullets so they beat them all to death. As you walk around you can see the endless holes where mass graves were found and often finding pieces of bone, teeth, and jaws under your feet. As the wind and rain comes more bones and clothes have to be collected as they push out of the ground. This many years later!!! After a full excavation of the site!

What an incredible history lesson. Difficult but one everyone should see. It is hard to believe that all this occurred without the world knowing or even those in villages working for the KR.

In the afternoon, we saw the other sites, including the spectacular royal palace, full of gold and gems, the national museum and the beautiful Silver Pagoda with a solid silver floor.

We enjoyed a local lunch. Isaac had deep fried frog legs, while I had mine, spicy stir fried. Cambodia is nothing like Vietnam. You know you are in a different country. We are in the days leading up to New Year's and saw and heard the chants of the people going through the homes chasing out the ghosts and the evil for the new year. They are as superstitious as the Vietnamese. This is more like what I expect Thailand would be like and Sharon says it is.

Sorry no attempts at humor today. It was a pretty emotionally draining day and although it was heavy for the kids. I think it was valuable.

I am attaching a lot of pictures, it was hard to chose today. I took about 150. The man in the blue shirt is one of the survivors, he and Isaac are bowing to each other. The other prisoner is hugging Isaac. Pictures of the killing fields and the bones, teeth and clothes coming up through the ground. The royal palace and a few random shots, monks, frog legs etc.

Tomorrow we are going to the market and then flying to our final stop, Siem Reap for the amazing temples of Ankor Wat.

Love Shelley and Isaac. Both very grateful to have never known such horrors.

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Posted by curlygirl 14:48 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia family intrepid indochina phnom penh Comments (0)

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