Monday, February 23, 2009

Cambodia in a Day

Vietnam was absolutely incredible and I sincerely wish I could have had another month just to travel in Vietnam alone. We entirely missed the central and northern bits of the country! That was partly because we got distracted, or perhaps enthralled, by the opportunity to go to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Brooke knew pretty much before we even decided on Vietnam as our destination that there was no way she would be traveling to Indochina without making a stop in Cambodia. It cost us two 12 hour bus rides and we only had time for one day to tour the Angkor Wat complexes, but it was totally worth it. So, from Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam, we went through Phnom Penh (Cambodia's capital) to Angkor, Cambodia.

12 hours on a bus, like I said... so, lots of staring out the window and taking it all in. The occassional border crossing as well.
A little 'less plush' border crossing vehicle than our economy sized bus.
Cambodian countryside is full of rice fields. This one guy on the bus was telling us that even though Vietnam claims to be the largest producer of rice after Thailand, they really just import rice from Cambodia, slap a Vietnamese label on the bag, and resell it. Smart/shady business.
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Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh.
I was playing with my camera's coloration modes.
After the post about Vietnamese food, it's hard to compare. But, the Cambodian food we had was delicious as well. The most popular Cambodian dish is called amok trey, which is a fish in thick coconut milk with curry, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. I tried that the second night. Below is me being indecisive and getting two dishes, rice, and sero: a "milky sweet milky" drink, as the waitress described it.
The next day was entirely dedicated to the Angkor Wat temple complexes. $20 for an all day pass? Toooootally worth it! The complexes were built for king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. They are incredibly well preserved and have since been somewhat restored, but the ancient Khmer architecture still reigned supreme and overwhelmed me at every site. If you want to know more about the history and significance, check this link out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor_Wat .
Following the advice of fellow travelers and our handy guide books, we checked out Ta Phrom first. This was hands down my favorite complex. I felt like a little kid, playing in this ginormous, mythical complex. So hard to believe something from 800 years ago could even exist, much less in these conditions. It was incredible.
Bas-relief figures adorned many of the walls.
The best part about Ta Phrom were all the crazy trees sharing/overtaking the same environment as the ruins.
This is where a portion of "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" was filmed. I'm pretty sure I'll be the next casted for the trilogy... Angelina ain't got nothin' on my skills!
A scan of the area around the Terrace of the Elephants.
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Next, we headed over to Bayon which is within the Angkor Thom complex.
How many faces can you spot?
History makes me jump for joy! And yes, I'm a total dork.
These bas-reliefs are apparently done in a bit more of a baroque Khmer style, as opposed to the classical Khmer style seen in Angkor Wat.
Some might say, 'the writing's on the wall'.

Well hello, there!
We made it to Angkor Wat!
And Kristine made a new friend.
I am clearly so excited to be at the main entrance to the temple proper at Angkor Wat.
Heaven, 'present-day', and hell scenes shown in the bas-relief carvings that cover the east wall.
Inside the complex, we shared some solace with this monk.
Outside the complex, we showed our true family colors.
Our last stop of the day was Phnom Bakheng, where we could look out over the ruins at sunset. It was cloudy most of the day, so we didn't expect much...
But were incredibly and pleasantly surprised. I heart sunsets more than life itself.
They were not serving beer at the complexes, but I did manage some later that night. And seriously, this is hands down, THE BEST BEER I have ever had in my life. And I'm from Wisconsin. I know beer. If you ever get the chance to get your hands on an ice cold Angkor, seize the opportunity!

More countryside pics from the 12 hours ride back to Ho Chi Minh.
A stop for fruit and crickets. Yes, crickets. And, I was the first to try it; I'm brave like that. Or maybe just daringly curious. After much persusassion, Brooke and Kristine followed my lead.

Mmmm, fried crickets! Just like french fries (for real)!

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