Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Land of ruins - Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia was full of amazing adventures. We hired our cab driver, John (his Cambodian name is too complicated so he goes by John), who picked us up from the airport to drive us around for the two days we were in Siem Reap. He has lived there all his life so he was full of all kinds of information.

The first thing we did was hire a boat to take us around the floating villages. There are about 170 floating villages that house the local fisherman and their families. It was interesting to see how these people live but it was also heart breaking at the same time. Some of these people literally have nothing to their name. So, when little children hop on your boat to sell you things as you are sailing downstream (we call them kiddie pirates) or children with snakes around their shoulders want you to take their picture for money (for the record, I hate snakes and would run away when ever someone would approach us) we could hardly turn a blind eye.

Next on the list was the Cambodian Cultural Center. Unfortunately, this place wasn't worth attending. It's a very sad version of the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii. We had lunch at some little outdoor shack close to Angkor Wat. Scott Hadley had already warned me to not eat while I was in Cambodia because there wasn't much there worth eating. Well, let's just say that he was right! After lunch we briefly stopped by the Killing Fields. This place houses a stupa full of human skulls from innocent people who were brutally murdered by Pol Pot, an evil Camodian ruler. Approximately two million Cambodians were murdered between 1975 and 1979. The Cambodian people have had to live through some pretty horrific events. It's quite sickening.

Next we all went and got an hour long Cambodian massage. I seriously need to move to SE Asia just for the massages. After that we headed over to buy our tickets for Angkor Wat. If you buy your tickets at 5pm you can enter that day to watch the sunset and then you can come back the next day to explore all of the temples.

We were all giddy as we approached Angkor Wat. Thank goodness it lived up to all of the hype! When we arrived we stood there in complete awe of what was standing before us. The architecture and carvings were seriously out of this world. There will be more to come on this in my next post. The pictures posted below will give you a taste of what is about to come.

We ended the night by going to a dinner and dancing show at a nearby hotel. The food was decent and the traditional folk dancing was quite fun to watch. I was a little worried this was going to turn out like Turkish Nights (see blog entry from Turkey) but nope, I was pleasantly surprised. So, at the end of the day we agreed out first day was a huge success!

PS - it is the end of monsoon season here and it had rained in Siem Reap for three full days before we arrived. Some of the main streets were still flooded when we arrived. Do you think that would stop the people from driving their motorcycles, cars, or even bicycles? Nope. They ride through the streets like it's an ordinary day.

PPS - I won't have Internet for the next few you will have to wait to see the rest of Cambodia. Sorry, but a girl has to sleep sometime!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Big Buddha, Big Buddha, Big Buddha - Phuket, Thailand

So, one of our favorite people we met in Thailand was our taxi driver, Pong (and he might have told us it is easy to remember his name because all we needed to think of was ping pong). He picked us up from the ferry terminal and drove us to our hotel in Karon. He used to be a Thai Boxer but retired after too many head injuries (and he has plenty of scars to prove it). We hired him to take us around the next morning for a couple of hours.

We went to the top of the hill to see "Big Buddha". It's supposedly the largest Buddha in Thailand. After that we headed down the hill to ride an elephant. Sara and I have ridden elephants before but this definitely surpassed our ride in India. Matt and Sara shared an elephant and I got my own (btw her name was Sara too--must have been fate). They are very cool animals. Their skin is tough and they have a little hair on their heads. We started out on a metal seat but halfway through the ride they let us sit on the elephant and ride for a little. They rock a lot when they walk so I held onto the metal seat for dear life. I did manage to take a few "hands free pictures". After our ride we jumped into the car and headed to the airport to fly to Cambodia. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in beautiful Thailand. You better believe we will be returning in the future!