Monday, August 31, 2009

Ghosts of Holidays Past - Canada

West Coast trips - I may have been broke in Vancouver, but I went a few places.

Victoria
Okay so, exactly a week ago Alan and I were in Victoria...

We took public transit out to the ferry at Tsawwassen. From Burnaby, granted, as I was working, but it took 2 hours. More annoying, a few stops before the ferry terminal is a bus stop where the bus just sits for about 15 minutes. Then they arrive 5-10 before the Victoria sailing so that you have to run to make the boat. Why do these things not run together more logically?

The ferry ride was beautiful, the whole weekend was 26degrees Celsius and sunny. Everything was so blue. The photos are incredible-though it helps that we shoot almost exclusively with professional film now. And we've found a good developer, which is also important. You know, I had always assumed that the higher the number the better, so I tended to shoot 400. And at photo shops, they even tend to recommend 400 for point and shoot cameras. However, we've shot a role of professional 100 in my camera once and the photos turned out beautifully. And in Alan's camera they are incredible. Back to the ferry-it was delayed, because we had an unscheduled stop at Mayne Island. So we missed the connecting bus to Victoria and there was quite a crush to get on the next one, since the next ferry had arrived by that point. By the time we hit downtown, it was 11pm. We left on the bus in Vancouver at 4.

The HI hostel in Victoria is really well located. And it's nice enough as well, though it was rather noisy when we were there. We got up fairly early, as is the way when you are staying in a dorm, and had breakfast in the hostel of the leftovers we had brought with us. See, the trip was very last minute so the week before I had done a monster shop. And, as I do, I bought tons of fruit and veg, in an attempt to be healthy. So we had all this stuff to take along and finish. I made Alan bring it all, since I had been at work, and he was none too pleased as it included a whole cantaloupe. Ah, well, it'll help build his arm muscles.

We wandered along the water towards the Inner Harbour. Victoria is really beautiful and relaxing. It's got Vancouver's laid back vibe and fantastic natural surroundings, a view of the mountains, but it is a nicer city in terms of architecture, cleanliness. It also lacks Vancouver's "a nutter on every street corner" thing. Victoria is by far my favourite BC city. The Inner Harbour is cool. Some old looking sail boats, lots of float planes arriving and departing, people selling crafts, and a fantastic view over to the Parliament Buildings. Alan complained awhile back that none of my friends ever send postcards. And generally, this is true and his friends send tons. I mentioned this to Jasmine who cheekily sent us a postcard of Victoria's Parliment Buildings from Toronto. Alan was a bit miffed, which is good cause he's cute when he is. Just wait till she gets her mail... Anyway, the Parliment Buildings are pretty, as is the Empress. Pretty pictures were taken. There was a wee boy in a kilt doing the Highland Fling next to a totem pole-he was half First Nations, half Scottish, which seems to sum up Victoria well. It's all about the British tackiness and First Nations stuff. Victoria manages to get the tackiness just right though-it's fairly posh, stereotypically British stuff. Like expensive high tea at the Empress (we didn't go. i might have, but Alan thought it was crazy.) And red phone boxes, and double decker buses, that sort of thing.

After our morning wander, we went to the Royal British Columbia Museum. It was very nice and everything, but after the train trip to Vancouver, with it's many fantastic museums, I must say it wasn't that much better than most. The one in Edmonton was definitely as good. Loved John Lennon's car (I've seen another of his cars, in Ottawa-why are all the British lad's cars in Canada???) And there was a scientist type guy there (speak with the experts!!!) who talked to us about octopus. We got to see some octopus eggs, and photos of one that imitates other animals to escape predators. The First Nations bit was good, but again much like the Provincial Museum of Alberta. We didn't get to see the big mammoth, cause the display was being changed. Out the back we took some photos of totem poles in Thunderbird Park and glanced at Helmcken House. Alan commented that if he was to make up a country it would definitely contain totem poles...

In the afternoon we did my two favourite tourist attractions in a long time. The first was Miniature World, located within the Empress. This place does exactly what it says on the box-there are mini dioramas of Dickens novels (in fact, rather a large number of Dickens novels, someone must have had a fetish), the trans Canada railway from the Maritimes out to BC, complete with nighttime/daytime cycles, battles-medieval and modern, olde London, an apartment building with a naked woman bathing AND a naked woman posing for an artist, all sorts of stuff. I really liked it, apart from the bratty kids that were overrunning the place. Then we went to Victoria's Bug Zoo. Now, hearing that, I'm picturing bugs flying about the place, lots of plants with ants crawling everywhere, that sort of thing. This place had the decor of a play school, or kindergarten, and all the bugs were in aquarium things. But I liked it-fantastic yuck factor. Beetles are such pretty colours, and there was one whose nose looked like a big knife thingy. Some scary tarantulas and other spiders, a colony of leaf cutter ants, but in a plastic home. And lots of cool stick and leaf insects, looking much like... wait for it... sticks and leaves :) The kids in here were not so bratty, and the gift shop was too die for. I loved it! Bugs are cool!

After the bugs, we wandered around the old town, which mostly consisted of shopping for tourist tat. However, we had tea in Murchies with some lovely cakes, and went to Munro's bookstore, which is in a beautiful building. We then wandered over to see Fan Tan Alley, as Victoria has Canada's oldest Chinatown. It is rather unexciting these days, but used to be the home of opium dens, prostitutes, and gamblers. These days they have a gate across it that was locked. We attempted to find the Gates of Harmonius Interest, but couldn't so went to eat and have a pint at Swan's Brewpub. On our way back to the hostel we stopped to take photos from the other side of the bridge. From a neighbourhood called Esquimalt. I thought Esquimalt was a city up in northern BC somewhere, don't know why, but work has a project there and I just got it into my head that it was in the interior. My BC geography is terrible.

The next day we had the best breakfast. Really nice French toast with tons of fruit one it. Yum. Then we headed to Beacon Hill Park. On our way we saw a sign with what really should be BCs motto (ok, only some of BCs population adhere to this stereotype, but hey): Night is for sleeping, Day is for resting. The park was cool. The first bit we were in, we could have been in the middle of nowhere. Then it changed to a normal park-gardens, a petting zoo, playing fields, ponds with ducks. On the other side of the park are beaches where you can see across the Juan de Fuca strait. Very pretty.

That afternoon we went on a whale watching boat ride, though we didn't see any whales. We did see a cloud of birds feeding, and when we got closer saw that it was some seals pushing a school of fish towards the surface while they hunted. We saw some porpoises, as well, and a bald eagle catch and eat a fish. It was a nice boat ride, went along San Juan island and had a great view of the Olympic Mountains and Mount Baker. It was a zodiac, and while it went very fast, which was cool, there was no bumping around since the water was so calm. Got a sunburnt nose.

After dinner that night we walked out to Craigdarroch Castle, which is really just an oldish house. And as Alan pointed out, it doesn't look old so much as it looks like it's trying to look old. Bit of a long walk considering the view in the end...

We had yet another fantastic breakfast, at Swan's Brew Pub again. No beer in the morning though. It did come with 2 wee Easter Eggs at the end though. Then we sort of intended to do a bit of shopping, but the store Alan wanted to go to was closed unfortunately. So off we went to the Butchart Gardens. Since it is sort of halfway between Victoria and Swartz Bay (ferry terminal), off we went with all of our bags. Look at the One Bag link in my wee column thingy (what do I call that?) -we are not these sorts of people apparently. I guess having a huge camera and tripod to carry doesn't help. And actually, my bag was much smaller... Anyway, the gardens were really nice, lovely sunny weather, and even really impressive. Thing is, it feels like somewhere your gran would go, you know? We had a photography mishap, couldn't figure out why the focus area was set the way it was, turns out the lens wasn't quite on. However, the pictures turned out ok, only one or two out of focus ones. Took the bus over to the ferry and had another gorgeous ferry ride. We were up on the top outside deck, lovely sunny weather, saw a seal, with two guys playing a drum and guitar in the background. Another long bus ride back to the house.

To see the rest of the scanned photos: go here

Salt Spring Island
Friday morning Alan and I began the trek to Salt Spring. Just getting to the ferry terminal is an adventure in itself, as it involves three buses from Dunbar. And of course, the ferry left late. There were just oodles of children on that ferry, far more than you would usually see on a form of public transit, one can only assume it was because the ferry stopped at all the wee islands- BC's "cottage country". We caught a cab to the hostel and discovered the key downer on Salt Spring Island-no public transit and a hostel in the middle of nowhere.

The hostel was the main reason we visited Salt Spring, as we were booked into the adult treehouse. Now, the fact that I am allergic to trees and there was going to be one in the room with us didn't really hit home until we saw the room. It was a really cool treehouse, and for some reason had a Winnie-the-Pooh theme to it. The ladder was less cool at 3am when you needed a pee, but otherwise it was fun to get to sleep in a tree. The treehouse experience was complimented by the composting toilet experience, which remarkably didn't smell at all (though I didn't really feel a need to learn more by reading the "Humanure: Composting Human Manure" handbook provided). So the treehouse was cool. The hostel in general, I was less complimentary of. We found out that the owners intend to shut the place down to take a year off and when they reopen it will not be as a hostel. This doesn't really surprise me, as most of the available beds are all in private rooms, which cost as much as a cheap hotel. Or a B&B. Thing is, they don't really provide any of the additional services these sorts of places provide in return for the heftier price-for example, when we stayed in a B&B in Ottawa, we were kindly picked up at the train station. Mike and Paula of the "Forrest Retreat" didn't seem like the types that would have picked us up at the ferry. The staff weren't especially friendly, and they certainly weren't about to make us breakfast-in fact, though every other hostel I have ever stayed at has always allowed use of the facilities to guests after check-out, we were told be a girl working there that if Mike and Paula saw us having lunch the day we checked out, we wouldn't be allowed to use the kitchen to cook. As well, they were having their roof fixed, it needed to be done but it was loud and the fiberglassing was smelly-thank god we were out in the treehouse because it stank in the main house. Not exactly a "Forrest retreat" sort of vibe.

In our treehouse there were two guestbooks that made extremely funny reading. One entry was so funny, I'm going to rip it off. It summarized the other entries by genre:
1. "Short but sweet". Great treehouse, what a gem.
2. The "host homage" genre. Mike and Paula, your warmth, your vision, your dedication to operating a superior travellers' retreat has made this the perfect vacation, even though we never once met you.
3. The "tree worship" genre. The tree's spirit guided me to sleep, its strength, beauty and stability model the sort of life we ought to lead.
4. The "capital improvements" genre. Great treehouse, but it would be much improved by adding a skylight, a radio, a toilet...
5. "Childhood fantasy fulfilled" genre. I always wanted a treehouse and now I have finally been able to experience to joy.
6. The "Pooh" genre-oh, bother, I'm writing just like A.A. Milne, or quote him-"This is an exciting sort of day. I have a feeling somewhere round my middle that an expedition might happen before lunch."
7. The "in my language" genre. It is hard to describe my feelings about the treehouse, but in my language we would say (here genre demonstrated in Californian) "like, whoa, dude, I'm totally stoked on the treehouse!"

What this guy failed to notice was the "Too much information" genre--it isn't called the adult treehouse for nothing. One rather long poem has the chorus "sweet lovin' in the tree, never felt so free" and another guest said that it wasn't "quite the mile high club, but we've joined the ranks of the 20-foot-high club." There were also a few in the "this wasn't worth the money" genre or the "this place has far too many rules, so we just went ahead and broke them" genre. To these entries, Paula and Mike responded by gluing the pages together (which subsequent guests had just ripped back apart) or by inserting comments asking guests to please follow the rules.

Hostel owner issues aside, the problem with it was entirely down to our lack of car and its remote location. The first day, having paid to get the taxi out to the hostel we stayed there. Went on a very short walk to a tiny waterfall/stream, which while pretty wasn't quite the amazing site the hostel would have you believe it was. Then we walked to Lake Cusheon, where we could have swum, had we been willing to fight our way through the hordes of children to the water (or even had we possessed bathing suits in which to swim.) We did these two things very, very slowly and that brought us to dinner time. When, of course, the power went out. So, though we had brought along the makings of pasta and veggie filled sauce, we ended up eating some chili made by the only people who had managed to cook previous to the power going out. About halfway through our meal, the power returned. Now, it should have been a restful day. Lounging around, walking about, just hanging out and relaxing. Except the roof fixing was rather on the loud side, so it felt a bit more, well, boring.

The next day we took the taxi into Ganges, the main town on the island, to go to the Saturday market. Lots of crafts, art, and tons of food/veg. Generally, organic hippy sort of stuff. Some of it was very nice, especially the pottery guy who made beautiful bowls and plates with dragonfly designs, but without a house to buy stuff for (or a car to transport any of it) it wasn't as fun as it could have been. Nice to look at, but not all that exciting. We did buy some fantastic goat's cheese made only the day before, some organic rosemary bread, and homemade ice tea for a nice picnic lunch spent sitting on the grass, listening to the town band, and watching a clown make balloon animals for cute kids. We went for a wee wander around the harbour--I love harbours. Maybe it comes of growing up in Ontario, where I didn't have any chance to see the sea, but I just love that salt water smell, and the sun on the water, and all the fishing and sailing boats and the docks... And the purple starfish!!! They are so cool. We went to see a Robert Bateman exhibit of wildlife paintings, some of which were really cool, and then had a very leisurely meal before hopping in a taxi back to the hostel.

Our last day we hung around the hostel in the morning again, this time walking 45 minutes along the road to Beddis beach. It's a beach, apparently the island's nicest, but after the beaches of Tofino and Scotland, this one wasn't terribly exciting. We made our lunch in the hostel kitchen, thus breaking the rules, and then took a taxi out to Fulford to catch the ferry. We just missed one, which left us hanging around for almost two hours with not much to do, as the bags made it a bit hard to explore the town-backpacks and craft shops don't really mix.

While not a wildlife extravaganza as so many of our trips here in Canada have been, we did see some animals. The hostel had two pet pygmy goats and a very weird none-quacking South American duck. We saw three deer, one in the field just out back of the hostel, one on our way to the beach, and a baby deer on the hostel driveway. Aside from the fawn, the deer were very unafraid-we walked right up to the one deer talking very loudly and only noticed it at the last moment, grazing without a single concern about our presence. And best of all, we saw a pod of orcas, must have been at least 8 or 9 of them, spouting and jumping on the ferry ride home.

All in all, it was a nice weekend away. Slow, fairly relaxing, just not really the best destination for the carless. It was our last planned trip before we leave Vancouver, unless we go somewhere nearby with Alan's parents once they arrive in three weeks. I am amazed at how quickly time has passed since we arrived in November. I met a girl in the hostel who is also off to Korea to teach, in July to a suburb of Seoul. Just got another email from the school today, I think just to remind me that they are working on my work visa and everything is moving along, albeit at a slow pace. It has been so long since the excitement of the interview/contract signing that it all feels a bit unreal, but in just two months I will be leaving Canada once again.

Tofino
However, we were off to Tofino for the weekend and it was fantastic. It's a small town on the west coast of Vancouver Island and is very eco-touristy. We had to leave the house to catch a 6.15 bus, and we didn't hit Tofino until 3 because there was a one hour wait for construction crews to blast some rocks. We attempted to visit Cathedral Grove, but it was too far back along the road. Nice walk in the sun though. However, by the time we got to Tofino the sun was gone. We wandered around the town, booked a couple of tours and bought some postcards. And broke Alan's lens. Alan will say I broke it, and certainly I was involved, but he had a minor role as well... Since we had forgotten my camera as well, we were left with a telephoto lens-not so good for pictures of huge cedar trees, though we may end up with some interesting pictures of bark. We picked up some disposables.

The hostel is realy nice-the rooms are big enough that they could have sqeezed another bunk bed in, but had chosen not to. The place was fully booked-even the overflow was full. We saw hummingbirds at the feeders and outside our window each morning we were woken by loud birds. One morning in particular there was a lot of noise and we assumed that some birds were chasing a bald eagle away from their nest. There were bald eagles everywhere-there are more in Tofino than the entire United States. The first day we were there one glided to a tree just feet above our heads. I was never much of a bird person until last summer, when my visit to Shetland and Orkney demanded that I become interested and now I'm fairly hooked. I don't think I'll ever become a bona fide "twitcher" but they are quite interesting.

Anyway, our first day the weather was still dull. We went on a Zodiac over the open ocean to the Hot Springs. We saw two grey whales (no orcas, sadly), some really cool sealions who bob around the sea in groups, seals, tufted puffins (I've seen them on both oceans now). The half hour walk to the Springs was cool, though once we'd been in the pools relaxing, it was hard to drag my lethargic self along the boardwalk. The springs were cool, made up of a small waterfall and three pools. The last pool periodically filled with very cold water from the sea when the waves came in. We bumped into two Scottish people. There were only 3 couples on our tour and I'm glad we went the day we did. It wouldn't have been much fun if there had been too many more people there. There were a couple of other tour companies, some sailboats but there weren't too many people. One of the couples were in Tofino for their honeymoon. Just before we left for the tour, there was a guy from the local Global station doing a story on Luna, an orca who has been separated from his pod and has become very friendly with humans-bumping boats that sort of thing. They've spotted Luna's pod nearby so are hoping to reunite them. There were shots of us going off on the Zodiac and listening to the guide tell us about the area.

We went on another Zodiac trip the next morning, this time up an inlet at low tide to see Black Bears. We saw 8 adults and 4 very cute cubs. The telephoto lens came in handy. And it was sunny! Alan preffered being in the inlet, as he had felt a bit ill on the sea the day before. It was really beautiful. That afternoon we went kayaking. Double kayaks being more stable, we went in one and I was forced to sit in the back and do all the steering as Alan's legs were too long for the steering lines connected to the rudder. I loved kayaking-very similar to canoeing really but you are that much closer to the water. Very cool. We kayaked around the islands and went ashore on Meares Island to walk part of the Big Tree trail. Huge cedars, banana slugs, salamander eggs, nurse logs-very interesting generally. We saw another seal and an osprey. After a day of ocean air, Alan wanted fish for dinner so we ended up at Schooners. The food was fantastic.

That evening we went along to Tonquin beach, just a short walk from the hostel. It was pretty and a very normal being-on-a-beach experience until two police officers showed up. Alan suggested that maybe they just wanted a wee walk on such a beautiful evening, but I think it was more likely they were looking for illegal campers, drink and drugs.

The next day we took the beach bus out to walk the Rainforest trails in the national park. They were only about a half hour each, but were interesting. Then we went to Combers Beach, part of Long Beach, and wandered along for hours to the next bus pickup point. The waves and the mist coming off the water made the whole place so beautiful. There were other people there, but not many for the huge size of the beach and it all felt very cut off from the rest of the world. Slightly burnt our noses. We got back to town in time to see the Roy Henry Vickers art gallery-I was quite devious-I like his prints but they were very expensive. However, he has also illustrated a book and there were cheap chinese copies of it on sale, so I bought that and can cut my favourite pictures out. We had fish and chips at a picnic table in the sun for dinner.

Our last day we just relaxed around the hostel, with the fantastic views across the bay and of the islands and read the paper while waiting for the bus back to the Nanaimo ferry. The ferry was very crowded and they had a Celtic fiddler performing to keep us all entertained. Didn't get back home until about 10.

Pre - trip Update

2. Read 101 books. (97/101)Flow, The Lord of the Flies, The Great Gatsby, Zen and the Art of Vampires, The Fellowship of the Ring, Treasure Island, Dead Until Dark, City of Theives, Tumble Home, Catcher in the Rye, The Old Man and the Sea, Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, A Girl's Guide to Vampires, Holy Smokes, Light My Fire, The Looking Glass Wars, Even Vampires Get the Blues, Ain't Myth Behaving, Up in Smoke
3. Read 50 children's books. (46/50) Nate the Great and the Missing Key, Lunch Walks Among Us, The Fran That Time Forgot, The Annoying Team, The Case of the Elevator Duck, Aliens for Breakfast, Aliens for Lunch, Lunch Money, Ruby the Copycat, Dear Mr. Henshaw, Nate the Great and the Crunchy Christmas, The Chocolate Touch, The Invisible Fran, Attack of the 50-ft. Cupid
5. Spend 30 days reading out of the house for at least one hour. (20/30)
33. Win at any of the quiz nights.
57. Eat at 25 new restaurants. (15/25) La Plancha and that other one with Wacey.
76. Take the subway to or from work once a week. (39/38)
77. Walk into Itaewon to get coffee at least 15 times. (7/15)
90. Go to bed by midnight thirty times. (6/30)
95. Make one day a month internet and TV free. (20/30)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cape Coast

I'm in Cape Coast on the slowest internet connection ever, so this can't be long.

I love it here. It's rather on the hot side, though nights are cold. There are goats and chickens everywhere. People have been very friendly - though few have been too friendly. Everyone loves Obama and there are signs, t-shirts, photos, and plaques everywhere commemorating his visit. I've slowly started to buy a few things, now that I've gotten more accustomed to prices and everything. We climbed up to a fort yesterday and toured the castle today. Plans to go to Kakum National Park, Elmina Castle, Dixcove beaches and Kumasi before we cross into Togo, perhaps on Saturday. Time is flying far too fast!

Can't Wait to Fill All the Pages

Ignore the bad photo - I had just been in a bus crash, lost in Hong Kong and told not to smile. It was stressful. Also, I almost hope I get bit by something, cause those rabies vaccinations were expensive but a monkey once got stuck in my hair!












Friday, August 28, 2009

Singing Children



To say they were hyper might be putting it mildly.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

LOVE it Here!

Had a great day in Rome and my first day in Accra. It's so chill and friendly here - people are incredibly helpful in terms of helping Ortencia and I get around. We've spent the evening doing things she can't do in Togo and I'll go get my visa for Togo tomorrow morning. We leave the capital Friday, I hope, to go to the coast.

Rome - so much more beauty in the city than Seoul. We walked around, ate a lot of incredible food, took some photos, ended up in random piazzas on random buses. Great day. Very hot.

Travelling to Accra - long, boring, no movies. I am getting good at Sudoku. Met up with Ortencia no problem, cab to hostel.

Accra today - not as hot as I anticipated, but sunny. I'm going to burn at some point - already toasted the part in my hair. It was somehow not what I expected, though I can't articulate my expectations. Maybe less busy and more spread out than I thought. Have largely wandered around with little purpose, but gave a nice sense of the place. Tried to get to the Togo Embassy for a visa but they were having a fete, so we couldn't go in. Will try again tomorrow.

Going to watch Harry Potter with Ortencia tonight - so exciting to see it in Africa and it's her first movie in a year. The mall here (also her first mall and pizza in a year) is eerily similar to being in Canada.

Must go!

Ciao, darlings.

Bisockuality

There is a new sock phenomenon sweeping across Korea. I thought at first they were couples' socks, that they came with cute little references to your (heterosexual) man or woman and they you both got a pair.

But that's not it. Each pair comes with only one man and one woman sock. So is it for the huge bisexual/fans of threesomes market?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ghosts of Vacations Past - Asia

Cambodia - Where I got the worst sunburn ever, fell down the side of a temple, burnt my leg on a motorcycle and got a monkey stuck in my hair.

Phnom Penh
i made it here to cambodia fine. I left my house at 7am to take the bus to the airport and wasn't in a hotel room until 9pm-which was actually midnight for me, with the time change (I had a three hour stopover in Bangkok Airport). A friend lent me the most recent harry potter and I finished it by the time I got to the hotel. I ended up sharing a taxi from the airport with a middle aged american english teacher and just stayed at the same guesthouse he was.

i hired myself a moto driver today-for $10 american I have been driven all over phnom penh-to see the Killing Fields, S-21 the torture camp, the National Museum, the Palace and Wat Phnom. The streets are full of people on motos, and of course, no one wears helmets. The buildings are all very old but some look beautiful-in the same way that old, falling-into-disrepair houses in venice look beautiful.

The Killing Fields were quite shocking. At first glance, you only notice the memorial building with all the skulls, but when you walk around the area there are also bits of bone and clothing poking out of the dirt. There were lots of kids around asking you to pay to take their pictures. The ride out on the moto was amazing-I admit to being nervous at first, but once we hit the dirt road (or mud road, really), I had relaxed. We passed very poor houses, farms, and a local food market. On the way back I even took a few pictures while we were moving.

S-21 was once a highschool, and then was used as a torture prison. What remains is a few beds and torture instruments and many photos of the victims. Many were only children and there were photos of women with infants.

The National Museum is in a beautiful building and opens into a central courtyard. It is mostly full of Buddha statues. The Royal Palace was cool-looked like something out of a fairy tale. I noticed then that I have a lovely sunburn. Must slather on the sunblock from now on. Lots of monks around this area, all walking with umbrellas to keep off the sun, which is apparently what I should have been doing.

The riverside area is apparently where cambodians go to hang out in the evenings-it was packed with teenagers and their motos. I also went to wat phnom, where there was a foreign group making a tv show or something-they sounded eastern european i think.

The food here is great-very similar to Thai. and spicy :)

I'm heading to siem reap tomorrow morning on the boat at 7am. My driver has arranged my ticket for me too.

Cambodia PicsHere

Angkor Wat - Day 1
So, I didn't do much in the way of planning for this trip-once I bought the plane ticket, I didn't really think much about it again until the night before I left, when I had to pack. So, perhaps it isn't surprising that I sort of had the idea that all the temples were called Angkor Wat, when in fact that is the name of the most famous one. They were all built around the same time and in similar styles though.

I started my day at the South Gate of Angkor Thom, a complex with several good ruins. Angkor Thom, particularly the Bayon inside it, is known for the giant, serene faces that are all over the Bayon temple and on the gates to Angkor Thom. They say the face is a merge of the Buddha and the king who built the temple. I had my first experience with vendors here-there are tons of people trying to sell you cold drinks, bags, t-shirts, bracelets, postcards and guidebooks, and flutes. Many of them are children, and while I fully understand why they are trying so hard to sell stuff to tourists, it was quite annoying at times. When you enter or exit one of the temples, all the vendors flock around you, trying to convince you to buy. No amount of saying no works-they will keep asking, saying things like "if you buy later, you buy from me" or asking your nationality and saying "will you buy from me if I know the capital of Canada?" These kids could beat any classroom of Canadian kids twice their age at a contest to name world capitals.
Angkor Thom is quadrangle of defensive walls totaling 12 kilometers that once protected the Khmer capital of the same name (Angkor Thom means "Great City"). Built in the late 12th and early 13th centuries by King Jayavarman VII, the walls are divided by two axes running north-south and east-west. A gateway lies at the end of each axis, four in total, facing the four cardinal directions. An additional gate, called the "Gate of Victory", pierces the east wall just north of the "Gate of the Dead", the east gate along the central axis. The significance of the additional gate is that it provided access to a terrace of the royal palace. As for the other gates, the two axes intersect at the center of the enclosed area where the Bayon temple sits.

The south gate of Angkor Thom is the best preserved. It is approached from outside via a causeway that extends about fifty meters across a moat. On each side of the causeway are railings fashioned with 54 stone figures engaged in the performance of a famous Hindu story: the myth of the Churning of the Ocean. On the left side of the moat, 54 'devas' (guardian gods) pull the head of the snake 'Shesha' while on the right side 54 'asuras' (demon gods) pull the snake's tail in the opposite direction. In this myth, the body of the snake is wrapped around the central mountain—Mt. Meru—perhaps corresponding here to the Bayon temple at the center of the site. In any case, the myth relates that as the Devas pulled the snake in one direction and the gods pushed in the other, the ocean began to churn and precipitate the elements. By alternating back and forth, the ocean was "milked", forming the earth and the cosmos anew.

The central tower of the stone gate is capped by three face-towers that face the four directions (the central tower faces both out and in). Below them at the base of the gate are two sets of elephant statues that flank the entrance on both sides. Sitting on each elephant is a figure of the god Indra carrying his usual weapon—the 'vadra' (a lightning bolt). The gate itself is shaped like an upside-down "U" and is corbelled at the top (instead of arches, the builders of Angkor preferred to use corbelling to span distances). It is still possible to see where wooden doors once fitted to the gate through openings in the stone.

There is some debate as to the functionality of Angkor Thom as a whole. If it was a wall intended for defense, it was rather poorly designed, since there is nowhere along the wall for defenders to take refuge from incoming fire or shoot back from a shielded location. This is surprising since Angkor had been sacked in 1177 by Champa invaders, and one can readily imagine that its new King, Jayavarman VII would have been concerned with defense should the invaders return.

If not intended for defense, the walls may simply have been an additional enclosure around the Bayon temple, more for ceremony than for practical use. As in Southern India, the Angkor rulers built temples surrounded by walls, but usually not with walls as thick and grand as those of Angkor Thom.
The Bayon was my first temple and possibly also my favourite. It was there that a monk wanted money from tourists to have his picture taken, in order to pay for school.
Bayon was the state temple of Jayavarman VII, a powerful ruler in the late 13th century. The temple sat at the center of Angkor Thom, a walled city that served as the capital of the Khmer Empire. Four of the city's five gates sat on axis with the temple, and the walls of the city substituted for the enclosure walls normally found at Khmer temples. The walls sit at such a distance from the temple that the temple seems to rise abruptly from the ground like an artificial mountain. In fact, the temple was intended to evoke the form of Mt. Meru--the cosmic mountain at the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. In keeping with this cosmic symbolism, the plan of the temple is based on a "yantra", a symbol used by Tantric Buddhists as the basis of mandala diagrams that represent the layout of the universe. The temple honored not just one deity, but a host of gods found throughout the Khmer empire. Its central shrine held an image of Jayavarman VII, who perhaps imagined himself as a god-King ruling in the name of the Buddha.

The temple is best known today for the gigantic face sculptures that adorn its thirty-seven surviving towers. Facing in four directions on each tower, the faces are thought to represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions.
The Bahpuon is called the world's largest puzzle-French archaeologists took it apart to do some fixing, meticulously mapping where each block had to go back. Then the Khmer Rouge came along, destroyed all the paperwork and messed all the blocks up. They are still trying to construct it, so I wasn't able to see much of it. I ended up with a guide around this temple, as I was far too polite to say no. Cost me $1 US for a fifteen minute tour, which is pricey when you think that my moto driver cost $10 for the whole day...
Bapuon was erected in the reign of Udayadityavarman II, who ruled from 1050-1066. An inscription on the temple reads: "Seeing that at the centre of Jambudvipa there rose the golden mountain, the dwelling-place of the gods, he had a golden mountain built at the centre of his city, as though in emulation. On top of this golden mountain, in a golden temple, shining with celestial light, he erected a Shiva linga in gold." The temple is used to cover the large hill visible in image one, but nowadays it has mostly vanished. Zhou Daguan, a Chinese "ambassador" in the 13th century, speaks glowingly of the temple, describing it as a "copper tower". This suggests that the entire temple may have once been sheathed in bronze plates.
A short jaunt from the Baphuon is the Phimeankakas, or royal palace. It has two swimming pools, one for the king, the other for the queen, which is much bigger as the king had more than the one queen. Then I saw Tep Pranam, two large Buddha statues, only one of which is real, as apparently the Khmer Rouge sold the other. As you do. I guess that is a lot better than the Taliban destroying the statues at Baminyan, though. By the time I hit the Terrace of the Leper King and the Terrace of the Elephants, I realised I was not doing so well in the heat. I bought myself a really ugly hat/fan combo, drank 2 litres of water, and sat down to relax, having meandered my way back to the Baphuon and read for a bit. I also concluded that all those people, including the folks at Lonely Planet, who tell you that it is cooler to cover all your body with lightweight clothing than to wear shorts/tank top and expose your skin to the sun (and more culturally acceptable, perhaps), are talking complete and utter crap. That day was by far the worst in terms of how damn hot I felt and my clothes were indeed of the covering, lightweight variety.
When Jayavarman VII became king in 1181, he moved into the palace of his predecessor, king Suryavarman I. The palace sat at the center of the northern half of Angkor Thom, east of Phimeanakas temple and directly west of the eastern Baray. Jayavarman VII expanded the palace with several terraces to the east. The first, called the Elephant Terrace because of its decoration, was over 300 meters long. It probably served as the foundation for the King's main apartments, which have not survived because they were made of wood. A 13th century account says they were covered with lead tiles, and indeed, some tiles have been found alongside the terraces.

North of the Elephant terrace is the "Terrace of the Leper King." Its name derives from a misconception that one of the Yama statues depicts a legendary king who suffered from leprosy. Actually, the appearance of leprosy is an illusion caused by the lichen eating away at the surface of the stone. The terrace is sculpted with seven rows of divine characters, and was probably used for royal cremations.

Twelve stone towers face the terraces to the east. Called "Prasats Suor Prat," they are made of laterite and were probably built sometime after Jayavarman VII's reign.
As for it being culturally unacceptable to wear revealing clothing... these do not seem to be temples, at all. Sure, there are some areas where you can light some incense near a piece of Buddha statue (or a whole Buddha, but that was less common), but I didn't get the sense that in any way these were temples in use. There were a few that had wats (Buddhist temples) inside them, there I can see the argument for appropriate clothing. But really, chuck a longer t-shirt in your bag, and you can be covered when needed, which was my strategy all around Europe as well. Besides, all the tourists are running around in shorts and tank tops. I think it would be quite different if this was a less touristy place than it in fact is.

Thommanon was a big underwhelming. First off, it looks much like the other temples, and this was when I realised that some of the temples might well be fun to scramble up and around, but weren't going to be visually stunning because many of them look much the same as others.
Thommanon is a small temple built at the end of Suryavarman II's reign, around the middle of the 12th century. It is nearly symmetrical to Chau Say Tevoda, another of Suryavarman's temples that stands nearby. Although the placement of Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda neatly frame the east causeway to the Angkor Thom complex, this was probably not the original intention, since in Suryavarman's time the center of the capital was closer to Angkor Wat. Thommanon is architecturally more advanced than its predecessors. The designers took advantage of the natural qualities of sandstone, rather than simply carving it in imitation of wood.
Ta Keo is huge. It was a "climber", as I thought of those temples that really were fun because of the many narrow steps you had to go up. This trip was a good workout for my legs, though it made sore a weird part of the muscle right above my knee, which is obviously not used in the course of a normal city-dwelling life. It also made me realise, as there were almost no tourists at this temple while I was there, how dodgy it is to travel alone and climb up narrow, dangerous stairs on your own...
King Jayavarman V ruled from 968 to 1001. Sometime during his reign, Jayavarman took up residence on the east side of the East Baray, and moved the capital to the west bank. He must have traveled back and forth to it by boat. Around the year 975, work was begun on TA Keo temple in the center of the new capital. TA Keo was actually called "Hemasringagiri" or "the mountain with golden peaks," meaning Mount Meru--the sacred peak of Indian lore.

The temple is enormous, rising over 21.6 meters, making it one of the tallest buildings at Angkor. Its base measures 122 by 106 meters, while the outer moat stretched 255 by 195 meters, but has now vanished.

After Jayavarman V died, there was a violent usurpation by Suryavarman I in 1001 AD. Work on the temple ceased, although artisans had only begun carving the decorative work at the base of the temple. For unknown reasons, the king donated the temple to his minister Yogisvarapandita, who had served under the former king. Yogisvarapandita worshipped only the shrines at the base of the temple, since he was prohibited by law from worshipping at a higher level than the king.
Ta Prohm was wonderful. It has tons of trees growing in, around, and out of the stone of the temple. It is one of a few of the Angkor Wat temples that makes you feel a bit like you just wandered out of the jungle and found them for the first time-which is why they left some of the temples in just this condition. It was here that I saw the guy who is on the front cover of the Lonely Planet for Cambodia-and since it isn't a book I have, I only knew as a result of overhearing a tour guides explination to his group. I had just bought a hanging bird thingy from him and took a picture as well, though I am waiting to get the photos I took on film developed in Scotland, so I have no idea if the picture turned out.
TA Prohm was built during the reign of Jayavarman VII, a great king who reconquered the Khmer empire from Cham invaders in the years 1177-1181. Needless to say, the war caused great damage to the ancient capital of Angkor. The ambitious king set about making it into a proper seat of power by ordering the reconstruction of a number of temples. TA Prohm was the centerpiece of his masterplan, located roughly in the center of the capital. Though the temple covers barely 2.5 acres, its walls and moat encompass 148 acres, which would have sheltered a town attached to the temple. Here, 12,640 people lived, supported by a population of 79,365 who worked in nearby villages to provide food and supplies.

TA Prohm housed the deity Prajnaparamita, the "perfection of wisdom." It was consecrated in 1186. Like many Khmer kings, Jayavarman had it carved in the likeness of his mother. The Prajnaparamita statue was surrounded by 260 lesser divinities, housed in their own sanctuaries.

Interestingly, the temple was also the headquarters of a vast hospital network created by the good king. From TA Prohm, supplies filtered out to 102 hospitals located throughout the empire. The Khmer kings seem to have taken the Buddha's call to mercy into their own hands.

Nowadays, TA Prohm is in a sad state of disrepair. Voracious trees called Strangler Figs have damaged much of the complex.
Angkor Wat-it's huge, it's amazing, it takes your breath away. It was well worth the entire trip, just to be able to have seen it. With the sun shining, the beauty of my surroundings, and the wonder of being in cambodia, my only complaint was how tired my first day made me.

Angkor Wat is a spectacular temple in southwest Cambodia, built by the vanished Khmer empire. It was constructed during the reign of king Suryavarman II, who ruled from 1113 to at least 1145. In those days, it was customary for the Khmer Empire to maintain a state temple at the heart of the city. However, when Suryavarman assumed power, the existing Baphuon state temple was dedicated to Shiva. Suryavarman worshiped Vishnu, and wished to honor him with a new temple south of the existing capital. This new state temple came to be called Angkor Wat, meaning "The city that is a temple."

The land occupied by the temple measures 1300 meters north-south, and 1500 meters east-west. Unlike other Khmer temples, the entrance faces west toward Vishnu. A person entering the temple first approaches an entrance causeway that takes him across the 200 meter wide moat. On the opposite shore is an entrance pavilion measuring 230 meters north-south. Its central bays have three passages that elephants could fit through for royal processions. Past the entrance gate is a long causeway that runs for over 300 meters, decorated with mythical snake-like animals called naga. On either side are isolated buildings called "libraries" though their true function is unknown. Near the temple are two small pools.

The actual temple sits on a sandstone plinth a meter above the ground. Its perimeter is decorated with naga balustrades. The outer wall of the temple is called the "first enclosure," and sits on a plinth 3.3 meters high. A continuous gallery runs along the outside face of the wall. The inner face is decorated with 700 meters of continuous bas reliefs.

Just to the east of the west gate of the first enclosure is a series of four rooms arranged in a cruciform. Each room is surrounded by a continuous gallery and has a sunken floor where ponds used to be. The southern arm of the cross was once called the "Gallery of a thousand Buddhas" because until very recently, the Khmer faithful left Buddha statues here. Most of these were destroyed during the recent civil war. North and south of the "western cruciform" are two more "libraries."

The second enclosure rests on a base 5.8 meters high. It is linked to the Western Cruciform by a series of stairs. Inside this courtyard are still more "libraries," smaller than the previous ones.

The inner enclosure rests on a two-tiered pyramid 11 meters tall. The stairs are extremely steep. The upper terrace has a continuous gallery that encloses an inner cruciform of four rooms. Five towers jut from the upper tier in a quincunx arrangement (like five dots on a pair of dice). The cruciform used to contain a number of separate shrines, but they look like passageways now since the wooden doors are gone. The central tower is 65 meters above ground level.
Getting back to the guesthouse, and particularly taking a shower, was a wonderful feeling. Riding on the moto, covered in dust (some of which stained my clothes permanently), dirty from climbing around all day, a shower quickly became one of my biggest luxuries. I ate at the guesthouse during my stay in Siem Reap as well, it was convienent and the food was good.

Angkor Wat - Day 2

Baksei Chamkrong was another climber. I met a couple of British women who were biking around the temples-I can't imagine how hot and sweaty that would be, and how tiring, considering how exhausted and hot I got, and I was taking a moto. In fact, there were times that the cool wind from driving on the moto was the only thing keeping me from dying of heat!
Baksei Chamkrong at Angkor, Cambodia, is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, built in the middle of the 10th century, and completed during the reign of Rajendravarman II (941-968).
Preah Khan was fun. I walked in and right away there is a display about reconstruction work and archaeological work which is ongoing. There was also a small display of souvenirs-I bought a Buddhist prayer flag that stands for hope, for Emily as it seemed symbolic to wish a newborn hope. There was a very cute, tiny puppy playing with a young girl there. This temple was fun for all the straight hallways, and I took lots of pictures through doorways. It also had a great tree in stone shot, but it was blocked by a sign, which I moved out of the way before taking my photo.
Preah Khan was built in 1191 during the reign of King Jayavarman VII. He was a warrior king celebrated for reconstructing the Khmer Empire after a period of fragmentation. Jayavarman first made a name for himself in 1165, when news of a rebellion reached his ears. Rushing home from the Cham Kingdom, where he resided, he arrived too late to stop the usurper Tribhuvanadityavarman from crowning himself King of the Khmers. Jayavarman was powerless to interfere, but waited patiently for an opportunity. Finally in 1177, the Cham kingdom sent an invasion force against the Khmer usurper, joined by native elements, that toppled him in a bloody campaign. Fighting even reached Angkor, laying waste to the capital. The victorious Cham occupied Khmer territory as a foreign power, but their rule was not to last long.

Jayavarman jumped in with his own private army, striking headlong at the Cham forces. He won a spectacular naval battle on the Great Lake that crippled the Cham fleet. This opened the door to a wholesale invasion that not only drove out the foreign occupiers, but struck against native kinglets that resisted his "liberation". Only in 1181 was he confident enough to crown himself King, taking the reign title Jayavarman VII.

The King commissioned Ta Prohm and Preah Khan temples as monuments of his rule. Preah Khan was probably built on the same spot where previous kings had kept their palaces. Preah Khan was more than just a monastery—it was an entire city enclosing a town of 56 hectares. About 100,000 farmers produced rice to feed about 15,000 monks, teachers, and students. Subsidiary buildings included a hospital, rest house, and rice granary.

The central Buddhist temple at Preah Khan included an image of the Boddhisattva Lokeshrvara, carved to resemble the King's father. There were 282 sub-deities around the main statue, including Khmer heroes and deceased officials. There was even a statue of the usurper-king in front of the temple. Though this seems odd, the Khmers believed that all past kings, even usurpers, guarded the country after death.

An architectural detail typical of Jayavarman VII's reign are the freestanding statues that flank the gateways.
Neak Prean would have been a great place to sit back, relax, and read a book for a bit. Unfortunately, I left my backpack with my driver. It wasn't too much to look at, as there was no water in the pool while I was there, but there were some cool statues.

Neak Pean is a tiny temple built during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, an energetic king who ruled in the late 12th century (for biographical details, see the Preah Khan page). The King ordered the construction of a vast baray (reservoir) east of Preah Khan temple to provide water to its hundred-thousand support workers. Stretching a half kilometer by 900 meters, the artificial lake stored millions of cubic meters of water to irrigate the rice fields during the dry season. Neak Pean sits at the center of the reservoir. It once consisted of a square pond, measuring 70 meters to a side, surrounded by four smaller ponds, which were in turn surrounded by eight other ponds. At the very center of the complex was a tiny island, shown in the photo above, with a single tower made of sandstone.

The significance of Neak Pean is not known, but the Khmer kings commonly placed islands at the center of barays. Some historians believe that Neak Pean represents Anavatapta, a mythical lake in the Himalayas whose waters are thought to cure all illness. Descriptions of Anavatapta include references to four springs spewing from the mouths of a lion, an elephant, a horse, and an ox. This closely corresponds to Neak Pean—its central pond drains into the four surrounding ponds through gargoyles shaped like a lion, an elephant, a horse, and a man respectively. If the theory is correct, it is uncertain one gargoyle is a man and not an ox.
Ta Som reminded me of Ta Prohm, because both have the "invaded by the jungle" feel. It was beautiful. It is where I decided to relax and read a book. Lunch was not something I ate while I explored the temples-a combination of the heat and the large amount of water I was drinking left me feeling full all day and so lunch was usually just a coke, as a break from the monotony of always drinking water.
Jayavarman built this Buddhist temple in the 12th century. Three wall flanked by four-faced towers protect it. The small scale offers the chance to absorb fully the perfection of design. Don't miss the picturesque East Gopura, held together by roots of a tree growing from the top. The Khmer Rouge reputedly once used the temple as a hospital.

From the eastern Mebon, Ta Som appears on the right, a little after the 13th kilometre marker stone, as a tower with four faces of Lokesvara entwined within the roots of a giant Ficus tree that crowns it perfectly. Several of the roots have pierced the vault and descend straight to the ground, obstructing part of the passageway.
East Mebon-yay, elephants. So I have an obsession with elephants, apparently. By this point, I had already bought a blanket, bag, and skirt with elephants on it, and here was a temple with cool elephant statues. This was another climber.

East Mebon is a small temple built in the reign of king Rajendravarman, who named the temple "Yashodharatataka" (the reservoir of Yashodhara). King Rajendravarman greatly admired King Yashovarman I, who ruled from 889-900 AD and built the East Baray (reservoir). Out of respect, King Rajendravarman built East Mebon at the center of the baray. Its main god was Rajendreshvara, a linga of the present king.

The temple was dedicated on Friday, January 28, 953 at about 11am. The architect was Kavindrarimathana, whose name survives because he sponsored several temples himself. A thousand years ago, the waters of the East Baray would have lapped around the temple's foundations, but nowadays it has completely dried up.
Pre Rup was very, very similar to East Mebon. But without the elephants, so not nearly as exciting in my opinion.
Pre Rup was Rajendravarman's state temple, built in 961. It consists of two enclosures with gateways at all four sides, a pyramidal structure, and five shrines on top. The two lower terraces are of laterite, the third upper terrace is of sandstone. The shrines are of brick. The entrances in the east and the false doors in the other sides are of sandstone. The false doors are delicately sculptured. Moulded pillars are on either side.
Phnom Bakheng was were I went to see the sunset. I decided to have an elephant ride up to the temple-and for all my obsession with elephants as decoratation and in pictures, in person their skin is kind of ugly and riding them is simply not that exciting. It is slow, with a gentle rocking motion. Tons of people were taking pictures of me in the little basket, on the elephant, so I threw (not without being more than a tad worried) my digital to one of them to get a picture myself. This is not how I cracked the camera, though, that happened when it, and I, bounced off a temple wall. And no, such things are not very bouncy. The camera and I both looked worse for the wear afterwards. I got there early, so I read while I waited for the show to start. Sunsets occur very, very slowly. I am obviously too modern and used to watching TV cause I kept wanting to speed up the action. And as sunsets go, it wasn't fantastic, but then, one can hardly expect to schedule in a good sunset, they just happen when you least expect them and don't always correspond with picturesque locations. There are also a ton of tourists all there to see the sunset, so it isn't exactly a relaxing experience either. Walking down the hill, on broken stone steps, was an adventure.
The rulers of Angkor constructed many temple mountains, but Phnom Bakeng is all natural stone. The temple on the summit was built in the late 9th or early 10th century by Jacawarman I (or Yasovarman I). At the top of the hillock are 5 successive rows of 12 sanctuaries each. Here the Royal Linga - phallic symbol of the King in his divine state - was placed. More recently used as an observation post by armed forces, the site has deteriorated. The south-eastward view over the forest to the Angkor Wat towers is unequalled and the sunsets to the west over the countryside are often spectacular.

On his accession in 889, Yasovarman abandoned Hariharalaya (Roluos), the rudimentary capital of his predecessors situated on the plain, and became the first, seduced by the mysticism of the hills, to find his "Meru" (the seat of the gods) and his "Ganga" (the river Ganges) symbolised here in the hill of Phnom Bakheng and the river of Stung Siem Reap - the latter probably being diverted to follow the eastern boundary of the new city.

The two lions framing the bottom of the path which leads to the upper plateau are amongst the finest and the best proportioned to be found in Khmer art. The temple appears from here as a stack of five bare-faced tiers, becoming progressively smaller from 76m.00 at the base to 47m.00 at the summit, with an overall height of 13 metres. The severity of the lines is fortunately broken by the cut of a steep axial stair inclined at 70%, flanked by lions at each rise and framed by the cascades of small sanctuary towers that are repeated at the corners. The upper platform, with the quincunx of towers that are either truncated or have disappeared altogether, is no longer imposing, while the brick towers encircling the base of the pyramid are for the most part ruined and barely worth mentioning.

Thirty six of these towers, opening to the east and sometimes pierced subsequently with another door opening to the west, stood aligned in a single rank - except on either side of the axial pathways where they are found coupled on a common base, making a total of forty four. Many of them are missing or remain incomplete. Just before their remains, on the left, are two large pedestals. Found during the clearing work, these are remarkable in detail and quite pure in style.


Angkor Wat - Day 3
I started my day early, and went to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Like the sunset, it wasn't exactly the most marvellous sunrise I've ever seen, but it was nice. Wish I had gone to bed a bit earlier though! I then did a balloon ride, which was cool. It was a static balloon, which means it was connected to the ground by a steel cable, and only went up. It was a cool view of Angkor Wat and of the surrounding rice paddies.

My aim was to see the Rolous Group - Lolei, Preah Ko, Bakong. The first two weren't much really, though both Lolei and Bakong have active wats inside. At Bakong, which was quite beautiful, a little boy gave me a ring made out of a flower, it was really sweet.

Lolei was built by Indravarman's son (Yasovarman I, 889-915) on an island in the middle of a now dried-up baray. Originally intended as a 6-tower (3x2) plan like Phrah Ko, only four towers were built.

Preah KO, which means "the sacred bull" (Shiva's vehicle Nandi), was built by Indravarman I in 879. It is part of the Roluos group of monuments about 13 kilometers east of Siem Riep. The temple is distinguished from others in the area by the unusual arrangement of its six central towers, which stand in two rows facing east. The three towers on the east side are staggered so that the central tower is slightly further to the west. This tower is dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu god closely associated with the rule of Jayavarman II, the founder of the Khmer Empire. The tower to the north was dedicated to the founder of Preah KO, and the tower to the south was dedicated to the King's father. Each of these shrines once contained a statue, but they were removed at some time in the past.

The three towers to the west, which are shorter, were built for the spirits of former queens. According to the archaeologist Jean Laur, who spent a lifetime researching the Angkor monuments, the "octagonal colonettes surrounding the doors are among the finest examples of decorative carving in Khmer art" (Laur, p. 306).

The Bakong is the main temple of the Roluos group, some 13 km east of Siem Reap. It predates the big temples like Angkor Wat and the Bayon as it was built around 881. Before the era of Angkor Thom the capital of the empire was around Roluos. Parts of a laterite highway have been found linking it a Khmer city near Phimai in present day Thailand , some 225 km away.

I intended to have a shorter day, and relax a bit, so my last stop was the Mine Museum. It is run by a man who works clearing mines and many child victims of land mines also work and are educated at the museum. It was fascinating to learn about the different types of mines and also to read that the US is the only Western country who refuses to sign the treaty to ban land mines. I did know that already, but seeing the very dodgy countries on the rest of the list really emphasized how crazy it is.

It was at the Mine Museum that I got a monkey stuck in my hair. I can imagine this doesn't happen that often. It was climbing on my back and I was getting someone to take a picture for me when it tried to climb on my head and then jump off. Unfortunately for both the monkey and I, it got stuck in my ponytail. A rather amusing few moments of panicked monkey ensued, until a British tourist helped free it.

On my way home I stopped at an internet cafe, and a power outtage ate my post. Hence these have been written rather long after the fact, and are so undetailed. Such is life, I guess.

I haven't been commenting on the nightlife in Siem Reap, but it was fun. I learned a neat trick in the Laundry Bar, trying to pick up a box of matches with the second and forth fingers, with the middle finger always on the table, and the others never touching the table, and lifting it onto the top of a cigarette pack. Not easy, let me tell you. And the Angkor What? was a great little place, complete with a tiny dance floor and some great music.
posted by Amanda at 4:41 AM 0 comments

Basic History of Angkor Wat Temple Complex
Here's a translation of Maurice Glaize's popular and definitive 1944 guide to the Angkor Monuments for free.

The Khmer Empire was already well established by the time it came to Angkor in the early 900s. Yasovarman I was the first king to take up permanent residence, moving from his former capital at Hariharalaya (Rolous), where he had lived for twenty seven years. The new capital, called Yasodharapura,was quickly marked by the construction of a temple on Phnom Bakheng, the site's highest hill. Yasovarman also left his mark indelibly on the landscape with the construction of an enormous baray (reservoir) 7 kilometers long and 2 wide. It is thought that the waters of this baray met the needs of the fortified city he established around Phnom Bakheng and helped nearby farmers grow food during the dry season.

After Yasovarman's death various sovereigns transferred the capital to several sites, some far afield. Eventually they returned to Yasodharapura (Angkor) around 950. The sovereign Rajendravaran II constructed his state temple at Pre Rup and honored his ancestors with the construction of the five towers of Mebon in the East Baray. Other sites added in these years were built not by royalty, but by high-ranking nobles. Srah Srang built the beautiful stone landing at the edge of the Baray, and the nobleman Yajnavaraha constructed the remarkable Banteay Srei temple at a sight outside Angkor. After Ranjendravarman's death in 968 his son, Jayavarman V lived under the tutelage of the temple-builder Yajnavaraha and then declared the founding of a new capital, perhaps at Ta Keo. However, both projects were left unfinished at the time of the King's death in 1001.

The death of Jayavarman sparked a dynastic struggle for about ten years that prevented King Suryavarman I from taking residence at Angkor until about 1010. Once there, he consolidated his authority and expanded the Khmer empire through military campaigns against neighboring states. Although he mostly founded temples outside of Angkor, it is thought that he also began the construction of Angkor's West Baray, which was not completed until the rule of his nephew, Udayaditiavarman II. This nephew, who took power following Suryavarman's death in 1049, also constructed the Baphuon temple that later awed the Chinese emissary Zhou Daguan.

Other Kings descended from Suryavarman I continued to rule until 1080, when the dynasty came to an end. The kingdom was beset by attacks from Champa armies that would herald greater losses to come. In the meantime, Angkor enjoyed its golden age.

Suryavarman II began his rule in 1113 and died in 1150. Over his long reign, he was responsible for the construction of Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda temples and others outside of Angkor. A strong ruler, he attacked armies on all sides of the empire, enlarging the kingdom. However, Suryavarman is best known for building Angkor Wat--the royal temple and tomb of world acclaim.

After Suryavarman's death the kingdom fell into disarray and Angkor itself was sacked by the Chams in 1177. They remained for four years in Angkor until the future Jayavarman VII, who had been reared in Cham territory, retook Angkor for his ancestral people and proclaimed himself King. He then launched a counterstrike against Champa lands and annexed them in 1190. They remained a part of the Khmer Empire for thirty years. During this time, Jayavarman constructed the walled city Angkor Thom and the Bayon temple at its center, fortified in case of another invasion.

Successors to Jayavarman had to battle an attack of Thai forces in 1285 and the coming of the Mongol hordes. They also had to come to terms with cultural factors that were turning Southeast Asia away from Indian Civilization and more toward the Theravada Buddhism of the type practiced in Thailand. Under the old system, the King was held to be a God among Hindu peers. Theravada Buddhism weakened the Kings' claims to divinity, perhaps undermining their authority.

In any case, no reliable records of Angkor Kings are available after 1307. Legend says that the Kingdom was annihilated by the Thais in 1431, but it seems more likely that significantly weaker Khmer Kings continued to hold furtive power. Evidence for this are inscriptions on the monuments themselves that record the presence of a Khmer Royal Court in the 15th century. Some Europeans, namely Spanish and Portugese, even managed to visit the ruins at that time.

The modern rediscovery of Angkor occurred in the late 19th century, when French expeditions laid the groundwork for much of the conservation operation to follow. Today, the French remain leaders in the restoration and conservation of the city of Angkor.

Last day in Cambodia
Cambodia was a hard country to leave-I would have loved to have had longer to explore more of the country, outside of the main tourist track.

I had chatted before with a girl from Columbia who had been living in London, and ended up going to the Butterfly Garden with her and a girl from the Netherlands. Most of the people I met in Cambodia were European and I don't recall meeting a single Canadian, though there was the odd American. The garden was run by a foreinger and a group of Cambodian children collected the butterflies and used their wages to pay for school. I like the blue butterflies best, of course.

Then we went to Psar Chas, the old market, and wandered around. After a quick recon of all the stalls and a look at the food section, with the meat and live fish as well as vegetables, I went back and spent all of my money, leaving myself only enough for the exit visa and my moto ride to the airport. I went back to the guesthouse to have a quick shower before leaving.

The airport was tiny, and I ended up using my credit card to pay the leaving tax, which gave me cash to buy food and stuff in the airports. I didn't manage to sleep at all on the plane, and I must say arriving Monday morning exhausted made teaching that much more interesting...

All in all, one of the most fantastic trips of my life.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Amanda e' a Roma!

I arrived in last night and as per usual, adjusting to not-Korea is quite a mind fuck.

When the captain announced that the plane was landing in Milan, I had a few moments of panic. I am absolutely the kind of person who would think I was going to fly into Rome and end up in Milan, but it turns out that we just stopped for an hour, got off the plane, and then hopped back on for about another couple hours. I also miscalculated the length of that flight - for some reason I thought it was going to be about 9 hours, but with the stop in Milan it was about 13.

Italians are hilarious. The woman at immigration barely glanced at me, customs wasn't even staffed, but damn, did it take forever to get our bags. The Korean people on the flight looked a bit baffled - it's the exact opposite flying into Seoul. Jenny picked me up at the airport and so I didn't even have to think while getting a train to Termini, thankfully, as I stopped being able to think logically enough to complete a Sudoku puzzle about two hours before I hit Rome (taught myself on the plane and totally addicted.)

We went to a supermarket, where we brought prosecco, a hunk of cheese, cantelope, water, pastries, and a vibrating cock ring. As you do. Wouldn't you be curious about why a Durex product would vibrate?

I was over excited by the shower stall (to say nothing of the bidet) and fell asleep mid-sentence last night. It's hot as hell here, but I'm wearing my new Christmas panties, so I'm ready for anything Rome can throw at me.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

And I Don't Have to Today!

I'm Waving! Can You See Me???

On On!

Spent last night having people do tequila shots out of my boobs - kinda messy - salt everywhere.

At the airport now, gotta run!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

When Am I Ever Going to Pack?


My last class before vacation is presently watching Kung Fu Panda with Lia, so I'm getting some stuff done. And blogging, obviously.

Last night and today at lunch, as I was walking along the familiar streets I had an odd pang - homesickness for Canada and I'll the people I'll be seeing soon combined with a sense that I will actually miss my day-to-day life here, even if the absence is short.

Today I threw out my travel coffee mug. It's served me well for two years, but it's been leaking sporadically for the last three months or so.

I have huge weekend plans - a movie with Shawn tonight, rabies shot tomorrow, hashing with OBH3 since it's I Way Pee's last hash in Korea, Nut 'n Bone's birthday party, and then I'm off to the airport late Sunday morning. When I am going to fit in packing and cleaning, I have no idea!

I've set up some blogs for when I'm gone and I'll certainly try to blog from the road. I have a notorious reputation for neglecting to blog about trips - after all, it's sort of tedious to type up things you've already written in an actual journal. However, this time I commit not only to doing so, but also hopefully getting the trip to Boracay on here before the year is out.

Ciao, y'all. See ya in six weeks!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rockin' Wednesday

I went to Yongsan Electronics Market and my head didn't explode - not only did I find what I needed in about ten minutes and cheap, I got the first two seasons of Battlestar Gallactica. Granted, I can't watch them until I get back, but everyone and their sister have been telling me to watch it. I also picked up Transformers 2 - not as good as the first one, but it was kick ass. Then we won at trivia. There was even a scavanger hunt section for which I ran like a mad freak down the road to the Family Mart to buy a pack of tampons and get a receipt for it. Shawn even showed up post-quiz.

But man, do I need more sleep.

Ghosts of Vacations Past - Asia

Taipei

To Taipei or Not to Taipei

Yep!

Boracay

Thailand with Lindsay

My first time

Thailand with Sheila

I Could Get Used to Boutique Airlines

In Lamai, Beach Awaits Tomorrow

North Korea

Brief reference to the trip.

Trip Time

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stuff

Coffee - agitated, energized sheep

Seriously?

Ava - "her teachers teased her for wearing a Gore-Lieberman T-shirt or reading Dude, Where's My Country? in homeroom.
If the innovation of cable news shaped the representation of the first Gulf War, then this war is partly being defined by another new form of media, one practiced by amateur diarists and commentators.
soldiers must register their blogs
"hand up your ass, you sad meat puppet", get raped, attention whore, a pig with lipstick, ugly little bitch

feminist mormon housewives (oxy-Mormon - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich)

Movies

Back when I thought I was moving, one of my goals was to watch all the DVDs I have lying around in order to get rid of any I didn't like. I've gone through four recently. Oddly though I've been inclined lately to avoid serious, it was the two serious movies that I enjoyed.

Milk made me cry. It's a startling movie to watch - Harvey Milk fighting to win a propisition denying gay civil rights when across America, and in California in particular, the same thing has been happening again. He was shot in the year of my birth, 1978, and for all that has changed, so much of the movie reminded me of now.

Frost/Nixon I had very low expectations for. Somehow I didn't think I'd find it particularly compelling and yet it was, completely. I have to admit to being sorely lacking in any real knowledge of American history - after all, I've picked up more teaching 4th grade social studies than ever before, I think. I hadn't realised just how fascinating I would find Nixon and Watergate and when you combine that with the look into the character of Frost, well, it was really, really good. Nixon published his memoirs in 1978 - odd how that came up twice in one evening.

A few weeks back I watched Memoirs of a Geisha. I can't even recall when or where I bought it, but considering how little I'd enjoyed the book (a love story about a girl sold into an institution that involves selling her virginity is not my sort of thing) I didn't have any great hopes for the movie. The best thing about it, in fact, was the scenery; it reminded me of my trip to Kyoto. I may actually keep it in case I ever want to bring back my weekend of geisha stalking and temple touring.

Rent, well, that one too I can't recall when I bought, though I've had it for some time. All I can say is, wait for the musical itself.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Movies & Dream

Back when I thought I was moving, one of my goals was to watch all the DVDs I have lying around in order to get rid of any I didn't like. I've gone through four recently. Oddly though I've been inclined lately to avoid serious, it was the two serious movies that I enjoyed.

Milk made me cry. It's a startling movie to watch - Harvey Milk fighting to win a propisition denying gay civil rights when across America, and in California in particular, the same thing has been happening again. He was shot in the year of my birth, 1978, and for all that has changed, so much of the movie reminded me of now.

Frost/Nixon I had very low expectations for. Somehow I didn't think I'd find it particularly compelling and yet it was, completely. I have to admit to being sorely lacking in any real knowledge of American history - after all, I've picked up more teaching 4th grade social studies than ever before, I think. I hadn't realised just how fascinating I would find Nixon and Watergate and when you combine that with the look into the character of Frost, well, it was really, really good. Nixon published his memoirs in 1978 - odd how that came up twice in one evening.

A few weeks back I watched Memoirs of a Geisha. I can't even recall when or where I bought it, but considering how little I'd enjoyed the book (a love story about a girl sold into an institution that involves selling her virginity is not my sort of thing) I didn't have any great hopes for the movie. The best thing about it, in fact, was the scenery; it reminded me of my trip to Kyoto. I may actually keep it in case I ever want to bring back my weekend of geisha stalking and temple touring.

Rent, well, that one too I can't recall when I bought, though I've had it for some time. All I can say is, wait for the musical itself.

Last night I had the oddest dreams, I think inspired by Frost/Nixon. I was interviewing important people, but there were unicorns and rainbows. Then I was woken up at 6 by a text message and was about to get all arsey with whoever sent it, but it was just my phone telling me my balance. Then I slept in late and only barely had time for coffee. It's going to be an odd morning.

They May Look Cute





But they really are the bane of my existence right now.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Dollar Bill Made It Home

And I have new salt and pepper shakers.

It was an interesting weekend.

I didn't really do anything except eat and clean odd things (I really wish I had never moved that fridge...)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I Hearby Devote Myself to the Pursuit of Mad Science


Lunch Walks Among Us
I have a new hero. And a new thing I'd like to be when I grow up.

Attack of the 50-foot Cupid
Roses are red,
I play the kazoo,
Big Foot is hairy,
But much less than you.
Reading Franny K. Stein makes me want to watch old episodes of Pinky and the Brain.
Pimples are pinkish,
A clog is a shoe,
Turkeys are dumb,
And so are you.
And thanks to one of the Chapter titles, I have this stuck in my head: Love is a Battlefield.



Zombies are gray,
My toenails regrew*,
Oatmeal is lumpy,
Your family is too.
*It did, actually. Almost normal size now.

The Invisible Fran

"Butts are an imprecise science; errors occur."

Another brilliant mad science novel. I too want to own an electron microscope, a nuclear-powered brain amplifier, and a giant, flesh-eating koala.

The Fran that Time Forgot
And I thought two long middle names were bad.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rabies Shots

Are not the most fun way to spend a lunch break on a Friday.

Also, if I went to bed before midnight, why am I this tired today?

And I think I may have a slight addiction to the erotic spot-the-differences in the pictures pub game. Wacey and I did not get better at it with time, though, since we needed to order drinks in order to get the 500 won coins.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Word of the Day for Thursday, August 13, 2009

hebetude \HEB-uh-tood-; -tyood\, noun:

Mental dullness or sluggishness.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Delish!

I am remarkably good at making delicious meals out of what I find in my fridge. People still comment on the Mexican-contents-of-my-fridge dish from Shawn's hash birthday party.

Last night I was going to make a Greek salad, until I remembered that I lack both oil and onions. I did, however, have couscous and Italian dressing. So I chucked the tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese in with that and it was one of the best meals I've had in ages. And then I feel asleep before 9 pm.

I'm eating it again for lunch and it's Hump Day. Please let this week go fast.

I DON'T HAVE TO MOVE!!!!

And yes, I'm yelling about it on the Internet.

You know what this means?

I will actually have time to sleep before I leave. Not a lot of time, but anything more than 4-5 hours will be an improvement.

In other news, I bought a lot of tomatoes today. A lot.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Accidents - I've Had a Few

The Toe Saga, all collected up for your enjoyment.

Kitchen Disasters

The Toe

The Toe

The Toe

The Toe

The Toe/Foot

The Toe

The Zombie Invasion Hash

aka vaccination-on-trail hash.

Courtnie came up this weekend for Ray's on out and crashed at my place. We attempted to hit up four hashes in one weekend and would have made it if it weren't for the pancakes.

But, let's start at the beginning.



After two days of doing nothing but working (because even when I wasn't at work, I was speed reading Fellowship of the Ring and Treasure Island - thank Maude that ended yesterday), I was happy when Friday rolled around and it was the Full Moon Hash. I would have been happier had I been able to drink, but since I can't drink for three days after each vaccination and they seem to schedule the fuckers between 3-7 days apart, that's just not been possible. However, we went to the On After. No running because I didn't get off work in time - but I figure if I got the hash t-shirt, it freaking counts. Plus, I let a bunch of sweaty, smelly people hug me. And I had to fend off the lickers. Or perhaps Wacey was trying to eat my brains. You never know.



I went home before most of the crew, as I intended to actually go to YKH3 - since they run at 10 AM on a Saturday, I can't say I've been often. We managed to be late, which is rather impressive considering how near to the start point I live, but these things happen. The trail wasn't half bad - and wasn't even that steep, for all that whenever you are lost, you can generally count on whichever direction heads up being the right way - but, oh my Maude, the sweat. It was so damn hot. There were some hashers from Okinawa visiting and an On Out for Ober Beaver, so lots of fun. However the odd bit happened when the trail hit Itaewon - since it went by the International Clinic, I decided to wander in and get Rabies.



The shot, not the disease, obviously. It meant I was the SRB (Slowest Running Bastard or Be-otch), but as the girl who once got a monkey stuck in my hair, making sure I'm all vaccinated against rabies seems a bright move. I made it to the Down Down though and then after that was over, a bunch of us bused down to Songtan to run with OBH3.





And it was an awesome trail. Coming out of the Lion's Den, if there was an alleyway, we dodged down it. We climbed fences. We walked past all sorts of odd things, like the building above. We went through plenty of rice fields (and I thought I could skip the shot for Japanese encephalitis - perhaps I could reconsider, because I do spend more time in rice fields than I could ever have predicted...) In fact, at one point we followed trail around in a square - backwards! Oops. Must have been walking and chatting.





And then we hit... The Zombie Invasion Village. It was freaky. Eerie. Really, really odd. I can't quite describe the experience of a quiet, hot day, three girls, and then... that. Whatever that was. It looked at first like maybe there were just a couple of destroyed buildings as a result of a fire, but no. It went on for quite awhile and for the life of us, we couldn't come up with a good idea as to why so many things had just been left behind. In some of the houses there were still glasses in the cupboards, as if the residents all just up and walked off on day.







There were just the weirdest things we were passing by. Old stuffed animals, furniture, dead cats, wigs galore. Holes everywhere, only some covered and those not even well. It was possibly one of the coolest places I've been in Korea, actually. And so, so odd.





On this hash I learned what Constantine wire was - at the beginning, the walkers were told there was this point we could turn back, if the trail was taking too long. However, when we hit that point, we were 2 hours into the hash, in the middle of nowhere in a location that didn't look like it saw a lot of taxi traffic. We kept going and I'm glad we did - as running trails go, I can understand it would be a hard run, being so long. However, as a walking trail it was fantastic - interesting scenery and flat! That doesn't happen often at a hash.






We went an awful lot of places we possibly shouldn't have been. Traversed through a lot of farming areas, past some fairly big dogs (and I have two more shots to go before they can bite me at will), and by an air field. There was also a lot of beauty to look at.






We even exercised, in case two hashes in a day wasn't enough already. But I have to say, when the trail lead us to the subway station, I was quite pleased. It was time to get On On to the Down Down and some delicious flavoured alcohol.






That night we went back up to Evilwon. As it was Ray's On Out, there were plans afoot to go out. We danced in Soho (I had a blast, though I was basically sweaty from the time I got up to the time I went to sleep, with only perhaps about an hour post-shower when I didn't feel totally disgusting) and then went over to Bricx for a quick drink (and an intended hookah, but it didn't happen.)




Turns out, it was a Zombie themed weekend. Perhaps we can blame them for keeping us out until 5 and ruining the four-hashes-one-weekend plan, because all we did Sunday was go get pancackes at Butterfingers, nap, and have dinner at Geckos.

On On to the next weekend of hashing. If only there wasn't this damn work week to get through first.