November 28, 2008

The TreeTemple (Ta Prohm)

-A massive tree engulfing a temple wall.-

One of the most iconic temples in the Angkor area, Ta Prohm, is widely known for its dilapidated state. Left in ruins, the temple boasts monstrous trees which are slowly overrunning the now unsound structure. Although a famous site for photographers, it is more recently known as the host site for a very famous movie, Tomb Raider.

-The roof of the temple is crumbling under the weight of this giant.-

Built in 1186 A.D. this temple was constructed to pay homage to the kings family. It is recorded that at it's peak, the city Ta Prohm (also known as 'Royal City') was home to 12,500 people with 80,000 villagers living just outside it's walls. Ta Prohm was known to have incredible wealth in the form of gold, pearls and silk.

"One of the most imposing temples and the one which had best merged with the jungle, but not yet to the point of becoming a part of it."
(Maurice Glaize, Angkor Scholor)

For more information: Ta Prohm

November 16, 2008

The Many Faces of Angkor

-Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom. Cambodia.
If you look closely there are over two-hundred faces carved into the spires.-

Our second destination, and probably our favorite temple of all, was Angkor Thom (meaning Great City) inclusive of Bayon Temple. While not as well maintained as Angkor Wat and much smaller in size, this temple was built just after the world famous Angkor Wat and was a part of a much larger city covering 9 km² of which nothing remains today. Angkor Thom remained the capital city of the empire until it was abandoned in the 16th century due to an ever crumbling kingdom. A western visitor who visited the site in 1609 was recorded as stating that Angkor Thom was, "as fantastic as the Atlantis of Plato" and at that time it was believed that this uninhabited city must have been the remains of the great Roman empire.

-Exquisite carvings of the terrace surrounding the main palace.-

-Morning light shining on three of the Bayon faces.-

This magnificent temple, Bayon, is probably best known for its 200 plus stone-carved faces. All 200 of these towering face carvings are strikingly similar. It is not known who the face is to resemble, but there is speculation that it was the face of the king himself, while others believe that they might have been the faces of the kingdoms guardians.

Within the city, all roads lead to and from the temple. And, despite its relatively small size it is a most worthy focal point.

-One of twelve towers set opposite of the palace.-

-Crumbling faces.-


-Carvings from the Elephant Terrace.-

-A view of the towers and an algae covered pond as seen through a tower window.-


-The city had four gates spanning it's moat, each guarded by a bridge of faces.-

-If you look closely you might recognize this temple from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.-

November 14, 2008

Angkor Wat

-A stunning view of Angkor Wat just before a shower.-

We were excited for our visit to Angkor Wat (literally meaning, City Temple). It had always been one of those places that we'd dreamed of visiting but never actually thought that we'd see. Over our three day visit in the temple region we managed to visit Angkor Wat (the most famous temple of a vast number of temples all within the Angkor vicinity) three times. We caught glimpses of it early in the morning (5 am, well before the sun got up), during the day (through sunshine and showers) and late into the evening (when the towers were magnificently lit). We loved strolling around the massive gardens of this great wonder, admiring it's amazing bas-relief carvings and marveling at the sheer task force it must have taken to construct such a city.

-An evening shot down one of the many temple corridors.-

-Sunrise at Angkor Wat.-

A Brief Bit of Background Information

Angkor Wat was built mostly from limestone and was constructed in the 12th century during the reign of Khmer King, Suryavarman II (ruling from 1113AD until 1150AD). Its purpose was to be the state temple and the capital city of his kingdom. Angkor Wat is surrounded by a huge moat (190 metres across) which encloses the grounds of 820,000 square metres (203 acres) and the entire city/temple, inclusive of: an outer and an inner city wall, temples, libraries, ponds, not to mention a terrace, a causeway and a forests. To us it was no wonder that this site is sometimes considered the eighth wonder of the world.

-Silhouette of a temple archway.-

-Intricate engravings along a long passageway.-

"Is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of". (Portuguese monk upon visiting in 1586)

-Ancient stairs leading up to the center of Angkor Wat.-

-A rainbow after a short evening shower.-

History of Temple Use

12th century
Built as a Hindu temple by the Khmer King Suryavarman II. Later attacked by the Chams from what is now known as Vietnam.

14th-15th centuries
Converted into a Buddhist temple. The Buddhist affiliation remains to this day.

16th century
Received its first visitors from abroad.

20th century
Restoration work began on the temple to free it of the encroaching jungle and debris. Work on the temple was put to an end during the Cambodian civil war (1970's - 1980's). During this time theft was almost the only damage to speak of.

-Early morning reflections.-

-6 am-

-Waiting out the rain.-

For more information: Angkor Wat

November 12, 2008

The Cambodian Landmine Museum

-Thousands of deactivated landmines.-

Visiting the Cambodian Landmine Museum was an eye opening experience to say the least. We were shocked to learn the more recent history of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot (the fascist killing-machine of the Cambodian communist movement). So much death and tragedy is hard to comprehend.

-A display of unexploded ordnances (UXO's).-

At the museum, we also learned the story of Aki Ra, a man, once a soldier turned humanitarian in his acts to disarm landmines. He spent well over a decade laying mines in order to do the most damage to the enemy. Yet since beginning his efforts de-mining, he has cleared in excess of 50,000 mines. In 1998, he began the museum to bring awareness to the plight of the Cambodian people regarding these deadly and maiming explosives. He and his family also run a home for landmine amputee children effected by these barbaric explosions.

Aki Ra and his family have an amazing story, a great humanitarian purpose and we were pleased to have been a part of supporting this cause.

-The museum's entrance display.-

-A heap of UXO's and landmines.-

Facts Worth Noting
(according to The Times Nov30, 2004)

  • 40: People worldwide killed or maimed by landmines everyday
  • 8,065: Reported casualties caused by landmines or unexploded ordnance in 2003
  • 86: Percentage of reported casualties who were civilians
  • 23: Percentage of reported casualties who were children
  • 400,000: Survivors of mine explosions in 121 countries, the majority in Africa
  • $3: Cost to plant a landmine
  • $1000: Cost to uncover and destroy a landmine
  • 144: Countries that have ratified the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty
  • 42: Countries that have not signed the Treaty, including the US, China, Russia and most of the Middle East
  • 83: Countries affected by landmines, including 52 parties to the Treaty
  • 66: Countries have registered new mine casualties since January 2003
*Keep in mind that these statistics are out-dated. The numbers of people effected has risen drastically from this time.

-Bullet casings used by the ruthless Khmer Rouge.-

For more information and to see how CANADA supports the project, check out:

November 10, 2008

Tad Sae Waterfalls

-God's perfection.-

Trev and I had the opportunity to venture out into the jungles of Laos for a day and wade in the breathtaking Tad Sae falls. We'd never seen any place like it. The water was clean and crystal clear, not unlike our Canadian streams. But, in contrast to Canadian waters, these were warm and ideal for a mid-day dip. Locals and foreigners alike took turns showing off their flipping skills from the top of the larger falls. Little boys ran around the limestone structures with careless abandonment, pushing each other over the edge and into the refreshing waters. Undeniably, Tad Sae falls were one of our favorite experiences during this trip.

-Trev crossing a make-shift bridge over the Tad Sae falls.-

-A local boys' idea of a good afternoon.-

-Locals swimming in the brilliantly refreshing Tad Sae falls.-

So Many Monks

-Early morning scene.-

A timeless wonder of Luang Prabang occurred every morning. Long before many of the tourists rolled from their beds, the monks of Luang Prabang rose to begin their day. They start off before sun-rise, walking the streets to gather food from the locals. This food would be their rations for the coming day. We were dumb-struck as we witnessed hundreds of robed monks stream from every temple in sight to greet the locals on main street. The locals in return, would wait on mats by the road, baskets of food in hand waiting to earn their Karma for the day. While we might not uphold or agree with the Buddhist religion, we were touched by this time-worn tradition.

-Young monks collecting sticky rice for their days rations.-

-Many, many monks walked the streets gathering food for the day and providing citizens with good luck in return.-

November 9, 2008

A Glimpse of Luang Prabang, Laos

-A monk shielding himself from the hot mid-day sun.-

Up until recently, Luang Prabang and for that matter, all of Laos was an extremely secluded country. Land locked and poverty stricken, not many people ventured in and virtually no one ventured out. It was not that long ago that their waterways (mainly the Mekong) were their only mode of transportation. Yet, everyday it is becoming more and more open to the outside world, for better or for worse.

We found Luang Prabang, Laos' second largest city, to be a quiet, somewhat sleepy town. From before sunrise until late into the night, the residents go about their business, often stopping to chat in the streets and smile at the children playing in the trees. No one is in a hurry, everyone exuding a laid-back welcoming feel. And, a glimpse down any street at any given time will afford the sight of myriads of brightly robed monks (much to our picture taking delight).

-Main street. A laid-back menagerie of glowing shops.-

At night, the streets were aglow with delicious French/Laotian inspired cafes. Once a colony of France, it's still easy to make our their occupation in a few elements of the ancient city, the architecture and the food in particular. And, it was because of the French that the bakery's were so divine.

-The local menu.-

-The local food was great. The cooking methods... questionable.-

-A wonderfully friendly lady selling paintings at the night market.-

The night market was also a sight for sore eyes. While traveling Asia, people quickly learn that all markets, in all countries hawk the same 'cultural' relics. Laos was the one exception. Every stall boasted seeming handmade items, each differing from the next and each unique to Laos.

-We spent most of our days strolling the streets discovering the splendors of this ancient jungle town.-

-Local sculptor.-

As you stroll the streets , it is not uncommon to stumble upon local artisans. This man, like many others that we stopped to admire, was extremely skilled with his hands. We enjoyed watching him whittle and craft his sculptures.

-Buddhism is the main religion in Laos. And as such, you see a lot of these guys around.-

-A kind lady sewing skirts for the evening market.-

-A breathtaking sunset as seen from the temple on the peak of the mountain in the center of downtown.-