Monday, August 29, 2011

Biking Cambodia: Once we crossed the border into Cambodia the difference was immediately apparent. Cambodia is not a rich country, however the people are friendly and working hard to rebuild it and their lives still so many years after the civil war. There are not a lot of roads. The major ones are super busy and not pleasant to bike. So, we put the bikes on a truck and headed for Siem Reap. From there we spent three days doing day trips out to Angkor and the temple complex which is spread over a large geographic area. Shortest trip was 35 km and the longest day was about 80kms. I won't go much into Angkor. Suggest you read up about it in Wikipedia if you are interested. I started to take an interest in the homes and how they were built and evolved as people got more money. The next four photos show that the style remains the same but the material changes.

With more money, the bottom part is filled in with concrete to create an enclosed space. I don't like is as well as the one below.

Open space underneath is used for living, repairing machinery, livestock and even sleeping during the very hot days.
More money means wood sides and tin roof
Small house on stilts made of reeds.

Angkor Wat the temple itself within a larger complex. At one time this area was a city of 1 million people. All the wooden structures are gone. The stone temples, no one lived in, just the gods. Note a little scaffolding to fix the gods' house.

Ta Prohm temple also known as the Angelina Jolie temple because she made "Tomb Raider" here and it shot this somewhat insignificant site to star status. What would we do without her? The Cambodians love her. $$$

Carvings of well known Hindu-Buddhist heavenly beings - devatas or apsaras: heavenly maiden. These are amazing carvings and appear all over the temples. Note the fabric covering their legs appears transparent. These guys knew what they were doing.
Modern day Apsaras for the touristas. And there were a lot of us!!

Banteay Srei is a 10th century temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Carvings are absolutely wonderful. Widely praised as a "precious gem", or the "jewel of Khmer art

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei carving

Our guide in Cambodia was Sam and he was disgusted with how I tied  my sarong. So he gave me a lesson and then posed for the camera. I wore it over my biking shorts because people are asked to not show their knees or shoulders while in the temples. I guess the woman behind Sam did not get the memo.

Another temple - there were many.

We left the Angkor region and headed to Phnom Penh. The city takes its name from the present Wat Phnom. 

On the way to PP we visited a bug market. These are beetles all ready to be eaten.

The market specialized in fried spiders. They are large tarantula size guys.

Okay, I tried one, but just the legs. Couldn't do the abdomen although others told me it was okay. "Tastes like chicken."

Just a nice scene

Moonlight Pavilion in Phnom Penh. Dancing would take place by the royal court dancers during full moon.

Part of the Royal Palace complex in PP

A bit out of order photo wise and also out of town a ways. This is the infamous "Killing Fields". As you walk around you can find bone fragments and pieces of clothing that make their way to the ground surface. Very sad.

Skulls from the Cambodian genocide

Okay, I went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide museum in Phnom Penh. See the photo below. It was a high school. But Pol Pot and his crew made it into a prison named S21. Approximately 17,000 people died here or were taken to the killing fields and killed. When the Vietnamese moved into PP they found 14 bodies remaining in S21. Each body was in a room. They took a photograph of each tortured person and it's on the wall along with the iron bed the body was chained to and some of the torture instruments.  I took this one photo but after that I could take no more. It was too upsetting. The photos of the people and the rest of the museum were a grim reminder of how evil is still with us.

A lovely Buddhist nun at Angkor Wat

This photo sort of sums it up for me. Cambodia - Buddhism and land mine victim.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Biking in Thailand is hot, steamy, sticky and dirty. I love applying sunscreen when I am caked in dirt and sweat! We travel major roads, side roads (mostly) and mud trails that with the rain turn into a soupy mess. It rains a bit every day because it is the rainy season. I like the rain because it cools things a bit. The paved roads are excellent - better than Toronto's roads. We ride anywhere from 35km to 90km a day. The photos below are not in order as I have no patience to figure out how to put them chronologically. However you will get a sense of how the trip is going.
Interesting name for a hotel. Aranyaprathet, Thailand. 6km from Cambodia border. 

Crossing into Cambodia with fellow biker Lily

First day of biking. Start 8:30a.m. raining and hot. Fun! We started two hours north of Bangkok in a national park.

The group either first or second day of biking.

Beautiful spirit house beside tree that has orchids growing on it. While most Thai's are Buddhists they also follow the old way and maintain animism which is the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle. Spirit houses are places outside their homes.

Stephanie feeding baby elephant at market in Sa Kaeo, Thailand

Our tour leader, Al, who doubles as a cook at lunch. Stopped at small eating place, side of road one day in Thailand. We have had great food all along the trip. Love it!

Beautiful new Buddhist temple on one of our rest stops. Temples appear all over the landscape simlar to our churches across Ontario.

Thai's love their dogs. There are a lot of strays too unfortunately. Thai's also love their pick up trucks and just about everyone in the family travels in the back. Not surprising to see 10 - 20 people in the back - kids, parents, grandparents, pets.

Our support truck. It would carry the bike if we wanted to stop and take a rest and ride in van. It also carried snacks, water, tools to fix bikes and it was our mobile laundry line. We'd do hand washing at night which would not dry due to humidity so we'd hang in truck during the day.

Another truck image which I can't delete for some reason.

Somewhat typical Thai house. On stilts (rainy season brings flooding) spirit house out front.
There are lots of tree plantations and rice paddies along our course.  

Saturday, August 13, 2011

India Trekker is off to Indochina! Starting August 14, 2011 I'm going to bicycle with a group of nine folks from Bangkok, through Thailand, into Cambodia, see Angkor and Phnom Penh and then in to Vietnam, the Mekong Delta and end up in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon). It's about 500kms of cycling and I think it's hot and steamy there this time of year. I'm keeping my fingers crossed I make it. Will have to drink lots and lots of water!