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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Amazing trip to Cambodia

Cambodia was amazing i loved every second i spent there . The people , the places , the food everything was just great .We went there with a tour group and i thought gone lah its gonna be a tourist trap . They will only bring us to expensive souvenir shops and crappy places .However it was money well spent they did take us to many good places , stayed at a great hotel , got good tour guides and ate good food ... but of course they did bring us to expensive souvenir shops, after all it was a tour group :) I went trigger happy there armed with my ancient Olympus 4 mega pixel camera , kept on taking so many pictures that i had to burn them into a CD at the hotel , because my memory card was full .What to do , wanted to bring back as much of Cambodia home as i could. So i'll let the pictures do the talking :

1st Day : Arrived at Phnom Penh

Yes i was so happy to leave i had to take an obligatory aerial shot from my window

The streets of Phnom Penh . The shops were narrow and tall, and were clustered all around the street

First place they brought us ? To this long line of fruit stalls . LoL. All the fruits are the same as the ones in Malaysia and furthermore since we were tourist we had to pay everything in USD so RM45 for 1 Kg of Mangosteen. No thank you.

At the place we were having dinner they were also holding a wedding . The Bride looked so pretty i had to take a picture of her.

She called me and posed with her husband for me to take a shot. Talk about being colour coordinated ey . I never thought i'd live to see such a bright colour of pink .

After we finished our dinner and came out we saw the happy couple had a wardrobe change . Even the brides mates and grooms changed their clothes from pink to blue to match the couple. And here i was thinking Indian weddings were the most colourful , The Cambodian ones beats them hands down.

I couldn't sleep so i took shots of the city's nightlife from my Balcony

2nd Day : Phnom Penh City Tour

when night turns to day

First stop the Royal Palace . Which of course is where the Cambodian royals live . Tho unfortunately i didn't see any of them around . Oh but before that you should see pictures of the Cambodian royals :

Behold : His Majesty, King Norodom Sihamoni of the Kingdom of Cambodia . Fine i forgot his name and Googled him . He's 54 years old and still not married . Not bad looking ey , however my tour guide said its a known fact that he's gay . Oh well ...

And his parents umm... King and Queen something something. The mum really reminds me of Queen Elizabeth in her younger days , apparently she is part French . You can see pictures of the royals Everywhere ! from in front to the inside of buildings .

The Royal Palace

Few of the many buildings in the palace grounds . Wanted so save memory space for more picture so i didn't take them all anyways after a while they all start to look the same .

In Cambodia they cremate the people once they die and that is the place where they keep the ashes of their royal ancestors . Talk about having a huge urn !

Of course there were cheesy displays . These dolls are using the traditional Cambodian costume . It actually represents the colours used for each day . Yeah Red is Ms. Monday and it goes all the way to purple whose Ms Sunday. Go figure .

They said if you take the holy water from the basin and rub it on your hair your will become smart and successful . Thats my sister doing it . Trust me when it came to my turn i practically washed my hair with it . Hey no harm trying right :)
there were Buddha statues everywhereno kidding

I spotted these colourful Buddhas at a gift shop window

Fortune telling session

ictures of the current king's father i took from a photo display. He was 18 when he was first crowned king.

Decoration on one of the palace gates

We climbed a hill where there was a powerful shrine built for Buddha. It was nice to sit and pray there . Since Hinduism is so closely connected to Buddhism we to often pray to Buddha .

Local children Having lunch . Its really sad to hear them beg , you can see babies covered with bruises and welts as the parents pinch them when someone approaches hoping their tears would bring sympathy and money

From the city we traveled to the countryside to see the Killing Fields . The Building is a stupa in it is filled with the skulls of the victims who were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime . Around 20,000 people died during the Khmer Rouge genocide, their leader was this guy called Pol Pot people say he's worst then Hitler.
The shelves go all the way to the top of the building and their all jam packed with skulls. It was a somber atmosphere , from a distance you can here monks praying while visitors offer their silent prayer to the victims . We bought some flowers and incense to give as offering .

It was a sobering experience looking at how one crazy man can cause so much distruction

We walked around the stupa , at the fields where they found the skulls and places were the Khmer Rouge torchered people. As you can see from the sign even the children weren't spared.

One of the many mass grave sites found in the fields . The marker says "Mass grave of 166 people which most of them were found headless"

We traveled back to the city and went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum . In the beginning it was a High School however during the Khmer Rouge regime they converted it to a prison where they detained and tortured thousands of people. In 1980 after the fall of the Khmer regime they turned this building into a museum to educate people on the horrors that occurred during their countries bleakest period
The room where they detained High officials and other important people. The were chained to the bed and only given a bucket to relive themselves. As part of their torture method the guards sometimes refused to give them food for weeks thus forcing them to eat their own shit .
This is the mass prison cells where regular prisoners were kept , as you can see from the 2nd picture each cell is so small it looks like a coffin. The prisoners who didn't follow orders were whipped or electrocuted but if their punishment was death then they were sent to the Killing Fields
The building where the pictures of the detainees are kept. The sign shows a boy smiling and a huge X his face. They have this sign all around the museum , as a sign of respect you not supposed to laugh or joke round in the place.
Pictures of victims. The women in the picture was a ministers wife. They drill a hole into the skull to hold the head in place when taking pictures. The Khmer were meticulous when it came to documenting, when a prisoner came in they would take their picture and document their details . Why ? so that they could go after their family members.
A painting drawn by one of the survivors of what they witnessed

Silent corridors and barbed wires . This building has seen a lot , walking through the museum and listening to the crimes committed by these monsters , i could only give a silent prayer to the victims and thank god that the Khmer Rogue regime was over for good.

Next stop Shopping at Central Market. That place is crazy its huge and jammed packed with stalls. I saw many pretty trinkets i wanted but since they want everything in dollars converting it to RM it didn't seem worth it. But thanks to good bargaining skills we did buy the things we liked :)

We have our Tugu Negara , Cambodia has its Victory Monument was built to commemorate the countries independenceAfter dinner we visited Naga Resorts which is supposed to be Cambodia's biggest international casino, didn't look too great. Since i've never gambled at a Casino before i decided to play the Jackpot game, it was pretty stupid all i did was press one button but hey i actually won 25 dollars and few rial. I told my mum " Hey see i won ! Next stop Genting la " She whacked my head . I guess not .....

3rd Day : Siam Reap

he next morning we traveled by coach to Siam Reap . It was a 6 hour ride and the scenery ? rice fields ... rice fields and more rice fields .

Half way through our bus ride we stopped for a bit , to go toilet and to buy some food . I was glad cause i was getting hungry .... until
Everyone meet the Cricket Lady
Who obviously sells ..... Crickets

So i look at the next hawker and see what she has to offer ,

" Missss you want fried tarantula ? misss only one dolla !!! "

Just . My . Luck .

All of a sudden i wasn't feeling too hungry .

We reached Siam Reap for Lunch and they said the main highlight of the lunch was the crocodile soup . Oh Joy .

Every show i watched on Animal Planet kept replaying in my mind . In the end i didn't eat it , and so did most of my other tour mates . PETA and WWF must be so proud of us .

They brought us to a handicraft center called . Les Artisan D'Angkor . We saw the handicraft making process :
Silk screen painting.

Covering the wooden statues , not with gold but with bronze paper
The stone and wood sculptures hard at work

Sign language in Cambodian on the wall of the workrooms .
But what i like about this place is that they bring people from villages as apprentice to learn the craft and most of the people whom they take are handicapped.

Well obviously after the tour we were brought to their gift shop . So while the others were shopping i was wondering around . A sculpture in the garden caught my eye :

Well talk about Modern art. Pfft....all these public displays of affections . Get a room already ...

Later we went to the Tonle Sap river to see the floating village . That area was the slums of Cambodia . Beside the lake the people had built squater houses . There i saw poverty which truly shocked me to the core . Seeing their houses at night only litted by a single candle . Every house with a single room , built with leaves and wood that looked like it could be blown away by a gust of wind . Children running around naked even some older children because they dont have enough money to buy clothes .

As you get down the bus their voice haunts you begging for money .... No words can really describe how i felt and what i saw that day .

On the boat bringing us around Tonle Sap

Some of the many floating housesAs our boat reached the middle of the lake we spotted something coming from a distance,

We saw this girl coming towards our boat in this tiny wash basin and a paddle . She had no legs and came to beg for money

Before we knew it they all came rushing to our boat in their rickety boats and basins . Each one out doing each other so that they would be the one to get the money

This girl brought her snake with her and people lost their attention on the girl in the basin and started giving money to her . I gave money to them too not because of their basins or snakes but because i couldn't stand to look at them like that . I was so disgusted when i heard one man say " No No why should i give you money you don't have a snake" . To see these children being treated like circus performers by everyone . Yet they laugh and smile when they receive money and plead and beg when they don't. To them its all in a days work . Before i realized i felt the tears rolling down my face, thinking of their fate .. their future . When our boat left them with a wave and a smile they bid us goodbye , paddling off to the next tourist boat .

We stopped at a viewing deck to get a whole view of the floating village and to watch the sunset

During dinner we watched the famous Apsara Dancers perform ,

4th Day : Visiting Angkor Wat dan lain-lain lagi

weather in Cambodia was burning hot , roads dusty , sweat was dripping like a bloody waterfall , constantly feeling thirsty . But when i reached those ancient temples ..... it was all worth it :)

The ever famous Angkor Wat .I was actually stalking that horse so it would be in my picture when i took it
In Siam Reap all the buildings around town are short , apparently its a law that as a sign of respect all buildings built must not be above Angkor Wat. The tallest hotel has only 4 floors.

One of the lions guarding the temple . As you can see its headless , since these temple dates back all the way to the 12th century some of the artifacts and buildings were either looted or destroyed.

Buildings surrounding the main temple.
My parents :) taken after my mum asked me to stop taking so many pictures of buildings and start taking pictures of THEM .Exploring inside the main temple

Beautiful carvings on the wall of an Apsara Dancer. These carvings can be found on all of the temple walls

The carvings on this wall tells the story of the Hindu tale Ramayana
I zoomed onto some of the carvings on the wall , These are the Hindu gods involved in the Ramayana story

This is actually a really tiny carving of Buddha , compared to the huge Buddha statues they have around . But someone left a pretty flower in front of it

On the top floor of Angkor Wat. Since their having restoration for the temple, some parts of the temple were closed especially the highest points. The steps are so steep that you have to practically crawl up

My sister , trying to blend in with the Apsara dancers . Failed attempt. Now my mother trying to look like an Apsara dancer, my evil sister ruining her pose, and my father laughing at them. 2nd Failed Attempt.No i'd rather not try to look like an Apsara dancer . I'm more then happy with my touristy shots

A fruit seller near Angkor , isn't the little boy adorable

So after 4 hours we left Angkor Wat and proceeded to the next temple :

The South Gate of Angkor Thom. Entering the gateway was like discovering a lost civilization

The grounds were covered with ruins of temples and artifacts what were being restored

This is the ancient Royal Temple , attempting to be adventurous we climbed the old stairs to the very top
The top level was pretty deserted

We reached Bayon Temple. This picture gives no justice to it tho , its very beautiful and majestic when you see it in person. This temple is famous for its carving of the many faces of Buddha on its towers. Each face of Buddha has different facial expressions.

This is my favourite expression because you can really see him grinning
The many faces of Buddha

A view of the temple walls from the window

A group of Blind musicians playing traditional Cambodian instruments. Their songs are really haunting, echoing through the temple grounds

The Taprohm temple. This temple originally was partially underground and only after a French explorer traced it through history books it was excavated. Its situated deeper in the jungle as compared to the other temples. The main feature of this temple is that is is covered with huge tree roots and has a beautiful green colour because of the moss covering it. The movie Tomb Raiders was shot here.

Around the temple

Inside the temple where you can see the roots of a single tree growing above the temple. Because i'm fussy about not having tourist walking around in my pictures, i have to wait till forever for everybody to leave before taking a picture and then i run for dear life to catch up with the group. Well thats what you get when you go on group tour i guess...

Another tree with its roots covering the other side of the temple

This tree is called the Pearl tree. Once again i dont think this picture does it justice , the tree looks amazing the trunk of the tree has a pearly glow to it. Its so pretty and looks like its made of pearl

Carvings on the wall

Next, we climed up Bakheng Hill to watch the sunset

Bakheng Temple situated right on top of the hill. If you click on the picture to zoom it you can see hundreds of people on top all waiting for the sun to set

A bunch of us from the group who climed all the way up

Me and Irna holding the sun in our hands while the sun set . We both were actually laughing like crazy because the guy taking the picture kept on asking us to took at each other while he took the picture.

The sunset was really beautiful , for one moment everyone watching fell silent and when it was over everyone there started clapping.

After dinner we decided to go to the Nigh Market to buy some last minute gifts for home

So we traveled by Tuk Tuk, I love traveling by it . There's just something special about whizzing through the roads , nearly falling off, with the wind in your face and chocking on dust. Ah the memories...

Everything was so dam colourful i wanted to buy everything

Flying Cambodian Ghost

Sigh Embarrassing Moment Number 32459830499578 :

You see our tour guide had thought us some basic words in Cambodian ,

  • Chok Plai was discount
  • Suesdai was Hello
  • O Kun was Thank You
  • Bon Kun was Toilet
So i was at a stall buying something .Well of course i wanted to impress her with my 'extensive' knowledge of Cambodian by saying thank you in the local language . So when she passed me my stuff :

I smiled and proudly said BON KUN

She gave me a strange look

And i grinned even wider saying BON KUN , BON KUN. Bye Bye !!

Sigh only when i got back to the hotel i realized i shouted TOILET ! TOILET! at the poor woman . Dam language how could they make Toilet and Thank You sound so similar .

5th Day : Balik

h name only 5 days , con us only. We left Cambodia on the morning Flight back to Malaysia.

I really loved the country and will definitely be going back there again .There is still so much to see especially in Siam Reap , there are over 20 temples there and i'll be going back to visit every one of them :) The history of Cambodia is so rich , walking through the temples its like going back in time. A country that has over 2 million tourist coming a year and its economy lying only on the tourism industry , for the future of Cambodia i hope these temples will be restored and kept well.

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Saint Augustine quotes (Ancient Roman Christian Theologian and Bishop of Hippo from 396 to 430. One of the Latin Fathers of the Church. 354-430)


mell said...

holy moly
damn lot of photos right?
u turning into me la mal!
snap snap snap all day!
but gorgeous, nevertheless!
my aunt's going to cambodia too, she won't take such photos la hehehe

$uki3 said...

Hahahahahaha Bon Kun Bon Kun!! =)

I miss u Mal!!! Hopefully I'll be back in May... =) *fingers crossed* so we can meet up and gossip in Starbucks!! =p

Lex said...


I am Lex Tan. I was in your tour group. Finally got round to looking at your blog. I like your ideas when it comes to the photos. I think you have a good eye and sense for journalism. Very well-documented and informative.

We'll catch up next time. Good luck with your studies.

Sun Zhongmou said...

Also check out my pics on my blog. It's still a work in progress. Oh, dun read the earlier stuffs. Nothing worth reading. A bunch of garbage and rambling.


MaL said...

Mel : Ahahaha :) I hope ur aunt has a good time there. Its been a while ! Hope we can meet u soon ya !

Sukie : I miss you too and a Starbucks gossip session sounds great . Cant wait till u get back :)

Lex : Thanks for the kind words . Glad you blog too its a good way to keep in touch . All the best for 2008 and i'm looking forward to see more of your beautiful pictures !!