BEHIND THE MARKET

On a dusty road, on a small mountain in Cambodia, a family tends their market. The children looking on.

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When we drove back a few hours later they were gone. Their village was a few hundred meters into the jungle. Perhaps off to enjoy the afternoon like these children.

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A simpler life.

PHNOM KULEN, A LONG DRIVE

While in Siem Reap we decided to head to the mountain region of Phnom Kulen – a drive that we thought would take 90 minutes turned into 3 hours each way.

Pot holed roads, a lack of infrastructure coupled with a heavy rain the night before meant 20km/hr top speed. A long drive. As we clawed our way up the mountain we came across this small stand filled with bananas. I have never seen a red banana before? (Config: Canon 5D Mark III with 28-70mm f/2.8)

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A small bicycle shop.

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As you wind your way up the mountain (asking yourself, will it ever end?), you occasionally peak out on the countryside.

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The reason why you travel to the top of this mountain is for the waterfall and these runes. Thousands, carved into the river bank as a tribute to their gods and royalty.

The site is known for its carvings representing fertility and its waters which hold special significance to Hindus. Just 5 cm under the water’s surface over 1000 small carvings are etched into the sandstone riverbed. The waters are regarded as holy, given that Jayavarman II chose to bathe in the river, and had the river diverted so that the stone bed could be carved. Carvings include a stone representation of the Hindu god Vishnu lying on his serpent Ananta, with his wife Lakshmi at his feet.[6] A lotus flower protrudes from his navel bearing the god Brahma.

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Harder to see due to the higher water level.

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Just past the runes is a temple with a large reclining Buddha. As you would expect there is a market selling worshipers (and tourists) flowers and other items. It also appears to be the central market for the village.

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There was nothing to explain why the Buddha at Preah Ang Thom is reclining. Carved out of rock and painted gold, it is massive.

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At the temples I understand the incense, but I need to research the symbolism of the lotus flower petals in the water.

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Last shot from the mountain .. the waterfall.

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Which is a rather treacherous climb to get to.

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Another interesting stop.

BAYON TEMPLE, CAMBODIA

One last temple in Cambodia to finish out the “big 3” of Siem Reap – Bayon, or the temple with 4 faces.

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The Bayon’s most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and massive stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak.[2] The temple is known also for two impressive sets ofbas-reliefs, which present an unusual combination of mythological, historical, and mundane scenes. The current main conservatory body, the Japanese Government Team for the Safeguarding of Angkor (the JSA) has described the temple as "the most striking expression of the baroque style" of Khmer architecture, as contrasted with the classical style ofAngkor Wat.[3]

A few shots from around the temple. The faces of Buddha faced each direction on every tower.

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As with the other temples the walls were adorned with depictions of battles, gods and life.2013 11 24 Bayon Temple_-26

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An offering at the end of the hall.

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So ends out time in Siem Reap. In retrospect I think the guide had it right, if you hit the 3 temples (Angkor, Bayon and Tah Prohm) you get a diverse view of the Cambodian culture.

Great experience.

SARAY COLLECTIVE, CAMBODIA

Our destination was a women’s collective that dries water hyacinths and weaves them into mats and other products. You can read more about the Saray collective here and how their efforts are employing 30 local women.

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We had lunch at their local restaurant and spent time with the women, learning to weave. They are very fast.

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What I did not know is that the water hyacinth is highly invasive and quite a problem … once I learned that I started to look around and notice, it was everywhere.

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After lunch and the weaving we headed out on canoes to visit around the village. Our first stop was where they process the fish. It was amazing to see – they all worked in a cadence, the pounding of knives as they cut the fish.

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The fish on the way for processing.

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As we pulled into the next stop this little fellow was happy. As soon as he saw the nurses waiting to give him his vaccine (an ambush), his demeanor changed considerably. It took a few of the women to get him to the nurses.

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After a few more stops around the village we jumped back in the boat and headed home, with one last visit. Our boat captain stopped off at a home (family, friends or a business partner) to pick up a few 5 gallon drums of processed fish. We were greeted by the family dog (what is it like to be a dog who lives in a floating house?)

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They processed the fish so fast. 3 knife strokes per fish.

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Fish loaded, we pulled away – the day complete.

A very different, insightful and educational experience. If you are in Siem Reap, highly recommended. Thanks for dropping by.

THE TRIP TO A FLOATING VILLAGE, CAMBODIA

Our second day in Siem Reap involved a tour with Osmose eco-tours to a floating village. I love doing eco-tours, and this one is about seeing how the lake feeds an ecosystem of plants, animals and people.

The trip began on a boat like this.

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Our captain.

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The village where we launched was filled with motorbikes, loaded with fish from the mornings catch.

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Bagged for transportation. The fish were so small – not sure how they skin them or are they eaten whole?

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The boat had a very loud engine .. that made big waves.

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As we took the 90 minute ride to the village, we saw many other boaters traveling the lake-ways.

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Off in the distance, a fisherman setting his nets (the pictures are darker as I had the wrong filter with me – it was that bright out)

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And a few eco-companions on the way.

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We stopped near a large tree where the guide explained that the tree was 15-17m high with almost 10m of the tree currently under water. The water levels on the lake go up and down by 10m during the seasons. In the tree, we noticed a brightly colored snake having a sleep .. red means poisonous.

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He never did peak his head out.

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Traveling along the water the boat slowed as we entered the first of many floating villages.

Amazing to think that these homes move around with the water level .. and that they all have cell phone reception.

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The village’s floating school.

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Beside a few floating homes.

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With the fishermen/women working on the day’s catch.

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The boat picked up speed as we headed to the next village.

THE WAR MUSEUM, SIEM REAP

(Updated as I accidentally merged two posts)

I am so glad we visited this site. It would have been a huge miss had we not.

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I am a big fan of TripAdvisor as it helps you understand what is really available in a city or country – especially if you want to get a little bit off the beaten path. Reading the reviews there were more than a few people who said this is a must see, filled with old Russian and a few American remnants from a terrible period in Cambodia’s history.

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Everything is open to explore. Feel free to climb on, in and around them to see these decades old remnants.

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Our guide was a war veteran and his tale is heartbreaking – and worth telling here for others to read.

If you have read about Pol Pot and the Khmer reign of terror you will know that millions died. Pol Pot killed anyone with an education and engaged in a mad scheme to return Cambodia to an agrarian lifestyle with the goal of eliminating Cambodia’s dependence on foreign powers who had occupied, pillaged and generally mistreated the country. Entire cities like Siem Reap were emptied and the men were rounded up to serve in the army.

He was such a target. At 14 he was supposed to be taken away to join. His family hid him to keep him from the Khmer army. At a check point he was asked if he was a boy or a girl and he accidentally answered boy. His father, knowing he was caught, began yelling at him for blurting out the wrong thing as the Khmer commander was notified.

His father begged to let his son stay as he was too young which infuriated the ruthless commander. In moments, they shot his father and then shot his mother and two sisters as they tried to collect the fathers body. A few others from their village were also killed when they engaged in the dispute.

At 14 he was taken by the Khmer, just not fathomable. He spent years on the front, escaped into Vietnam and then returned to Cambodia only to step on a land mine and lose his leg.

Abandoned to fend for himself, he was an outcast until an Australian came along and rescued him. They flew him out of the country, got him prosthetics and helped him mentally recover. But as he said, how do you ever recover? Listening to his story, it was just so unfathomable and during the Pol Pot, Khmer reign of terror a sadly common story. No one was left unaffected.

Hearing it first hand is shocking.

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Just hearing that story made the trip to this museum a must see.

Along the wall there are several buildings that house hundreds of weapons, that you can handle. Fascinating to pick up an RPG.

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I cannot recommend it enough – a must see.