Bangkok, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Cambodia

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April 9th 2014
Published: April 16th 2014
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My FatherMy FatherMy Father

He lived very well, and he passed away peacefully and contently at the age of 96. He spent Friday night sleeping with his wife, Saturday night in the hospital and slipped away Sunday evening.
March 26th Linda and Pon arrived in Bangkok at 11:30PM, found Maurice about an hour later and finally located Joanne. Joanne, Linda's cousin from Saskatoon was joining us for our Bangkok Cambodia experience, spending a few more days traveling with Rennie, and then coming on to Taiwan to visit us for a week. She was calling this her South East Asian Adventure. The four of us took a cab to the Shangri-La Hotel and checked in. We finally got to bed around 3AM.

Next morning, Linda went to register for the EARCOS (East Asia Region Conference of Schools) conference at 7:30 AM, and then was joined by Maurice and Joanne for breakfast. Linda headed to hear the keynote speaker and then attended sessions the rest of the day and Pon left for Phuket. Maurice and Joanne were left to enjoy the surroundings in spite of jet-lag. Maurice was sick...very sick with a bad cold and cough. It had been a frantic 10 days leading up to Bangkok.

My father passed away on Sunday evening, March 16 in North Battleford at the age of 96. He passed away peacefully after spending only 1 night in the hospital. I was able
The Shangri-La Resort Hotel, BangkokThe Shangri-La Resort Hotel, BangkokThe Shangri-La Resort Hotel, Bangkok

1200 teachers were attending the EARCOS at the luxurious Shangri-La. That gives you an idea of the size of the resort.
to leave for Saskatchewan within 8 hours of hearing the news and arrived in Saskatoon Tuesday evening after a 37 hour journey. We held prayers for him Thursday evening, and the funeral was Friday morning. We enjoyed a wonderful family gathering with many of our cousins coming from far and wide to be with us. As Dad would have wished, we rented 14 hotel rooms adjacent to one another in the Tropical Inn, and visited till the wee hours of the morning. Even Mom's dementia seemed to improve during the week, when I arrived, she remembered me and called me by name for the first time in 2 years. We were able to deal with all the accounting and legalities involved by the following Monday afternoon, and early Tuesday morning, I was back on a plane headed for Bangkok.

The Shangri-La is an incredibly beautiful hotel with a gorgeous pool located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Linda attended workshops, and was joined at mealtimes by Maurice and Joanne. Joanne went exploring with Les Kuiken and another non-teaching spouse who was caring for two children at the Shangri-La while Maurice laid low. Maurice met up with Junior
Les and MauriceLes and MauriceLes and Maurice

Les and Maurice hang out quite a bit together, both our wives are named Linda and both teach at KAS. They were both attending EARCOS.
whose wife Yenni was also attending the conference. Maurice and Junior checked out the local area, and made plans for the evenings. We attended the Siam Niramit show, a beautiful dinner theater depicting traditional Thailand. It was a HOT 36 degrees! Linda closed out the conference on Saturday afternoon and we then moved to Khao San Road, our favorite hangout in Bangkok. Interestingly, we found the atmosphere to be quite different this year compared to last year, and we think perhaps the civil unrest in Thailand had something to do with that. Khao San Road is located near the city center and the government buildings. Last year it seemed a very hectic and even festive locale, but now was much more somber, and even depressing. The next street over was full of massage parlors, tiny shops and exquisite little street cafes shaded by trees and breezes and landed up being a wonderful spot to spend time in.

On Sunday afternoon, Rennie Martin, a Canadian lady whom we met while we were living in Mexico City, arrived from Switzerland, where she is now teaching at an all girls boarding school. Quite a change for Rennie, going from high school Biology
Just off Khao San RoadJust off Khao San RoadJust off Khao San Road

Trees, shade, street restaurants, massages, shopping, this quaint quiet street had it all and was where we spent out time!
in a 2500 student Mexican school to what was previously the Montreaux Finishing School for wealthy young ladies. Anyway, Rennie joined us, and the 4 as of us rested and readied to catch our flight on Monday to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

We arrived in Siem Reap, walked across the scorching hot tarmac, and entered Immigration. After having worried about not having passport photos, we each paid a 1 dollar penalty and walked through. It turned out to be a lot cheaper and simpler than trying to get a passport photo before traveling. We were greeted at the airport by Phallin, who was to be our guide for our 5 day stay in SR. Our hotel, the Somadevi Angkor resort turned out to be gorgeous and luxurious. We settled in and headed for the pool. The weather was hot. 40 degrees and the pool felt wonderful but we couldn't sit in the sun, it was that HOT! After a shower and a nap we headed out to wander the streets. We found Pub Street as well as the Night Market which are pretty much where we spent our down time. Any time we ventured from the hotel, tuk-tuk drivers would
Dang Derm HotelDang Derm HotelDang Derm Hotel

Once the conference was over, we moved to our favorite Bangkok location and awaited Rennie's arrival on Sunday.
converge on us with offers for rides, however, seeing as how the Cambodian food is so delicious, we felt that we should walk rather than ride! The reason we were visiting Cambodia was because Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 kms, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations.

So the next morning, Day 2 Phallin and our driver picked us up at 8AM and we headed out of town to visit Angkor Thom, Bayon, Baphoun and the Elephant Terrace, then on to Tam Prohm (Tomb Raider movie taken there) and finally the most famous, Angkor Wat. Luckily, Phallin supplied us with bottled water and wipes every time we came back to the van. It was amazing how much water we drank throughout the day. When we returned to the hotel, we showered with clothes on because they are soaking wet anyway and it was the easiest way to clean them. We
Siem Reap AirportSiem Reap AirportSiem Reap Airport

We were told we should have a passport photo to get our visa to enter Cambodia, turned out we just paid a $1 fine. Cheaper than getting a photo.
then hung them to dry on the balcony and because it was so hot, only a few hours during the late afternoon was enough to dry them.

The third day, we were taken to Ta Som and East Mebon ( twin temple surrounded by a reservoir ). Phallin would take us for another delicious lunch (green mango salad just one of the dishes we enjoyed) at a local restaurant. After dinner, we drove to Tonle Sap Lake, the largest lake in all of East Asia. We boarded a rickety old wooden ferry boat for the ride to the floating village. The Tonlé Sap is unusual for two reasons: its flow changes direction twice a year, and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons. From November to May, Cambodia's dry season, the Tonlé Sap drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh. However, when the year's heavy rains begin in June, the Mekong River flows back to fill the enormous lake. That is why the lake level changes by nearly 8 meters, yes, 8 meters from the lowest to the highest level. For most of the year the lake is fairly small, around a
Linda, Rennie, Joanne and MauriceLinda, Rennie, Joanne and MauriceLinda, Rennie, Joanne and Maurice

We are out for supper in Siem Reap, Northern Cambodia. We found the food delicious.
meter deep covering an area of 2,700 square km. When water is pushed backwards up the Mekong River into the lake, it increases its area to approximately 16,000 square kilometers, and reaches a depth of nine meters. Because we were there at the end of the dry season, the lake was very low, and the water was full of fine brown silt.

When we arrived at the village, we saw the floating hotel, school, hospital and visited an alligator farm! About 5000 people lived at this village. We toured a market there and saw a few of the alligators they raise in captivity for hides and meat. When we returned to the mainland, we visited a craft store where the deaf and/or mute locals were trained in making crafts. They came to this school from all around the country, and the school also provided teachers who went to the farthest reaches of the land to train those that couldn't get to the city. Back in Siem Reap, we once again walked down to Pub Street and found an East Indian restaurant for supper, and then back to the hotel and bed. The heat was exhausting, we have never before
Famous Pub StreetFamous Pub StreetFamous Pub Street

By far the most popular place in Siem Reap, this street has many restaurants and lots of shopping. The night market is next street over.
experienced this kind of intense heat!

Day#4 and off we went to Ben Mealea temple about an hour and a half away. This temple has had no restoration done and is over-taken by nature. Because the nation is so poverty-stricken, it is impossible for them to reconstruct a lot of these ancient temples which is so sad. They are magnificent structures, and incredibly ornate. We also visited Banteay Srei ( the pink/ red temple with ornate carvings), or for us by then, another bloody ruin, before stopping for lunch at a wood carving shop and restaurant. The wood work was astounding, however, it contributes to deforestation because they are using massive trees to do the large carvings of chairs, tables and even whole headboards. After lunch it was back in the van and onto Pre Rub, the tallest of the temples we visited.

On day #5, we feasted on the last of our delicious breakfasts, and packed up, (where did all that stuff come from? And where do we put it?). Phallin and our driver once again picked us up and took us to "Giant Ibis" bus line and we headed to Phnom Penh at 12:30PM. This was
Buying our 3 Day PassesBuying our 3 Day PassesBuying our 3 Day Passes

First stop was getting our 3 day passes to enter the archaeological sites for $40 US. They use predominantly US currency here, and use local Cambodian currency to make change. 4000 Riel=1 USD
a very luxurious bus, we had a running commentary, water and buns, free wifi and a good air-conditioner so it was a delightful ride. We enjoyed the views and took photos of country side. The yellow-blossomed trees were everywhere along the road side. Houses are all built on stilts and there is some new construction, the very old and decrepit beside the new. The road was under repair but for the most part it was a comfortable 7 and a half hour drive. We stopped once for dinner after traveling about 3 hours, and then again for a bathroom break a few hours after that. Arriving in Phnom Penh was an experience, particularly after dark when the market is open and hopping. The bus station is located right beside the night market! What chaos! The bus blocked the road while workers unloaded the luggage and carried it into the terminal. Then the bus doors were opened and we exited to a barrage of people asking if we needed a tuk-tuk. We grabbed our luggage and were collected by the driver of a funky purple tuk-tuk who took us to the King Grand Boutique Hotel along the river front. We realized
South Gate of BayonSouth Gate of BayonSouth Gate of Bayon

We cross the bridge to the grounds. The entrance is very grand and all vehicles and walkers must enter through the gate.
that we were hungry so we checked-in and then wandered along the river front looking for restaurants. It turned out to be a somewhat deserted area for about 5 blocks, yikes, we should not have been walking there! We eventually did find a great restaurant and ate Boran Khmer food. Yum! Yep, we took a tuk-tuk back to hotel.

Our 6th day in Cambodia was our first morning in Phnom Penh. After our breakfast, we headed to Toul Sleng museum (S21 torture center). This experience was sombre, beyond chilling and extremely gruesome but it was also educational. We had no idea of the horrendous crimes inflicted upon the people. In Cambodia, a genocide was carried out by the Khmer Rouge from1975 to 1979 in which between one and a half and three million people were killed. No one knows exactly how many people died, but in a country of only 7 million, it is estimated that the death toll was closer to the 3 million. Our guide lost her father and her brother. To this day, she does not know what happened to them, they just disappeared. From 1975 to 1979, an estimated 17,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol
Bayon ruinsBayon ruinsBayon ruins

We pose by one of the towers in Bayon Temple
Sleng. At any one time, the prison held between 1,000–1,500 prisoners. They were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming family members and close associates, who were also in turn be arrested, tortured and killed. The commoners were held, questioned, tortured and usually sent on to the killing field within days or a few weeks. Higher ranking and the more intellectual would be tortured for months before being sent on to death. When the Vietnamese liberated the prison, they found many recent victims bloody bodies, but only 4 little children, and 7 adults alive. They are the Survivors, and we met 2 of them who spend their days at the museum and promote the books they have written recounting their experiences.

We headed back to the hotel to decompress. We visited the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda along with thousands of other people. Was it ever HOT, again, pushing 40 degrees without a breeze. Late afternoon found us at our pool overlooking the Independence Monument. We watched the aerobic session taking place next to the dancing water/light show choreographed to music. After a quick change, we headed out to the "Memorable Cambodia Riverboat Cruise". A tuk-tuk took us along the riverfront to the Mekong River bank. 4 university students own this enterprise and they wined and dined us. We were their only guests, so they visited with us, provided us with beer and wine, BBQ'd a feast for us and then again came to visit so they could practice their English and share their enthusiasm. We walked off the boat completely charmed! We were able to walk to the night market (where the bus station was of course) and joined the throngs of people. We found it to be very overwhelming and so we tuk-tuked back just as the rain began.

Day #7 us up and off to the Museum at Phnom Penh. It only took us an hour or so to stroll through then we wandered around the gardens for another little while. Then we returned to the hotel for lunch and a massage. Our prearranged tuk-tuk took us to the airport, and during the ride we could see building and construction going on. Phnom Penh appears to be healing. The traffic was interesting, there are a lot of scooters, tuk-tuks and vehicles sharing the road. We saw vans with extension racks built out the rear doors
Looking down from BayonLooking down from BayonLooking down from Bayon

Joanne and Phallin sit and rest in the shade while we explore the ruins. That's them sitting on the rocks.
completely loaded down including on the roof with boxes and bags of all kinds. There were little trucks jammed full of passengers front and back. There are many busy intersections without signals of any kind, and they seem to politely make their way through the intersections without hitting anyone and much quicker than if there were lights. We found it to be quite different than any other city we have visited, though we only saw a very little bit of it. We arrived at the airport without incident, our friendly tuk-tuk driver bid us safe journey, and we headed for Kaohsiung and home!

Additional photos below
Photos: 63, Displayed: 31


Breeze Please!!Breeze Please!!
Breeze Please!!

Man it's hot up here as well.
Victims of Land MinesVictims of Land Mines
Victims of Land Mines

All the members in the band were missing either part or whole limbs as a result of stepping on land mines buried during the civil war period 1975-1979.
Nature takes overNature takes over
Nature takes over

The power of nature reveals itself in these ruins.
Peeping TomPeeping Tom
Peeping Tom

The roots have grown right over and around this particular carving. Lots of photos are taken of this little face.
Here I Am!Here I Am!
Here I Am!

Despite the heat, thousands of tourists visit the temples of Cambodia.
Angkor WatAngkor Wat
Angkor Wat

Phallin gives us our mini history lesson and then takes our photo outside of Angkor Wat.
Inside Angkor WatInside Angkor Wat
Inside Angkor Wat

Replaced statues are decorated in gold. Most of the originals have been stolen, and only a very few are left in the museum in Phnom Penh.
Taking a BreakTaking a Break
Taking a Break

The heat was unbelievable, we stopped often in the shade. Rennie and Joanne found a shady spot.

17th April 2014

Wish we were in your backpacks!
Sounds very fun and interesting! And hot and green!!!
27th April 2014

Definitely was the hottest weather we have ever experienced, slightly warmer even than Barancoa, Cuba

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