Page 3 of Stephen Paul Travel Blog Posts

Asia » Cambodia » East » Banlung January 2nd 2008

The bus ride from Phnom Penh to Ratanakiri started out simply enough. It was a cool, almost chilly morning for the short motodop ride to the bus station near Olympic Stadium. At 6am, we were definitely short on sleep considering it was New Years Day and we spent the better part of the night before eating food, ice cream and watching fireworks until after midnight. Fortunately we were given the best seats on the small bus, and off we went. We crossed the Tonle San River, then the Mekong. We stopped at small villages for breakfast and hour by hour the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh became a distant memory to the slower pace of province life. After probably 5 hours, just when our patience was thin and our butts sore, we reached Snoul. Besides ... read more
Delicious Cambodian food!
Yeak Lom lakeshore with people at the overlook

Asia » Cambodia » South » Phnom Penh December 31st 2007

More than half a million people drive Moto's in Phnom Penh. With Phnom Penh's population at just over 2 million people, and with often more than one person on a Moto- it seems as if everyone is on the streets! Weaving in and out of traffic, being a Moto driver requires concentration, skill and cunning. Even more talent is required to take loads- people paying fairs on motodops; exquisitely dressed women going to weddings; furniture and dishes; pigs wrapped in Sugar Cane...You negotiate the road next to tow carts with sacks of flour or loads of bricks. Huge SUV's from the Government, ambassadors or the head of an NGO speed past a Moto with an adult and 2 children under 5 years old. 12 year old boys driving their friends past elephants in the street. At ... read more
Thick Smog
View from a Tuk-Tuk
City Elephant

Asia » Cambodia » North » Angkor December 29th 2007

Well not symbolically- just literally! My sister, brother in law and I decided to take a day trip titled "the Outlying Adventure". This fantastic tour offered a trip to see some of the most treasured spots of the Angkor complex: Banteay Srei, nearly pristine intricate carvings in pink sandstone; The Roluos Group, a collection of temples dated to the 9th century- some of the first to be built at Angkor; and the most refreshing for me, into the mountains to see the "River of a thousand Lingas". It didn't fail to disappoint! The Linga is a sacred symbol of Shiva, a phallic representation of the Hindu God, Shiva. Linga have been found and dated to 3300 B.C.E in Harrapan civilization. A Shiva linga was the sacred object stolen from an Indian village in "Indiana Jones and ... read more
Bromeliad Fruit
The Sacred Linga, 4 Cardinal Directions
Termite Trails, New Flowers

Asia » Cambodia » North » Angkor December 28th 2007

My tour through the Temples of Angkor ended with a sunrise trip to Ta Phrom. The most photographed and sought after temple next to Angkor Wat, I hoped to get there before the other tourists, and thanks to my awesome tour guide and Tuk Tuk driver I made it in time! Ta Phrom didn't fail to disappoint. The guidebooks say you feel like an Archaeologist from the 19th century when you visit Ta Phrom, where the jungle was not removed from the ruins. It was a bit strange to think of how much history, hard work and mystical energy contained in the temples was simply swallowed up by the forest. When the forest is removed and the temples are restored, you get a glimpse of the mind blowing artistry and engineering. When you don't remove the ... read more
Ancient Entry
The Forest Canopy, Ta Phrom
Ta Phrom sorcery

Asia » Cambodia » North » Angkor December 28th 2007

Let's face it. Angkor Wat is the mother of all temples. A 900 year old representation of the Mythical Mt. Meru, the 210 hectare Angkor Wat complex is surrounded by a baray(moat) 1.5km long and 1.5 km wide. The walls are intricately carved with bas reliefs of Hindu creation myths and Khmer epics, while the doorways are coated in Sanskrit and Khmer verses. You walk through perplexed by how this could have been created, and your mind poses questions scaled like a Mandelbrot set: *Who thought building something of this size was even possible? *how long did it take to clear 210 hectares of Forest and process the lumber into a city? *How did these thousands of pounds of stone get moved to the location? * How did they carve the stones to fit so exact? ... read more
Naga gaurding the inner moat
Scale of the Forest
Angkor Wat, sunrise

Asia » Cambodia » South » Phnom Penh December 26th 2007

After settling down a bit in Phnom Penh, the city became familiar. It was more developed than I had imagined, and the people were the friendliest I had ever encountered- especially if you know a few words of Khmer! My vocabulary was expanding- numbers 1-10, "Hello", "Goodbye", "Little Brother", "Big Sister", "Big Man", "how much", "I have", "left", "right"... With the major attractions from my sister's itinerary out of the way, events Off The Beaten Track were all that was left. This included a trip to the city dumps, where the hardest working people in the world endure the worst of conditions to make something from nothing. My sister brought 15 or so vitamin fortified fruit drinks to give to the children, while I was armed with bags of candy. After a 15 minute drive through ... read more
Monkeys love Lotus Flowers
Survival at the Landfill
Sunset Cruise Boats

Asia » Thailand » Central Thailand » Bangkok December 25th 2007

After 4 days in Siem Reap, I decided it best to go to Thailand. I had heard many good things! It didn't fail to live up to expectations. I had just 24 hours in town, and I decided to spend them at the major tourist attractions. I arrived to Bangkok at 12am after a 20 hour day, so needless to say I was exhausted and needed rest. The Royal Hotel was a bargain, but I shouldn't have been so relaxed about using the hotel water that night. It would come back to haunt me later! The Royal Grounds were amazing, it was good to see the Thai art in all its richness. Lots of tourists were there-myself included! I spent a few hours on the grounds, especially enjoying the mural coated halls showing Thai epics, legends ... read more
Naga Staircase with Buddhas
Beautiful Halls
Plaza Abierto

Asia » Thailand » Central Thailand » Sattahip December 24th 2007

A Scuba Diving entry without underwater pictures? Yes, that's unfortunately, what we have here. I seemed to have completely forgotten my underwater camera(a Reefmaster Mini). Arriving to the dive shop I knew something was missing, but it certainly wasnt people! It was a very busy and crowded morning, with many different groups leaving at once. An intense multi-day Rescue Diver course, snorkelers and day divers. Soon we were loaded on the back of a truck with a wire cage, apparently a popular taxi along the Thai Coast? The drive was an hour away, passing many portraits of the King, a few large trees and conversations of dive stories, bars and work. Finally arriving, I remembered a stink in the air. Yes, it was the sour and rich smell of a fishing village. On the plus side ... read more
Enchanting Cove with Resident
Lone Ranger
the Water and the Rocks

Asia » Cambodia » South » Phnom Penh December 23rd 2007

At certain times in history man and moment have come together to produce a novelty, something which human eyes had never seen before. Some achievements we hope to see again, while some tragedies we hope will always be nothing more than a distant memory. And so it went for Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek, scars of an unbelievable past so shocking, so brutal, so recent. At Tuol Sleng, there are still blood stains in the cells. There are hundreds of portraits of the people who lived a waking nightmare at the hands of their fellow Cambodians. Standing at Tuol Sleng, how can one possibly grasp the magnitude of the things that transpired underneath your feet? I believe in sacred geography, but the cool morning I spent at Tuol Sleng felt nothing short of profane. It's hard ... read more
flowering tree, Tuol Sleng
Wat Phnom
cell, Tuol Sleng

It was early November in California, and still snow had not fallen on the "Snowy Range". The Sierra Nevada is spectacular for one principal reason- at higher elevations it is almost entirely composed of glacially carved granite. Hundreds of ancient volcanos left behind quite a treasure, for as their liquid magma chambers froze into place- granite was formed. But this granite was trapped underneath thousands of meters of overlaying rock, unavailable to the terrestrial eye. Millions of years of erosion took over-rain, wind and snow removed thousands of meters of rock above the granite, glaciers carved the peaks and lakes, flowering plants and endemic trees grew to the limits of the highest peaks. This is the Sierra Nevada we see today, the salt-and-pepper granite peaks lighting on fire from the setting sun, framed by special trees ... read more
White Pine, Sunset
The fire of Alpenglow
Glacial Erratic, broken

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