Friday, January 30, 2015

Cambodia: Banteay Srei and Kbal Spean

A couple of days found us venturing out into the country.  The verdant rice paddies were a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the cities.  From our tuk tuk we sat back and enjoyed the passing scenery of everyday life.  
Our first stop was the intricate red sandstone carvings of Banteay Srei.  Rumor is it was entirely created by women, because I man could never do such detailed work.  I'm not inclined to disagree.  It was stunning yet small. 
Later we visited Kbal Spean.  After a 45 minute hike up through the jungle, we arrived at a river bed. If we hadn't of known to look for something, we just maybe may have missed it.  I'm so glad we didn't because it was one of the most unusual sites.  The hike deters the big groups, so we had the place to ourselves, when we wanted it.   We strolled along the river playing hide a seek with the carvings. It all culminated in a waterfall. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cambodia: Banteay Srei Butterfly Garden

Even halfway around the world, brought me to a butterfly garden.  The fantastic Banteay Srei Butterfly Garden was truly a sanctuary and highlighted only butterflies native to Cambodia.

 Butterflies waiting to hatch.  Every time the guide opened the cage, a few more fluttered out and joined the paradise.   I particularly liked the gold chrysalises.
 Caterpillars in the nursery.
 Although this guy looks like a Monarch, he is not. 

 The rest of the garden was just as exquisite as the butterflies fluttering about.  We found a quiet corner and sipped on iced coffee. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Cambodia: Siem Reap

Siem Reap, the tourist capitol of Cambodia is most likely also the swankiest.  We stayed in the nicest room of our entire trip and enjoyed, almost, daily massages.  After a long bus ride into the city, we ventured out only to get stopped shortly at the spectacle of the fish massage.  It touted feet "softer then a babies bottom",  so of course we were game.  What they didn't tell us was the uncontrollable ticklishness.   But the fish were hungry for our filthy American feet and very shortly after we became the spectacle as well. 

We visited the local market, where a part of me always wishes we had a Minneapolis equivalent, while the other part says thank goodness for USDA.  

 Such lovely shades of lime. 
 Fried silkworms.  I was too much of a chicken to try.

One evening we saw a traditional Apsara show at Apsara Theater.  The picture doesn't do the dexterity of her extraordinary hands. 
Josh and I also took a cooking class.  We made a Banana Flower Salad, a tapioca and sweet potato pudding and Fish Amok (the most famous Cambodian dish). Neither of us knew you could eat the banana flower.  Turns out with a bit of work, you can eat the very middle, which we sliced thinly into our salad. 

 Stirring the curry paste into a sauce.

 We lunched al fresco at this swanky restaurant, mostly so I could sit amongst hanging vines and flowers.  I suppose one of the perks of living in a tropical environment are the self sustaining orchids and tillandsias. 
Some days, it was nice to just sit back and watch life zoom by.  The streets are infinitely more interesting then what I see on a day to day basis.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cambodia: Ankor Wat

After a one day recuperation in Phnom Pehn, we hopped a bus to Siem Reap to see the temples of Ankor Wat.  As Cambodia's major tourist attraction, we were not alone in our pursuits.  The complex is so vast, that you need a decent chunk of time to see everything.  We found 3 days of clamoring about was just right, and in the shuffle, I definitely had my favorites.  Interestingly enough the temples swayed between Buddhist and Hindu, and each temple was either one or the other, sometimes having been switched sometime in between.
To get around, we chose to hire a tuk tuk driver.  He was our driver from the bus station into Siem Reap and his persistence paid off.  We hired him for 3 days, and as a full time driver of Ankor Wat he really knew where and when to take us to avoid the crowds.

Ta Prohm is the temple most famous for the wild overgrowth, but the soft roots of this tree had permeated almost every temple we visited.  
 East Mebon:  A hindu temple dedicated to Shiva.  The warm sandstone and sunny blue skies amplified the grandeur of the towers. 
 A lotus flower offering, tucked away into 
Swinging on one of that many overgrown vines at Beng Melea
Ornate Carvings line the Temple of the Leper King in Angkor Thom.
Spied monks atop Ankor Wat.
 For a fee, the guards assigned to monitor the temples took extra care to ensure we didn't miss a touristy photo opportunity.

The enormous faces towering above at Bayon was a trip highlight.  We went back twice to wander about and pose for pictures.
Like every other good tourist we rose at 5 AM to witness sunrise at Ankor Wat.  Unfortunately,  it turned out to be an anticlimactic start for the day.  

The beautiful Apsara dancers of Ankor.
And with all those sunny steamy days, we took plenty of breaks to rehydrate with fresh coconut water.