Posts Tagged With: stupa

A Return of Sorts…

Today I had taro frozen yogurt in my neighborhood parlor.  So what does that have to do with my blog?  Simply, the taste took me back to a journey through seven countries I remember with great nostalgia and fondness.  So it seemed so very right to get back to this blog to relive and share the second half of it even when it has been three months since I returned from it.

Last I left you was in Cambodia with a visit to the Killing Fields.   Less somber areas to cover from now on.

We leave Phnom Penh today and head over to Siem Reap.  Thaly –our only female guide- is there to see us off.  People are well into their day.    The road awaits us and it will be an all day trek.  We will go through Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom provinces.   Stupas along the way…  

Of course we must stop at a “happy house” (aka: as bathroom).  I don’t need any more “happiness” so I roam.  There is such peace in this place.  Wish we could just eat here.  

Orchids hang from the balcony.    Reminds me of all the orchids my mother grew in her backyard.  There you go again Asia, a million miles and time period away and you are bringing me closer to my past than I’ve been in a while.

We pass by numerous lotus plantations.  The lotus plant is not only beautiful but every bit of it is of use.  Every part of it can and is used for medicinal purposes. At the side of the road we spot a vendor selling its fruit.  Some in our party are excited to see it since they used it in salads and have not been able to see it any other place outside of India.   

But the lotus flower is so beautiful that one almost forgets the rest.

    

We stop and gawk but must continue on toward spiders and crickets and water bugs and lots more creepy crawlers.   When we get there, one tarantula decides to check the time on Tom’s watch.    Our tour guide approaches me with it and I don’t think I’ve ever jumped back as quickly as I did then.   Some of his species where not as lucky as it was and ended up in this huge pile on the side of the road, fried to a crisp.   Yep, I actually had one –all I could taste was the rancid oil it had been fried in- though I decided to pass on the crickets and water bugs…

A kid, trying to sell us some green mangoes, demonstrates how the crickets are yummy too.  

I wasn’t buying it.  Which says a lot, for this kid could sell you anything!  

He had a way with words and his expressions said so much.    And he had a lovely smile.  Yep, I bought a bag of mangoes.

As we leave a vendor is bagging some tamarind.    

We are back on the bus.  Our next stop is a stone carving village.   No matter what culture, children always like to play.

Carvings are impressive.      

Some oversee the abodes of the ones that carved them.  

It’s almost hard to appreciate the skill it takes to carve them when there are so many together.

But it is a skill passed from one generation to another.  

The larger the piece the more valuable it is and the more skilled the carver has to be.

   

But again, it is the faces that captivate me the most.  What are they thinking?  What is generating that expression?  What is he reacting to?      

After a bit more of a ride we stop at Prei Proh Village where lunch is riverside.     

After which we visit the ancient bridge of Kampong Kdei.   Three things I am particularly fond of photographing: bridges, windows and doors.

I am happy snapping away.

 

Ah, but I forgot:  faces, I love photographing faces, specially when they are not aware of it.

This man waits for a tourist to offer a ride to. And not having found one returns to just waiting.

So does his horse.  

A bit more of a ride and mid-afternoon we arrive at Angkor Home Hotel whose lobby can’t be any more soothing to the soul. 

At night we go to a Angkor Mondial restaurant and show.  The dancers were amazing.  A characteristic that stuck to me of the dance is how the women, while dancing, bend their fingers back so much that it seems that they will break.

Tomorrow we will go to Angkor Wat, a visit I have been looking forward to throughout the trip!

Categories: BLT+ (Burma) Myanmar, Cambodia, Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Fields of Pain

I wake to no sunset again (at least none that I can capture).  Perhaps it is aptly so, for a day like today.  The Killing Fields.  A confession is to be made:  I am a product of Hollywood and all I can think of when I think of where we are headed next is of a movie I did not see so as not to be depressed.  And now, here I am going towards the real thing and to be forcefully faced with man’s capability to kill, torture, and destroy psyches.  I am bracing myself mentally.

We have breakfast and out the door we go.  Our bus waits in front of the hotel.  A flash of a familiar color attracts my attention and I turn and see my Baby Blue.  Actually not my Baby Blue (aka: my little hybrid, Toyota Prius) but a Baby Blue.  First Prius I see on this trip and it’s exactly the same color as mine.  Suddenly, for the first time, this strong feeling takes over me and I am tremendously homesick.  I’m taken aback by it.  It physically stops me in my tracks.  And then, in matter of seconds it is gone.  As if it had never taken over me at all.

We arrive at the infamous S-21 (Tuol Sleng Prison).  This place, where they executed over 300 people a day, is oddly calming now.  Flowers are in bloom. We are reminded that we are to show respect for what is in effect a burial ground.  

This was not a place of calm.  It was one of death.  Testament that among our race are those who can and will commit horrific acts.

The Chemical Substance Storage Room.  The sign reads: “Here was the place where chemical substances such as D.D.T…. etc. was kept.  Executioners scattered these substances over dead bodies of the victims at once after execution.   This action has two purposes: firstly to eliminate the stench from the dead bodies which could potentially raise suspicion among people working near by the killing fields and secondly to kill off victims that were buried alive.

I am starting to feel quite perturbed.  Thaly, our guide was 10 when it happened.  She tells us of the mystery revolving around what lay within these walls.  Of how her family is one of the few who survived intact.

There are mass graves, some of people without heads, of women and children but in effect the whole place is a burial ground.  We are told that fragments of bones and teeth and fragment of clothes are still surfacing after the floods.

I bend down, incredulous to see it close up.    

And then we reach the “Magic” tree.  There is something horribly wrong about the fact that it is from this majestic tree that they hung loudspeakers to drown the moans of those being executed.     

And that the next beautiful tree we see, is one against which children were beaten. 

I need to inhale a huge breath of air, hoping that the smell of inhumanity and death does not infiltrate it.

We pass by the stupa built to honor the fallen.  

I enter and the different levels are filled with skulls of different age ranges.    The deodorant they use to clean them turns my stomach.  No amount of disinfectant can clean what happened here.  Again I need air.

A mini documentary and some wall inscriptions later and we are on to the Genocide Museum.  The morning is turning out to be one of reflection.

While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all…  

The barbed wire was there so that the prisoners would not commit suicide (the taking of life was to be done only by the executioners and after torture) from the upper floors or try to escape from the bottom one.   

My quota for facing the darkest side of the “human” race and to image the pain inflicted on the innocent is at its max and I tell my group I will take a walk around the neighborhood.

It seems that all my senses return as soon as I step away from the confines of the Genocide Museum. I can feel the sun on my skin, smell the wonderful aroma of coffee coming from a cart that is quite stylish in its “purpleishness”.

But I do not buy my coffee there.  Instead I go to a B&B that I spotted from the bus.   The wall is covered with local art and I think that it has been way too long since I have picked up a brush.  I daydream about painting here.  I sit, I sip, I breathe in life and a smile once again is plastered on my face.  

 

    

The tour has assumed that after such a somber morning people would want to relax.  Their idea of relaxation is taking us to the Russian Market.  But it is a good place to encounter life again.  This market became the foreigner’s market during the 1980’s when most of the foreigners in Cambodia were Russians, hence the name ‘Russian Market.’  The market (aside from not having one Russian item in it) is a busy one and pretty much anything can be found.  I, the non shopper, once again manage to find something that I absolutely need and must buy.      

And, of course, shopping makes you thirsty.

Hello guy… cheap drink here… (They don’t want female business?)

And builds up an appetite, so we return to the bus

and go to a restaurant whose name  translated means Sweet Cucumber.   We have a pretty good meal.

Dessert is taro ice cream, my new favorite. 

At the National Museum of Cambodia we are up close up and personal with history and art.  I buy an offering of flowers –the flowers are as fragant as they come- and I will place it at an altar that moves me. 

The main terracotta building in itself has my attention.  

Ganesh welcomes us.  

And there’s a million shades of green among the leaves in the museum’s garden.   

Which is probably why I decide to present the next photo in black and white as contrast.  

On the way back to the hotel I snap some more photos.    The river flows alongside of us. 

Electrical wires that I do not understand how they are not considered a major fire hazard.  

At the hotel we are left with an evening on our own.  Five of us decide to take advantage that we have a female guide when she announces that she is headed to the salon.  Girls night out!

We walk.  I photograph.  

When we arrive at the local salon, there is only one person there.  She gets on the phone and in matter of minutes helpers arrive one by one on scooter. The salon so reminds me of the ones back in South America.

I have my hair done. Oh, for a full $5!  The girl gives me one of the best massages as she washes my hair.   

The day has ended in the most relaxing of ways.  I sleep like a baby.

Categories: BLT+ (Burma) Myanmar, Cambodia, Phnom Penh | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Ayutthaya and more…

Bangkok is huge.  10 million people live here though only about 6 million are “official”.  It is a metropolis of pagodas, temples, new buildings, a ton of cars (nothing to envy my beloved Los Angeles), tuk tuks, brand new cars, a wave of pink and green and yellow and orange cabs and –needless to say- people shoulder to shoulder in the street that manage to follow their own path and not be swallowed by the swell of people going another way.

We are headed to Ayutthaya, a couple of hours away from Bangkok. 

It was the capital of Thailand for 417 years, and is now registered as a UNESCO world heritage site.  I take advantage to write a blog that I very possibly won’t be able to post for a few days.  At least it will be ready to go.

We will walk the last part of the trip and I am really glad to do so. Ever seen a leaning stupa? The soil is soft to begin with, but the floods have made it even more uneven and this one is going sideways, indicating perhaps that too many years have past and a time to rest has come.

I pass scenes of daily life that mean nothing to those who live it while I feel blessed to be able to witness.   

A headless Buddha intrigues me.  In the old days it was customary to –when making a Buddha statue- to put valuables in the Buddha’s head.  As a result, when this country was invaded Buddha statues were decapitated to find what they held.  Later, looters finished off what the invaders did not find. It is during this walk that I start to see “The Land of Smiles”. 

We arrive to Ayutthaya.   Everything guides you to look up.  There are a few stupas on the side that hold ashes of past kings.  A gold offering plate contrasts with the redness of the rocks. 

Otto told us that Americans have a penchant to check bathroom facilities everywhere they go.  He may be right.  Bathroom break.   We have to pass through a market to get there.

Disco balls anyone? 

 The bathroom itself is worth it just for its signs.   We pay 5 Bahts to get in (roughly .15 cents in US money).  

The sign that indicates the female toilet just makes me want to break out in song… “I am woman. I am strong!”

We head to the temple.  It is at this Buddha’s feet that I decide to follow tradition and pick up a bamboo cylinder with wood straws with numbers on it.  You shake it until only one of them falls out.  On my first try number 9 comes out.  Then you make an offering and you are handed a paper that corresponds to it.  For those curious, mine said in Thai and in English:  “Going South or West will bring you good luck.  Love affairs will not yet meet up to your expectations.  Health problems are lessen.  Donation is beneficial to you in the long run.”  I quiet my inquiring mind that wants specifics and would have preferred it to read something like:  “You will continue to travel and be inspired for the rest of your life. You are where you need to be.  Getting old won’t come with aches and pains. Donation will bring you much wealth.”  Not touching the love section 🙂

We make another stop at a place where we can feed and ride elephants.  I am doing a mahout course (elephant owner/trainer) in a Chang Mai elephant camp that rescues them.  (Mahout) I don’t think I want to do this 10-minute ride, but do so anyway.  I feel sorry when he raises his trunk and its mahout asks me to put a dollar in it.

Next stop is Rich Restaurant with two honorable mentions.  One is and ice cold Singha beer.  And the other a dessert that consists of combining a whole lot of things (I won’t even attempt to know what they are),   adding ice cubes, a sauce that has evaporated milk in it, mixing it all together and getting something that looks complete unappetizing but that tastes delicious!  I have two servings.  Our guide says it’s called friends dessert ‘cause so many different ingredients are joined to create something fabulous.  I agree.

With full bellies and a happy countenance, perhaps due to the beer, we head to the river.  

We board a long boat.  (Actual nomination; not a description.)Life along the river is hard.

Some live on it.  Some don’t have it that hard.  Some worship along it.

Catholic Church on Riverbank

Some observe from it. I am relaxed and marveled by it all.  The hour ride seems like minutes.

A two hour bus drive to the hotel and we are on our own.  But, of course, I have built up an appetite and Otto has talked about a restaurant called Cabbages & Condoms. The restaurant has really great food, some organic, most healthy, in a really cute, laid back (yes, pun intended) environment. “Statutes” made of condoms dot the entrance.  

Tiger figure. Read the sign. 🙂

"Tree"

Lamps are condom covered.  It was established in part to support the activities of the Population and Community Development Association and promote the health and safety aspects of condom use in a fun and amusing manner. All proceeds from the restaurants are used to fund this organization.

A quick tuk tuk ride back and we are done for the day.

Tomorrow, Laos awaits!

Categories: Ayutthaya, Ramblings, Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

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