Tag Archives: monks

Angkor Wat and Chanting Monks

This morning we took a flight from Luang Probang, Laos to Siem Reap, Cambodia. The airports were both so tiny and the flight was only just over an hour so it was an easy trip!

We arrived at our hotel, called the Grand Hotel D’Angkor – the oldest hotel in Siem Reap. I jumped right into the pool and then got changed to go visit Cambodia’s most prized posession- Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is a temple complex built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his personal temple and capital city. It is a world heritage site and the world’s largest religious building.

Outside Angkor Wat

Me at Angkor Wat

 

Bass Reliefs at Angkor Wat, 1,850 girls throughout the temple.

 

Buddha inside Angkor Wat

 

Monk praying at Angkor Wat

 

Rock formations found throughout.

 

Oh daddy..

It was also used in “Tomb Raider.” We ran into a film being shot while we were there and when we asked what the film was we got the response of “it is going to be like Tomb Raider, but with Tigers! And Chinese.” Keep an eye out!

Filming of a Chinese movie "like tomb raider but chinese and with TIGERS!"

After we finished walking around Angkor Wat, we went over to a small temple next door. It was around 6 p.m. which is when the monks gather at each temple and chant. They do this twice a day, once before sunrise, and once right before sunset. We sat with the monks before they began their chants, and I was surprised when they began talking to me and looking me in the eyes. I have been under the impression until now that you are not to look a monk in the eyes or talk to one if you are a girl. This is because they have given up the ability to have any type of relation with a woman, so talking to them or looking them in the eyes is seen as tempting them. While it was still clear that I was not to touch any of them or even get too close, it was nice to have a conversation with them.

Their chants were almost hypnotizing. I closed my eyes and took in the humming and words of the ancient words. It was beautiful.

Sunset chant



After we listened and watched the monks chant, we walked back through Angkor Wat in the dark. A slightly eerie but also a spiritual experience. We were the only ones left in the complex because it had closed almost 2 hours prior.

Silhouette of Angkor Wat at night.

Good night!

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Buddha, buddha!

Got back on the boat in the morning and began heading down the Mekong further towards our destination of Luang Probang. It was an incredibly overcast and misty morning, which are usually perfect for curling up and watching a movie, but I was blown away by how beautiful the mist was over the unique terrain along the Mekong. I could make a whole photo book out of the shots I took just that morning, but I’ll just share a few for now!

Morning Mist on the Mekong River.

Lao Mountains are breathtaking.

 

Traditional boat.

We stopped at another lodge for the night called Kamu Lodge. I thought I was staying in the jungle the night before, but this was REALLY the jungle. Each room was a tent set on a tile landing. Everything was run by solar panels, so no sun no electricity. The lodge was integrated into a neighboring village, “The Kamu People,” which is completely self sustainable. They grow and raise or hunt all the food they eat and sell, they pump running water from the mountain, and they use solar energy. I was so impressed by the quality of life and kinship I found in this village and lodge, I would love to be a part of a community like the Kamu people.

Kamu Lodge Tent.

Is it a bathroom? Shower? Sink? All in one?!

When we arrived our guide at the lodge name Khamla took us on a little tour. I got the chance to shoot the traditional bow and arrow, pan for gold (a source of income for the village), plow the rice field and plant rive, swim in their natural swimming pool (part of the Mekong), fish for river fish, and walk around and learn about the village.

We had a wonderful dinner in the lodge dining area, which was a platform in the middle of the rice fields. I have become immune to large bugs whizzing by at every moment, and actually captured 5 inch long fat beetles that wondered into my dinner.

After the sun went down we went back to our tents and since you can’t turn on a light to read or your bed will turn into the hottest bug bar in town, we went to sleep. Between the calming heat and the harmonic song of millions of insects, I fell into the deepest sleep I have had in a long time.

In the morning we had another eventful breakfast in the rice field when a cow from a neighboring village invaded the rice patties and was running ramped while 10 men chased him. All was well though and we went on our way to Luang Probang.

We made a pit stop at the Pak Ou Caves. Two story caves that are in a mountain side on the Mekong river. There are over 400 Buddha statues in the lower cave alone. The upper cave is 204 steps above the lower cave (yep, we counted). Both are something I have definitely never seen before.

Pak Ou Caves

 

400 Buddhas in the cave.

 

Pak Ou Cave

 

Pak Ou Cave

 

Me in the Pak Ou Cave.

Pak Ou Cave Buddhas

 

Entrance to the Upper cave of the Pak Ou Caves.

 

Old carving on the door to the Upper Cave.

Luang Probang is the 3rd largest city in Laos and used to be the capital. Because of its beautiful valley and river setting, the quality of life, and the culture, the whole town has been named a world heritage site. I took one look around and saw exactly what they were talking about. What a town! In a town of 60,000 people there are 65 temples (all gorgeous) and about 1,500 monks (disciples of Buddha).

We went to a few temples that seemed more for the local people than to impress tourists (a relief) and then to a lookout that was quite a climb where we could see the whole city.

Collection of Buddhas in local temple.

 

Collection of Buddhas in local temple.

 

Monk dormitories.

 

Memaid Carvings!

 

Buddha Army?

At night we went to the night market where there were many local crafts, but what was most interesting was an alley of the market where food was being sold. There was stand after stand of amazing looking food where you pay $1 for a plate or $1.50 for a big plate and fill it up! There were tons of backpackers eating around these stands, but also lots of local people.

In the morning we were out the door at 5:30 to go watch the monks get fed by the local buddhists, an ancient tradition since monks are not allowed to cook for themselves. They walked through the streets of the town with a metal bowl and each person gave a pinch of sticky rice to each monk.

Monks collecting food.

 

Monks collecting food.

 

Local giving food to monks.

 

Locals giving food to monks.

We then went to see a local food market that was already quite lively for 6 a.m. This market wasn’t for the faint stomached. They were selling everything from grub to bats, and from ant larvae to buffalo tail. And no, this wasn’t for show. These ingredients are found in traditional Lao dishes.

Mound of snails.

 

An assortment of ant larvae, red insects, and grub.

Huge Mushrooms.

 

River catfish. They grow to be up to 600 lbs!

 

More River Fish.

 

: (

 

Yes those are bats next to the grub.

 

Bats at the local food market.

 

Bullfrogs.

 

All parts of the Buffalo, tail included.

After the market we went to a place where students wanting to learn english gather. Anyone can stop in who speaks english and can have conversations with the students, read with them, or help them with their homework. it was a really neat way to learn a bit about the life of a young Lao person, but also a great way to give to them.

We had an amazing lunch by the river. I had coconut soup with chicken and noodles, sweet and sour tofu, sticky rice, and vegetable spring rolls. You might say: “Wow Marina, you really pig out!” But I say it is the best $6.50 I have ever spent on a culinary experience. And no, I didn’t finish it all, but I could have!

In the afternoon we split up and were on a quest for sun dresses (since we mistakenly only packed pants and hot dresses, luckily I did sneak in a pair of shorts) when we came across a spa. $5 for an hour long massage, mango smoothie included?? Yes please!

Our quest for a dress was a fail, but the day was wonderful.

Tomorrow we get on another plane and head to Cambodia. Second to last leg of our Asian adventure.

(Don’t want to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth from the market photos, so here are a few from a village we visited!)

Hmong Children

 

Translucent Butterfly!

 

That face!

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Floating Market Day!

I only got about three hours of sleep last night… I’ll thank my childlike excitement about going to the floating market for that!

Imagine hundreds of little souvenir shops, food vendors, and grocery stores lined up along a canal and placed into canoe-like boats. This is the floating market. We drove for about an hour and a half outside of Bangkok to reach the small town where the floating market is located.

We arrived at a small boat landing where we had ice cream for breakfast, a treat from our guide because it “is too hot out to not have ice cream.” We boarded our boat and were on our way through a series of canals surrounded by coconut plantations and dilapidated houses.

Canal to floating market.

The market was originally for locals to buy groceries and trade goods, but since it was discovered as a place for tourists to visit it has turned into a bit of a souvenir nightmare. But most of the souvenir shops are along the side of the canal, and the boats are mostly filled with the traditional goods.

Souvenir man!

Soup boat.

Women trading.

Monk shopping.

Up front and center! Me on floating market boat.

Market after it died down a bit.

I did give in and buy one of these beautiful monk paintings from this guy. He was painting them right there. I also bought a crazy four-eyed laughing man painting which he made in college and was very reluctant to give up, but after I told him that I would be hanging it in my house for all my friends to see, he was pleased to pass it on to me.

After we got off of our boat, I went over and befriended this gem of a lady.

Priceless!

She even let me sit on her boat (which is not easy to balance, let me tell you!).

I wanted to grab some soup in the market, but you would think I were wanting to play Russian Roulette the way my dad reacted. This is the first very exotic place that he has traveled to, and is terrified of the local water and sanitation, which is probably good thinking but I like to take my chances and absorb everything I can.. especially the food! But I let him win this time, and really it was a win win because look at this lunch! Curry pineapple rice with tofu.. served in a pineapple! Yumm.

Pineapple rice with tofu!

After lunch, we headed back to our hotel.. which is absolutely beautiful!

The Peninsula, Bangkok.

We ended the day with a traditional Thai massage, which is like yoga for a lazy person. You stay clothed and the bend and stretch you every which way. It feel wonderful! And is such a steal.. they come to your hotel and give you a Thai massage for an hour and a half for $20.. and that’s the tourist price! I couldn’t bring myself to even attempt to bargain when It is already 1/4 of the cost of a massage at home.

So now I’m heading to bed, and waking up at 5, jumping on another plane, bidding adieu to Bangkok, and moving onto Chang Rai, a city in northern Thailand which is supposed to be beautiful. And in the afternoon I get to play with elephants! Probably going to be restless with excitement all night again.. Oh well!

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