Tag Archives: temple

Ancient Sticks and Stones and Floating Homes

In Siem Reap, Cambodia we visited what is probably my favorite ancient site I saw on my trip through Asia – The Bayon Temple in the ancient capital city of Angkor Thom.

Ancient City Entrance

The temple was giant and from afar you don’t notice right away what makes it extra spectacular- there are 53 towers with 4 giant Buddha faces on each side of each tower. So the temple is decorated with 212 giant Buddha faces.

Entire 1,000 year old temple, 53 towers with 4 buddha faces on each. Amazing!

 

A couple of the 53 towers in the temple.

The heads of dancers were stolen from all over the temple to be sold.

I love how it looks as though the sky is opening just at the point of the temple.

We also went back to Ta Prohm, the temple with all the trees where “Tomb Raider” was filmed and had a tribute battle.. of course.

Tomb Raider Tribute.. of course.

 

Dad wins? Oh mann.

Our tour guide said this was the first time visitors have asked him to take photos of a tribute battle.. who would have thought! Poor guy.

Trees growing from everywhere!

 

I love how the trees just form and melt into the temple.

 

Melting Tree

After we finished exploring these ancient marvels, we took a boat to a floating village. Wasn’t sure what to expect, but would have never imagined what I saw! It was an entire huge village all floating on bamboo rafters. There were restaurants, stores, schools, farms, and homes. This is one of many floating villages along this river, 80,000 homes in all.

A village of floating houses and grass.

The grass you see is a plant that grows on the surface of the water, and is extremely thick in parts. We ended up getting stuck in it a few times.

Such thick grass on top of the water! We got stuck several times.

 

House on bamboo rafters.

 

Storm coming(house along the bank of the river)!

 

Pretty peaceful place for a nap!

 

Laundry Day

 

Such a beautiful and happy family! They would not stop waving.

 

There was boat after boat with kids of all ages rowing to school, some had to fight the grass in thick parts too.

 

Jumping between floating school buildings to get to class.

 

After school ice cream, a tradition everywhere!

 

Floating house of nakey boys. The oldest is being modest.

 

This Face!

When I told the girl on the right that she was beautiful she replied with “Thank you, but my brothers are also very beautiful.” I didn’t expect that response but you can see in her what a beautiful person she is!

Beautiful Family

Another wonderful day of sites that I never could have imagined I would be seeing or even existed.

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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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