A local guide to tour some Nepal villages…so worth it

We hired a taxi and a guide (Ranjan Mishra) for a day and headed south out of the city.  The village didn’t look much different at first, but it didn’t take long to realize that we were in a separate community.  It was noticeably quieter with few vehicles.  More people were just sitting outside but there were many people hard at work.  We started in Khokana, walked through the fields to Bungamati, then drove to the monastery in Pharphing, and finished in Kuripur.

Mustard Seed Oil

Ranjan led us into a small dark building that had 2 people working inside.  The owner joined us soon after.  They were making mustard seed oil from local crops.  The seeds had to be dried then roasted. They were put into a long narrow mesh bag then squeezed through rollers several times.   A tin bowl on the floor collected the oil.

Since Nepal only had 6 hours of electrical power per day up until recently, this operation works with an electrical motor for the rolling, but can also be operated with a large wheel that turns a series of gears to tighten the rollers and make them turn.  It took one of the workers, using his whole body weight to make this possible.

Another worker crushed, stacked and bagged the remaining material which becomes compost for the fields. Our guide suggested we give them a little money for showing us how this operation worked and taking their pictures.  He said they could use it.

The mustard seed oil is used to massage moms and babies in the sun after birth, cooking special Nepalese dishes, and rubbed into the hair to make it shine.  We had a little bit and it tasted like some of the local dishes we’d eaten.

Rugmaking

We stepped into another building and found a rug factory.  There were groups of 2 women sitting  on benches together working on wool rugs.  Some rugs were single colors while others had elaborate designs.  The women were so fast, although the man in charge would come by and mark their expected progress along the side of the threads.

There were many other women in the village supporting this.  They spun wool using a hand powered wheel.  Others combined the spun wool into 3 ply using some special wheel that wool people would know the name of.  The wool was rolled into balls as part of this process.  These jobs were all completed while sitting on the ground on a mat.  The women sat in small groups while they worked.

Weaving

The usual weaving room was closed but Ranjan knew of another.  There were 4 looms in the room and on one they were creating some fine white material from bamboo fibres.  It had a white on white pattern that was controlled with cards punched with holes.  The young women sat on a fabric wrapped 2 X 4 and ran the loom with a foot pedal and shuttle.

The woman who seemed in charge was very knowledgeable and did her best to explain how the process worked.  When her English was too limited, she had a catalogue  containing pictures that she shared with us.  She was very proud of what she was accomplishing in their little room.  Another lady was working on a more rustic cotton fabric in shades of blue and brown.  She was repairing a broken thread while we were there.

According to our guide, women are working more outside the home now to help support their family income.  It didn’t sound like their incomes were very much, but they were doing beautiful work in this “factory”.

Earthquake reconstruction

The villages to the south and west of Kathmandu were most heavily hit by the earthquake in April of 2014.  Not only was there one large tremor of 7.6, but the aftershocks over the next few days were nearly as strong.  Most of the houses are built of brick, but they are often 3-4 stories high.  Those built in the villages were older and the building techniques less stable.  Many of them lost the upper stories of the house.

As you walk through these villages today, they are in various states of tearing down and building up.  There are piles of bricks and gravel on every street.  The brick factories in the valley are working full-time.  This provides many jobs but also fills the valley with more smoke.  There is no place to remove the rubble so it piles up in a corner, or behind the new home.

This construction is also providing lots of work for the locals.  It surprised me to see how many women were hauling bricks and gravel in baskets on their backs.  The building plans have engineer approval for earthquake resistance, but the workers did not all appear to be skilled for the job. We didn’t see any machines like bobcats or even many wheelbarrows for moving materials.  Most of the work was done by hand.

We did see a couple of men using chisels to cut mortise and tenons into window frames.  We saw another man putting them together.  There were also several men we saw carving designs into wooden lintels that were spectacular.

There are many families still living in temporary shelters beside the fields as they wait for the homes to be rebuilt.  I’ve put a few pictures here and the rest in another page in the travel section.

 

Agriculture

The flat land in the bottom of the valley and the terraced hillsides are used for growing a variety of crops.  We walked down to the bottom of the village Khokana and back up the other side to Bungamati.  What a workout!  The farmers were using terraced land to grow wheat, potatoes and mustard for now.  Rice will be planted in this area in May.

We saw workers in the fields when we were there.  They were weeding the crops by hand or with a deep, narrow metal hoe.  We saw cows being used to pull a plow that was managed by a man in flip-flops.  At the end of the day they all walk back up the big hill to the village.  It is a very difficult life.

Other activities

We bought some pop from a woman who had a little store in the front of her house.  She wanted about $1.05 for 3 bottles.  Peter insisted that was not enough and gave her double that.

As we sat on a bench outside, we watched her doing the family laundry.  She hauled the water in buckets from the inside.  At least she didn’t have to go to the nearby water pipe.  She had several pails and basins that she used to wash and rinse the clothing.  As the rinse water deteriorated, she would replace the dirtiest and continue rinsing from most soapy to least.  We saw many women in Nepal washing clothes in buckets on the ground near an available water source.

We visited a man who creates designs on metal statues sold in the market and to people who want Hindu deities in their homes.  Women were weaving rice straw into floor mats and corn stalks into table mats.  A couple were shelling what they called chick peas, that looked and tasted very much like regular peas.  They also had harvested a mat full of turmeric roots.

We saw many schoolchildren in their uniforms off to school as usual.

Pharping

We crossed the valley over terrible road but our taxi got us safely to the Pharping Yanglesho  Monastery.  We saw several differences from the ones in Thailand.  There seems to be a closer link to Hindu here. Since both religions come from India it is not so surprising. It also has lots of influence from Tibet.

The Tibetan prayer flags that epitomize the hike to Everest are in 5 colours.  They represent earth, air, fire, water and Buddha himself.  Read up on Pharping if you want to know more.  We climbed lots of stairs and had some good views.  A blessing was ending as we arrived at the top and some novices shared some oranges with us to share their blessing.

Kuripur

We finished our day with a drive to Kuripur, just south of Kathmandu.  We walked through a quiet, old community to get to the Pagoda.  Children were playing.  Women were sitting under an enormous tree. Men were sitting on the stoops of their homes.  The buildings were mostly old, but there were also several more modern homes.  A large water containment area was built into the square.  It was the size of a swimming pool with steps down to accommodate varying water levels.

The pagoda is from the 16th century and is a tribute to the Hindu god Bhagh Bhairab who is the destructive form of Shiva.  It has a row of knives and swords hanging from the upper level.  If the sky were clear, there would be wonderful views of the city.

Conclusion

We saw a woman with a crowd gathered around her in Bungamati.  I realized she was white.  I then realized that we had been the only white people in the village up until that point.  Our guide told us that she was a donor working with an NGO.  Until then I hadn’t noticed that we were the only non-asian people.  That is quite unfamiliar to us, although I didn’t feel like anyone acted like they noticed.  How lucky we are to be oblivious to the colour of our skins most of the time.

I am feeling more positive about Nepal after a few more days in this country.  It doesn’t work the way I think it should and I can see how difficult it is for the citizens to survive each day here.  They do have a strong sense of community, however, and that seems to just make things work for here.  Stay tuned for more comments as we continue our journey.

Having a guide for the day was priceless.  We paid him 5000 rp or about $50 and he led the way for the whole day and 15000 steps.  He said his usual rate was 4000 rp but we could pay him whatever we thought he was worth.  Without him we would not have found all the hidden treasures within the villages.  He also provided us with a local perspective on education, family, religion and how the government handles things in Nepal.  He was so knowledgeable on Hinduism, Buddhism and life in the village.  We are so glad he found us in Durbar Square and gave us the opportunity to write a reference in his little black notebook.

Nepal…to visit or not to visit?

Visit to Nepal

Before getting ready to head back to Canada we took a last holiday from our holiday.  We decided on Nepal for a few reasons

  1. Peter had wanted to go there for 40 years.
  2. It was much less expensive to fly to Kathmandu from Thailand than from Canada
  3. We needed to leave the country one more time before our visa expired
  4. Tourism is down in Nepal since the earthquakes 3 years ago. We wanted our tourism dollars to help make a difference.
  5. We thought it would be a good place to escape the burning season of bad air in Chiang Mai.

Four of the five reasons were good reasons.  The last one proved false as the air in Nepal is even more polluted than when we left Thailand.  Fortunately, we had bought Vogmasks to filter out the most dangerous particles and wore them most of the time we were away.

Reasons to visit

  1. The people of this country are happy and kind. They work very hard to make a living. Even before the earthquake though, 1/3 of the economy is from local efforts, 1/3 comes from money sent home by those who leave to make a living, and 1/3 is from tourism.
  2. There is a wonderful energy here. I am glad we had time in Thailand to have some experience with city living or this might have overwhelmed us.
  3. Our hotel, The Tibet Peace Inn, was very good value at about $35/night. They could not have been more helpful.  They picked us up at the airport, provided a hot breakfast for $3 a day and arranged our itinerary for the time we were there.  The manager booked our flight and driver for our trip to fly by Everest. He also booked a driver and hotel for our trip to Pokhara for 2 nights and even let us leave some of our things in our room in Kathmandu when we were gone.  And not only that, but they had the best hot, high-pressured shower we have had since we left Canada.
  4. You can hire a private guide and driver for a whole day of touring the villages near the city for about $80.  We had a great day with Ranjan Mishra, our guide.
  5. You can buy any knock off clothing gear that you want, all made in Nepal. I got a mid-weight down jacket for $20 and waterproof duffel bags for our camping gear for $35.
  6. We stayed in the Thamel area. It is the tourist area and has lots of restaurants serving food from every country, including Nepal.  Local beer is also cheap.  $4 for 620 ml.
  7. The country is primarily Hindu with many Buddhist and some Muslim. They have a strong influence from India which we could see in the women’s dress.  Having heard many Hindu stories at Angkor Wat was a big help to understanding the culture here.
  8. There is a very strong sense of community here. Children hold hands as they walk to school.  They play in the streets with whatever they can find. People smile and welcome you.  Parents play with their children and laugh with them.  I saw lots of dads carrying their children around

Reasons you might not want to visit

  1. Air quality. It is not only very dusty, but the skies register over 150 ppm of 2.5 micron particles which is above the dangerous level.
  2. Traffic-There is too much traffic for the roads. There are no traffic lights at all in the Kathmandu valley.  Many streets are not paved due to mismanagement or because of the earthquake.  These roads are full of holes.  If a mudslide occurs in the mountains, the traffic must drive around it.  The unpaved roads also result in lots of the dust.
  3. There are many people who walk here, especially compared to Thailand although are almost no sidewalks in our neighborhood.  40% of traffic fatalities are pedestrians.
  4. There is not a central government that knows how to help its citizens. Although building techniques must be adhered to when rebuilding homes after the earthquake, money that was promised has not arrived.  They dig up roads to add someone to a water line, but don’t replace the road.  There are power poles that are half a meter into the road because roads people and and power peope don’t work together.
  5. Local people we talked to feel that too much of the country’s money goes to corrupt officials. If you want a certificate stating you are a trained plumber, you can just buy one.
  6. It is hard to see so many poor people living in tents and shelters. Children say to visitors, “Give me a chocolate.”  Many  people in the smaller villages share a community water well or spigot.
  7. Garbage is often dumped into the river or pushed down a hill or piled up in a yard. Infrastructure is very limited
  8. Public school is only free up to grade 5. The children look great in their uniforms of skirts or pants and sweaters with ties, but their education is very much like ours was in the 50’s.  Punishment for creativity and very much rote learning with workbooks of homework.

Hope for Nepal

We met a couple of locals who want a better future for Nepal.  Our guide wanted to share what he loved about his land, but wants a government that is accountable to the people.

Our driver lived in a village that was mostly destroyed.  He left his brother behind to look after their old father and moved to Kathmandu with his and his brother’s children so they could continue to go to school.

A young man running a nightly movie on the upper level of an Irish pub, Cinema under the moon, has many ideas for Nepal.  He wants a trades school that is accountable to the employers that the students will have needed skills.  He wants to use the hydroelectric power available in Nepal for electric cars and has read up on Elon Musk’s Tesla battery.  Depak lets tourists message him on Facebook if they feel they are being taken advantage of by anyone in Kathmandu.

These thinkers make me feel positive.  They also get me thinking much more about, “What should I be doing?  What is my role as a citizen of the world?  We are here for a few more days.  I will continue to ponder my responsibility as we see and learn more about Nepal.

I will include some more pictures of the devastation and rebuilding from the earthquake in a travel subheading in the next couple of days , as well as some photos from our flight by Everest. Check back.

Krabi and Ao Nang…A holiday from our holiday

Krabi and Ao Nang

I will get back to our visit to Siem Reap shortly but for now we are in Krabi, Thailand. Our hotel is in the Ao Nang area.  We came here to experience the beach life of Thailand, to escape the smoky air of Chiang Mai and best of all to meet with our daughter, Melissa, who came for a visit. It’s a 2 hour direct flight from Chiang Mai and cost us about $175 return for the flight.

There are lots of beach towns and islands to visit in Thailand.  We talked to many people before deciding on Krabi.  It is not as popular with the party folk and is fairly well-developed for those of us who can backpack, but don’t necessarily want to.  It was easy to get to for a 5 day visit.

Accommodation

Finding a place to stay was more challenging than I expected.  Agoda, the Thai on-line booking company, showed lots of places as not available, although word is that they had limited rooms, not the hotels.  The majority of places only have beds for 2 people, either 2 twins or 1 double.  We would have needed to book 2 rooms for the 3 of us.

We found a place called Oscar Villa that had a family room with sleeping space for 4, a little kitchenette and a pool view for about $65/night. It was about 4 km from the beach so it took us awhile to figure out the transportation.  The hotel provided free shuttles to and from the beach 3 times a day.  You could call the office and go or be picked up any other time for 200 baht (about $7.50) per family.  They had a restaurant at the main office which was a couple of blocks away.

Customer Service

We didn’t take advantage of their activity planning until later in the visit.  Peter and Melissa went kayaking the last day. They arranged the booking for them, the transportation, stored our luggage for the day and picked us up at the beach for our trip to the airport in the evening.

The customer service was very good.  They really want you to have a good experience.  Pete got bit by some caterpillar thing that was sharing the back of the bench with him.  The gardener made a big show of killing it with his shoe, then brought over some ointment to rub on his arm to prevent any itch.

Ao Nang Beach

The Andaman Sea is warm and clear.  A peninsula protects the beach at Ao Nang from the Bay of Bengal. Phuket is on that peninsula. The area has recovered from the tsunami, although many big resorts rebuilt along the coast and took over some of the nicest public beaches.

The view is dotted with limestone cliffs, stone karsts and longtail boats.  It really does look like the views you see in the travel books.  The islands that you can visit may have promotional pictures of their beaches from 10 years ago but they are considerably busier now.  They are still so beautiful though.

Things to do in Ao Nang

  • Sit on the beach.  There are trees to provide shade until afternoon.  There are hawkers for bamboo mats, cold drinks, dresses, jewellery, massage deals, and even fresh cooked corn.  That man even had a charcoal bbq with him.

 

  • Swim in the ocean.  It’s sandy on the bottom and clear.  Watch for jellyfish. Someone thoughtfully fished one out with a big palm leaf and left it up on the sand where it was easily seen.  Roped off areas protect the swimmers from the boating area.
  • Take a long tail boat to another beach.  You buy the tickets at the beach access.  Railay beach is about $7.75 or 200 baht return and takes about 10-15 minutes in the boat.  It was low tide when we got there so the beach wasn’t that nice, but the cliff views were worth the trip.  There are lots of shops and eating/drinking spots there.
  • Find a rooftop bar for happy hour.  That’s all day for many places.  We really liked the Tom Yum restaurant near the big sailfish statue.  It’s upstairs on the roof next to the Family Mart.  The staff made sure we had cushions to sit on, shade or a fan and the view of the water is through the trees that give the shade.  Their mojitos are delicious and are on sale for 90 baht or less than $3.50 each.  They put fresh-cut pineapple on their Hawaiian pizza.  The places on the beach that are south of the main drag are more expensive.
  • Have a massage or mani/pedi along the beach.  Head south along the beach and keep going until you find the row of massage places.  They are open to the beach and most have mattresses on the floor.  We had picked up a flyer earlier in the day on the beach so we went looking for #12, Jan’s Massage.  Peter had an hour aloe vera massage plus his nails trimmed.  Melissa and I had a mani-pedi which included having our feet scrubbed and nails painted.  The entire process occured with us lying down on the mattress.  The women moved themselves to where our nails were. We spent 1100 baht which is about $40 for an hour of bliss for the 3 of us.

mani/pedi by the beach

  • Book a table at the Hilltop Restaurant.  It is at the northern end of the beach up in the hills.  The food was quite good, the service was fine and the sunset views behind the islands were spectacular.  We also enjoyed the live music. One other highlight was witnessing a wedding proposal while we were there.  They offer a free shuttle service to/from several local hotels.  Ours was not in their zone, but they picked us up at the Sailfish statue by the beach.  Sunset from the beach is pretty nice too.
  • Watch the clam diggers at low tide…moms, dads and kids.

Island Tour

The highlight of most people’s trip to Krabi is a day trip to some of the islands.  There are many options so I am glad we talked to others who had been here.  You can book a tour to the closest 4 islands, a tour to the Hong Islands or a tour to Phi Phi Island. You can travel by long tail boat or speed boat.  To read more details on the pros and cons of the tours and the mode of transportation, check out these two sites.  Travelfish boat and kayak tours and YourKrabi.  We found them quite helpful.

Although this is still high season here, it was not as busy as we expected.  We didn’t want to spend our island tour day on someone else’s schedule so we opted to book our own private long tail boat to the Hong Islands, just for the 3 of us.  It cost 3000 baht which converted to $114 CAD for the day.  The group tours cost 700 baht each but include lunch. We came into town early, had breakfast, and bought a couple of take away sandwiches for our lunch. We bought our  boat ticket when the booth opened at 8 and were taken to our boat right away

Thoughts for next time

Although the day was fantastic, I know a couple of things I would do differently.  I understood that the drivers travelled the same route as the tours, just on our time schedule.  I should have been more familiar with the tour route as I would have liked to spend a little time snorkelling at one of the off shore stops instead of just along the beaches.  When I asked what was next, he just replied, “whatever  you wish, madam.”  I should have known better what I wanted.

The other thing we learned for next time is that we could have bought our boat ticket the night before.  Then we could have left even earlier and beat all the crowds. Regardless, the day was terrific.

Hong Island

It took about 45 minutes by long tail boat to get to Hong Island.  The water was like glass so it felt more like a lake than the ocean.  We saw other long tails and speedboats as well as some dive boats and large catamarans.  We had benches to sit on under a shady cover.  The motor is loud but the ride was smooth.

Our boat was the 3rd to arrive for the day.  We paid our marine National park fee of 300 baht each and ogled the smooth white sand and teal water.  The cliffs were steep around the bay with a large rock formation splitting it into 2 parts.  The background was all jungle.  Areas for the swimmers had ropes and there was a big boat parking lot.  The driver told us to stay as long as we wanted and let him know when we wanted to go. He recommended about 3 hours if we wanted time to see the other areas.

Hong Island Facilities

This is the largest area on this tour so the facilities were good.  There were lifeguards and parks people to remind the idiots not to feed the fish.  Toilet facilities were clean and included a water filled area to walk though to remove the sand from your feet. There was also a restaurant and a place to buy snacks and drinks.  You could rent kayaks to travel around the island, or into the cove.

Although we stayed for 3 hours, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the dock had people coming and going, but the beach or swimming area never felt crowded.  It was a good place for families with children.

We swam and snorkelled.  There were bottles of vinegar in posts along the beach to use as an antidote in case of a venomous jellyfish if necessary.  There were also signs with warnings of what to look for.  The water was clear and I saw several varieties of fish.

Other stops

We left about noon and travelled around the island to a lagoon that is in the center the opposite side.  It was high tide so the boat could enter.  The water was a beautiful green color with high cliffs all around.  We toured around the inside at a nice slow pace and took lots of pictures.  At low tide you can only enter in a kayak, but apparently, the colour is even more intense.

We travelled to 2 more islands.  One had a small beach with more cliffs and more fish to see.  The other had a long sand section joining 2 rocky sections.  There was a mushroom looking rock in the bay that had a lot of coral just past it.  The textures and fish were worth the sunburn I got on the back of my legs.  Much of the other coral I saw was dead.  I don’t know if this is still a result of the tsunami, or from development and all the boats in the area.

It took about an hour to return to the beach in the long tail.  It was 4 o’clock and we so appreciated our tropical paradise.

Kayak Tour

Melissa and Peter took a half day kayak tour north of Ao Nang at Ao Thalane.  The trip in the back of a songtaew to the boat launch was uncomfortable, but the time on the water was just what they hoped it would be.  They paddled in a group of 10, led by a guide.  Included were water bags and drinking water.

The current took them along for much of the ride. They travelled through mangrove trees, over a small stretch of open water and into steep canyons that had once been limestone caves until the tops caved in.  Stalactites were still visible.  They spotted some monkeys in the trees, but fortunately none came for a closer look.  This route is only available at high tide.  Coffee and fresh fruit were available after the trip concluded.  At a cost of 500 baht, or $20 CAD, it was a fantastic time.

Holiday from our holiday

It was a great place for a holiday from our holiday.  It was also nice to choose a late flight home where we could get a quick ride home and not have the 2 hour drive through the snow and darkness we usually experience after a tropical holiday.

I have included some photos here in the blog but look for others in the travel menu.

 

 

 

Siem Reap Area Temples known as Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

The Siem Reap Area Temples are generally all referred to as Angkor Wat and encompass 400 sq km.  A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the actual Angkor Wat temple is the largest religious monument in the world! To help put some of this into perspective, many of these structures were built before or at the same time as the massive cathedrals of Europe, by a people living with limited tools in the jungle. According to some web sources, they completed the construction in only 35 years.

We spent 4 days in this area.  I’ll begin with some background and history.  The next post will continue with descriptions of the other places we visited besides Angkor Wat temple itself.

Getting to Siem Reap

We took a bus from Phnom Pehn to Siem Reap which takes about 5 1/2 hours on pretty good highways.  They picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the Giant Ibis bus terminal.  We transferred to a big charter kind of bus and had a chance to see the countryside of Cambodia. There was no toilet on board, but we stopped for a break after about an hour and stopped for lunch in about 2 hours more.  They even switched drivers halfway through.  This trip cost us $15 each.

Hotel Choice

We stayed in the city of Siem Reap at the Golden Mango Inn.  It was a great place for us for a few reasons.  It was a away from the high energy part of town, it had its own restaurant and the pool was shaded and cool in the afternoon after a morning of touring.

We arrived to register and were led to the couch seating and given cold lemonade and towels to refresh ourselves after our journey. They helped us plan an itinerary for the 4 days that we were there. Breakfast was included and the day that we went to see sunrise at Angkor Wat, we were given a breakfast to “take away.”  We upgraded to the deluxe room by the pool and paid $217 for 4 nights.  Their customer service was outstanding.

This price included pick up at the bus and delivery to the airport when we left.  Our tuk-tuk driver at the bus became our driver for the whole week.  Chatting with him at the bus station gave us a chance to check out his English, which was great. You can find him on Facebook.  The set fee for the driver was $15-$20/day, depending on the distance.  The hotel booked him for us for 3 days, and we arranged to have him take us to the Angkor National Museum on the 4th day ourselves.

Travel Tips

  • Hire a guide unless you are an expert on Buddhist and Hindu legends and symbolism.  They know the stories, the history and where it’s best to take pictures. There are few signs showing the names of the temples, there are no descriptions on site, and no wifi to look things up yourself. We had the guide all to ourselves for $45/day. The hotel booked the guide for us for the first day. We booked her again for the fourth day of our visit.
  • Hire a tuk-tuk driver.  They will drop you off at one gate and pick you up on the other side.  Ours also drove us on a loop of temples without our guide, then accompanied us on the boat trip to Tonle Sap.
  • Get some local advice for planning.  It’s hard to remember all the names and to know the distances between them.  Our hotel was excellent at providing that information.  There are many travel offices in town to help as well.  There is lots of information on line, but it was difficult to make our own itinerary, just because there so much.
  • Wear a big hat.  There is not much shade in the temples
  • Take lots of water-see above
  • These sites are large and there is lots of walking.
  • Wear sturdy shoes.  The temples are not very accessible.  There is lots of climbing over high sills between rooms and large steps to get up to the other levels.  There are no railings or warnings about low doorways.
  • Take a camera, or your phone at least.
  • Stay at a hotel with a shady outdoor space.  
  • If you can’t walk it, check out Google street view–Angkor Wat

Background Information

There is a great museum in Siem Reap called the Angkor National Museum. It has many artifacts, historical context and a room with 1000 Buddhas.  Their audio tour is very informative.  We spent 2 hours there, but I could have spent longer.  We visited there on day 3 after a day with a guide and a day with just our driver.  Some other travellers recommended going there first, but this timing worked for us. 

History

Great Kings who ruled in the area from about 950 to 1180 AD are responsible for these monuments.  Kings were not always crowned because of their birth, but often because of victory in battle. The temples and City of Thom were built for the gods, to commemorate battles, and honor family members.  The interesting thing is that some of the Kings were Hindu and some of them were Buddhist, although both religions originated in India.  The gods they worshiped were different.  The Buddhist Kings left the Hindu statues but the Hindu kings removed the Buddhas from the temples.  Some of the carvings showing Buddha sitting in lotus position were re-carved by adding a beard and moving the knees up to a new, higher level. Others were removed altogether leaving an empty Buddha silhouette.

Angkor Wat Temple

Angkor Wat temple represents the gods in the center, the walls are the mountains and the moat is the oceans.  The outer walls of the temple complex are huge and completely covered with carvings that represent Hindu legends and great battles.  It is hard to imagine a society so advanced that they can employ and feed so many workmen to not only build these monuments, but cover them with beautiful art and stories.

The temples were built with a kind of brick called laterite.  It looks volcanic but when the clay is dried in the sun, small holes form but the blocks are strong.  They were faced with sandstone that had to be moved 30 km to the area.  Some of it was covered with a kind of stucco and even painted.

What’s next?

I will include the names of each temple with the pictures. There is lots of information on line if you want to know more about these temples and the history. I found the Travelfish site the most useful for me.

After visiting all the amazing structures, the idea that stayed with me was that these were powerful leaders who built cities and temples as well as conquered large areas of southeast Asia.  Cambodia is very proud of this history.

Some pictures can be found within this post.  I will also add them and others to the travel page found at the top of my webpage.  If you are reading this blog by email, click the link to the site, found at the bottom of the email.

Have a look at some of the comments shared by other readers.  Thanks for the interesting conversations.