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Cambodia/Laos Trip Blog

kaboom!

As our time in Cambodia nears its end day 6 for us has been bigger than ever! A real feature today has been the variety of activities, each with their own highlights and together a wonderful follow up to the historic feast of yesterday.

Again the hotel organised our transport and our request for the same driver was met, the difference this time was the price and for 35USD instead of 40 we got a minibus to drive us on our own discovery tour. First stop was 25kms past Angkor Wat to the Landmine museum (www.cambodialandminemuseum.org). In 1997 Aki Ra founded this as he was simply sick of seeing children getting hurt in their hunt for scrap metal from the millions (yes, millions) of unexploded mines still littering Cambodia in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the extended conflict with the Khmer Rouge. Aki himself was a child soldier and he openly embraced the use of mines as he fought. Later, he became an expert in disarming using hand-made tools and started an orphanage and school for affected children but there is so much still to be done. Our visit today is another small contribution and all of the $ spent by tourists here, stays here.

Just down the road is the largest fully enclosed butterfly enclosure in South East Asia. The Banteay Srei Butterfly Centre (www.angkorbutterfly.com) was a joyous change up and to have these peaceful insects flutter around you and land on you with complete trust was refreshing. We were able to be guides through the complete cycle of butterflies and for something that many might think was a primary school activity, this place astounded everyone; the photos show why it was a popular favourite of today.

And that was meant to be it. Just so happened though that our driver (not a hotel employee but a sub-contractor) had a suggestion for us. So, after a few calls and some price negotiation (from 160 USD to 110) we were taken to the increasingly popular village of Kompong Pluk (not the heavily touristed floating Chong Kneas). To get to this stilted community we boarded a barge and motored through the channels toward the Sonle Tap lake (remember that? it’s the cool body of water that fills in the wet season when the Mekong pushes water up the Sonle Tap river from Phnom Phen… only to reverse the flow once the rain stops… pretty cool for many species of fish and birds). For a few hours we cruised the area with fresh water crocodiles on show, floating corner stores in long boats and several other tourist boats sharing the experience as the local fishermen returned with their day’s catch….. plenty of authenticity on show along with the odd bit of opportunism (photographers took our photos on arrival as we walked past, printed them on a clichéd background and tried to sell them to us for 4USD on our return… yeah, we bought a few).

By 6pm we were back at the Royal Crown, ready for a swim in the pool before having a break from Asian food with some Italian instead. It was a bit more expensive partly because it was Italian and partly because it was one of several restaurants in an up-market shopping precinct. It also was a great place to debrief our day and share the enjoyment.

Tomorrow we will check out at noon then re-visit the Old Market area before getting a transfer to the airport at 2 (our flight to Laos leaves 4.55).

Lots of photos today so the following is a digital narrative of sorts; hope you enjoy it….there’s a couple of landscape ones so if you click on them they should open up

oh, are we meant to have a cool name yet?

enjoy,blog 6 blog 6a blog 6a1 blog 6b blog 6c blog 6d blog 6e blog 6e1 blog 6e2 blog 6f blog 6g blog 6h blog 6i blog 6j blog 6l blog 6m blog 6n blog 6o blog 6p blog 6q blog 6s blog 6t blog 6u blog 6v blog 6w blog 6x blog 6y blog 6z blog 6z1 blog 6k blog 6r from the LFHS travelling troupe

 

 

 

 

 

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Wat a day!

Trying to get your head around centuries of history in one day is not easy. Heritage listed Angkor Wat complex had 4 million visitors last year and it is certainly a lot more than the world’s largest religious building; Cambodia is the temple capital of Asia. The scope of this place is mind-blowing; at it’s peak the city of Angkor had 1 million inhabitants while London had 50000! With 35 listed sites in varying states of decay and many others in ruin, there is no way you can see them all in a day.

The recommended sunrise viewing was given the thumbs down in preference to a later start and a sunset plan instead. So after being treated to a sumptuous breakfast (4 star), we met our driver at 9 and headed off. The first stop was at the entry station to get our 20USD ticket. It is not just a fancy formality, it features your photo and must be shown at every site; today was hot and the risk of losing it was minimal in comparison to it getting smudged by sweat. 5 minutes drive around the moat (190m wide x 1.5km x 1.3km) that surrounds Angkor Wat for added protection as well as part of its revolutionary irrigation system, we arrived. Rob found us a guide who happened to grow up on site. Orphaned after his parents were killed in the war that continued well after Phnom Penh was liberated from the Khmer Rouge, he was raised by the monks and still teaches there (we even got a special tour of where he grew up).

He led us over the next few hours (until our driver called to hurry us up) around the outside, through the chambers, up stairs to areas of enlightenment, into libraries and courtyards. All the while he was able to share details about how the Wat was built (blocks of stone quarried and then carried from 50 kms away!), the kings who ruled and their religious leanings (Hindu for the original king but mainly Buddhist) and importantly, what the bas-reliefs (carvings) represented. Wow! Simply incredible.

Next it was off to lunch in an air-conditioned restaurant; we needed the break from the heat and our water was going fast… then on to Ta Prohm. This is the temple built for the king’s mother and made famous by Lara croft in the film, “Tomb Raider”. What is really cool here is that it continually under restoration as nature is reclaiming its space. Huge trees have up-rooted the foundations and swallowed the stone, it is like an adventure in a jungle ruin as you weave amongst the rubble and narrow corridors. It also was nice and shady.

John. Tiffany, Bu Amy and Dash then had a climb to the top of the oldest temple, Ta Keo (built in the 900’s). The steps are scary but you get a great view at the top. This one isn’t very touristy as most are headed straight for Angkor Thom; we did too pretty quickly.

Set over 10 square kms and bordered by a moat, this 13th century walled capital only has 4 entrance gates, one on each side. Inside, there is the palace, temples for the king’s 12 wives and the grand day of them all, the Bayon. This has 54 gothic towers decorated with 216 dead pan faces that seem to be a lot like the king. It is this image that is as common as the outline of Angkor Wat.

By now, everyone was exhausted…. but wait, there’s more… the sunset! For this we went to Phnom Bakheng where the walk up the hill was a challenge. Because this is so popular, there is limited access… we were there 2 hours before sunset and after 30 mins started to wonder if standing in the sun was going to be worth if. There were a few headaches and we’d run out of water so thinking about looking after ourselves we decided to call it a day. On our exit, there was a line up of a few hundred people waiting at the entrance. Then as we walked down, we passed hundreds more…. guess the advice is to get there early with some snacks and refreshments; lots of disappointment for many today.

On our return, the pool was a wonderful change from the heat and our wander to Pub Street later for dinner a pleasant way to cool down. Tomorrow we are going to head the Wat way again but no more temples for now…

What a day!

the LFHS explorers.

ps as you can tell, I’ve got the memory card issue sorted. Had to wipe the data though so the photos from yesterday (like eating fire ants!) are gone. The message here is to download with out having other programs open…. whoops..blog day 5 blog day 5a blog day 5b blog day 5c blog day 5d blog day 5f blog day 5g blog day 5h blog day 5i blog day 5j blog day 5k blog day 5l blog day 5m blog day 5n blog day 5o blog day 5p blog day 5q

 

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on the road again… Siem Reap, here we come

a much quieter day today with a 7 hr drive to Cambodia’s major drawcard.  Along with the inevitable organised stops at roadside markets and rest stops we were treated to mostly smooth driving (there are a few sections that are under repair an pretty bumpy… the wet season doesn’t treat the highway well) and it is obvious that the link between the two major cities is on the continual improve. The real surprise though was our arrival at the Royal Crown Hotel… this is one flash place and porters could not do enough to help us settle in… cool flannels, luggage ferried, digital registration just the start. The roof top bar has a great view, the pool a refreshing salty tang and we are a 5 minute walk to the old market centre. Prices are cheaper here than Phnom Penh with main meals 3USD on average and souvenirs (yep, more shopping) cheaper. Haggling is getting better and lots of laughter for everyone involved…. and then there are those sucking fish. Frustratingly, there’s been a malfunction with my memory card (needs re-formatting?) so only a few photo offerings today. Thankfully I have a new card for use at Ankor Wat tomorrow.

until then, good night

ps click on the blurry photos as they are panorama shots

blog day 4 blog day 4a

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humans sure can be atrocious!

What a day! This was a history lesson that everyone can learn from and the educational benefits for us were amazing and confronting. Overall we don’t regret taking this opportunity to learn more about human behaviour. Here’s a summary of our experience….

When you go to places where smiles are forbidden then you know there isn’t going to be much to get excited about. Yes, we had tuk-tuk rides with our drivers from yesterday (travel tip: once you establish a relationship with a driver, they’ll want to take you anywhere… make sure you negotiate a price before you hop in) and we keep eating marvellous food (last night’s dinner @ 10USD a head was a shared feast of traditional dishes) but a day of immersion in the reality that 1 in every 4 Cambodians was killed during the Khmer Rouge reign certainly sobers you up… lots of heavy sighs and tense jaws; fellow travellers respecting the no talking or photos inside signs in respect.

After a lovely hotel breakfast, we headed straight to Toul Sleng Museum (Security Prison 21). If you’re not thinking torture, pain, suffering and death then you should be… on it’s liberation, only 7 prisoners were alive! This is simply because they were considered useful (could sew, paint and repair). The good news  is 2 of them now campaign for awareness and we got to meet them both… 85 + these are amazing men and Bou Meng (pictured) had a translator as he was deafened by the electric shocks he repeatedly received; Chum  travelled the world once free and stimulated the arrests of the perpetrators left alive. Inside, you are haunted by the photos and stories of the men, women and children who did not survive.

14 kms from town is the Killing Field (one of 30) where prisoners were taken for execution… to save bullets, they were bludgeoned, stabbed, spiked, slashed and macheted instead… at night, all the while listening to revolutionary music to mask the screams. Babies were picked up by the ankles and smacked against a tree  and visitors have placed bracelets on it now to symbolise recognition (pictured). For 6USD you get an audio tour that provides the horrible background detail as you walk around the hollow mounds, bone fragments and victim clothing. The stupa houses many of the skeletal remains and they stare with hollow eyes at we who were helpless then but can make a difference now. To lift the mood we ate at a food house across the road, gently de-briefing before seeking our own quiet reflection for the 30 min ride back to the hotel.

A bit of shopping always lifts the spirits however along with more beautiful food; back at the hotel now getting ready for our 8am mini-bus pick up for the 7 hr drive to Siem Reap.

really glad we know that humans can also do really good things

LFHS – learning and appreciatingblog day 3 blog day 3a blog day 3b blog day3c blog day3e blog day3f blog day3g blog day3d

 

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we love Cambodia!

early call? don’t think so… nothing like a 4am start to really get you going.

Visa on arrival was very straightforward and the 30USD well spent… then it was straight into tuk-tuk adventure (we needed 3)… break downs and separation meant we all took different paths but we reconnected at the Centre City hotel, a few blocks from the Mekong (the photo shows the area). Phnom Penh is quite spacious and not very built up but typically chaotic on the roads… thank goodness they know what each other is doing! Because we arrived so early our rooms weren’t all ready so we had no choice but to simply start sight-seeing. Using hotel drivers we proceeded to visit the royal palace (opulent), have a café style lunch, be drenched in a torrential down pour, be awed by the museum (no photos allowed inside), take our shoes of for a wat wander (be prepared to dress appropriately, John and Tiff had to spend 3USD each to buy covering clothes) and then finish with a ramble through the Russian markets. This is also quite chaotic and you get to haggle over anything from animal carcasses to screw-drivers with American handles…. yes, out $15USD budget has blown out today (a few 5USD entry fees + transport + souvenirs). Down time now before we meet for a walk along the Mekong to have some dinner. 5 minute call, better get going.

the LFHS travelling commandos? (still working on the name…. and plenty of photos to come)

blog day 2#1 blog day 2#2 blog day 2#3 blog day 2a blog day 2b blog day 2b1 blog day 2c blog day 2d blog day e

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safely in Malaysia

Pleased to report that our 7 hour flight was indeed a comfortable 3 movies worth and quite smooth…. greeted in KL by a serious smoke haze due to the fires in Sumatra but that has made our afternoon activity a more relaxed one…. no pool at the Tune hotel or breakfast tomorrow before our 6.45 am flight to Phnom Penh but they do have a nice lobby, comfortable rooms, a 7-11 and a 2 min walk to our terminal for dinner and departure. Suffice to say, we’re hanging out.

Interesting facts:

– you get 2.6 ringgit for an aussie $ which will buy you a 600ml water

– no visa is required for entry

– the fare into town is 199 ringgits to get to town (70 kms away)

the airplane food was very pleasing but you need to ask if you want extra drinksDSC06762taking off Adelaide

– Malaysia is 90 minutes behind Adelaide…

seeya tomorrow in Cambodia..

happy holidays from the adventurers

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getting really excited now!

lfhs team photo

Thank you to Hambours who have created specialized shirts for us to wear as we travel…. not long now until our 6 am meeting tomorrow morning at Adelaide airport then it’ll be a 7 hour flight to Malaysia! I reckon that is about 3 movies worth… probably should add some new locations to our international flagpole. For those who are holidaying in Australia, have a safe and enjoyable time; we will be!

cheers LFHS intrepid adventurers (we’ll come up with a cool name)

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Cambodia Laos Trip: Blog number 2, A night at Warradale

We’ve spent the afternoon and evening at the DECD campsite planning for our trip that starts 6 am on the first day of our September break. We’ve reviewed our 15 day itinerary and allocated responsibilities. We feel good about how we operate as a group and re-checked our packing list. For some of us, this will be our first trip overseas and for all of us it is going to be amazing. Here’s a few thoughts from today.

James: I am fascinated to see how the people in Laos and Cambodia live their lives. I am looking forward to discovering the cultural differences between how they live and how we do. I am also looking forward to being challenged and to think about all the things I take for granted here in Australia.

John: I am excited to see new places and I have been researching these amazing new places, especially Vientiane. It looks interesting and amazing and adventurous. I am really looking forward to  exciting food adventures throughout our trip. I hear they eat spiders and grasshoppers in Laos. I want to try the home made ice creams with exotic ingredients.

Alyssa: I want to see how living is different for the children of the orphanage and the schools; I’m keen to see how we react to each other. I reckon it’s going to be a great experience.

Rebecca: I am excited to learn about a new culture and how the orphanage cares for the children there.

Cambodia / Lao 2015

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Lao and Cambodia trip 26 September to 11 October

From the 26th September watch this blog to follow the trail of the inaugural Le Fevre High School’s visit to the Lotus Villa Orphanage in the North of Laos after being invited by the Laos Minister of Education to team with  students in need in a regional area of Laos. The students will also visit Phnom Phen and Siam Reap including Angkor Wat in Cambodia as well as spending some time in Vientiane  the Capital city of Laos on the trip.

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