April 24, 2017 – Angkor Wat by Motorbike

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The Only Smiling Apsara is the Whole of Angkor Wat

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskTMXXAQ

Today I decided to explore the temple of Angkor Wat on my own. I took my time and ended up spending three hours there. I found the one Apsara dancer in over 2000 that is smiling. In addition, I look at all of the bas-reliefs along the walls. I read my guidebook at the same time to add more context and history to the amazing carvings.

While I was there, a couple was taking their wedding photos which was very romantic!

I also found a quit space to do some meditation along one of the outer walls which was lovely. Because I went in the afternoon, there was barely anyone there because most tourists only go to Angkor Wat for the Sunrise. It was a great opportunity to take photos and see all the details that I had previously missed.

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April 23, 2017 – Sunset at Phnom Kraom

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Watching the sunset over the fields at Phnom Kraom

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskYJzFSZ

When no one showed up at my 5:00pm yoga class, I spontaneously decided to watch the sunset from Phnom Kraom. I rented a motorbike for $8 USD and it took about 20 minutes to reach the mountain. Luckily, I got there so late that the guard had already gone home so I didn’t need to show him my Angkor Wat Pass. I parked my bike at the bottom of the mountain next to a beautiful staircase. Little did I know that the climb to the top would take so long and there is a road that you can access by motorbike. I ended up hitchhiking to the top and got to the sun set just in the nick of time!

The temple of Phnom Kraom is not very interesting compared to the other ones I’ve seen, but the sunset and view of the fields is amazing from the top!

April 22, 2017 – Banteay Srei, The Cambodia Landmine Museum, and Ta Prohm

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Banteay Srei

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskYJyjBz

I met Katherine in the morning just after breakfast after overhearing that she was interested in exploring Banteay Srei. An hour later, we caught a tuk tuk together and headed out. Banteay Srei is 20 km north of Angkor Wat. Its name means “Citadel of the Women” and was constructed using pink sandstone. Although it is petite and not a royal temple, every inch is intricately decorated and beautifully carved.

When you enter the site there is a welcome booth and an exhibition hall with details about the history and restoration of the temple. It was how I imagined Angkor Wat would be set up, however, hardly any information is provided at Angkor Wat. I suspect this is the case because they want you to hire a guide.

On our way back to our hostel we stopped at the Cambodia Landmine Museum. It was extremely educational and free audio guides were provided. Aki Ra, the founder of the museum, is a Cambodian hero. He went from being a child soldier to a disarming thousands of bombs throughout Cambodia. The sad fact is, there are still approximately 3 million landmines in Cambodia and even more throughout the world. I felt very proud to be Canadian as I learned that we had provided a large donation to create the museum. Additionally, in 1997, Canada introduced a Mine Ban Treaty, also known as The Ottawa Treaty. It prohibits the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel mines. Most of the countries of the world have signed it.

Just before sunset, Katherine and I went to Ta Prohm (the “Tomb Raider” temple) to take some photos in the “golden hour”. It was very quiet compare to going midday and felt very mysterious. I love looking at all the giant trees growing on top of the temple ruins.

April 21, 2017 – The Artbox 3D Art Museum in Siem Reap

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These Young Monks Aren’t Scared At All!

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskYkRdgd

Close to Siem Reap’s airport lies a 3D art museum called Art Box Siem Reap. I have always been curious to see what lies inside. The museum is only a year old and very large. Inspired by trick art museums in South Korea, this one displays wall paintings that you place yourself in and take a photo. Due to the perspective of the painting, it looks like you are actually in the artwork.

The Art Box has many different themed room including dinosaurs, the Seven Wonders of the World, famous paintings, and more. It even has an entire room dedicated to Angkor Wat in different seasons which was well done.

Other than a few local tourists, it was just Anna and I inside the museum. Our tuck tuck driver also decided to join us as well because he had never been before. While inside, I was very surprised to stumble upon a group of young monks taking photos. I never would have expected that!

Overall, it was lots of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed myself! The entrance is $15 for tourists which is quite expensive and the local price is $5.

April 18, 2017 – The “Large Circuit” Tour of Angkor Wat

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Twisting & Soaring Pose (Visvamitrasana) at Preah Khan Temple

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskYuvjFc 

Anna, Todor, and I decided to do the “Big Circuit” tour in the opposite direction so we could see the sunset at Phnom Bakheng temple. It worked to our advantage because we were going the opposite direction of most tourists and avoided many of them at the first few temples.

Our first stop was Pre Rup, a Hindu temple where Cambodian funerals were conducted. Luckily, there were only a handful of people there when we arrived so we could take lots of great photos. Next, we explored East Mebon. Now entirely void of water, in its prime, East Mebon was a water reservoir. There are many wonderful elephant statues on the corners of the temple. Todor, Anna, and I tried to find the best preserved elephant which was a lot of fun. Ta Som is very compact, almost like a miniature version of Ta Prohm because it has one entrance engulfed by a tree. Neak Prean was very beautiful. It is a small monument surrounded by several ponds. The sky reflected into the water was breathtaking! Preah Khan was much more than just a temple. It was actually a Buddhist university and almost a mini-city.

In the evening, the three of us climbed to the top of Phnom Bakheng to watch the sunset. We had to go a little more than an hour early because only 300 people are allowed to view the sunset from the top at one time. Luckily, Anna, Todor, and I arrived there in advance. The temple itself did not have a lot to offer, but the view was spectacular. Looking out from the top, you can even see Angkor Wat temple.

April 17, 2017 – The Temples of Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm

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Exploring the Highest Level of Angkor Wat Temple

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskTvWSME 

With my 7 day Angkor Wat Pass I was excited to see the sunrise for a second time at Angkor Wat, this time with Dave, Todor, and Anna. We departed from our hostel around 4:30 AM to reach the temple in time. The sunrise is nothing short of spectacular and I love seeing the temple reflected in the pond as the sun makes is way overhead.

This time, I made sure to go to the highest section of Angkor Wat first because the last time I went the lineup was too long to consider going up. It’s surprising how many details I missed the first time I visited the temple.

Following Angkor Wat, the four of us went to Bayon Temple. There are approximately 216 faces which make the place feel alive and very spiritual.

Preah Palilay is a very small temple with two trees growing out of the front steps. Although, it is quite tiny, it is one of my favourites. It feels so peacefully and barely any tourists venture there.

Our last stop was Ta Prohm also known as the “Tomb Raider Temple” because it was featured the movie “Tomb Raider” with Angelina Jolie. It is also one of my favourites. Ancient trees grow out of the temple remains and there are piles of ancient sandstone blocks strewn throughout the area.

 

April 14-16, 2017 – Celebrating Khmer New Year

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Water Gun Fights at Angkor Wat!

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskYgSf2E 

Khmer New Year is three packed days of rejoicing, water gun fights, talcum powder throwing, and partying. During this time, a three day festival is held in front of Angkor Wat temple called Angkor Sankranta which includes performances, shows, martial arts demonstrations, traditional games, dancing, and great food. I believe this is one of the only times that Angkor Wat Temple is decorated with hundreds of lights which can be seen just after sunset. I loved walking around and having water gun fights with everyone! If you’re carrying a water gun, you’re fair game. That includes when you’re walking on streets, on motorbikes or in cars, and sometimes inside buildings.

Angkor Sankranta also included oxcart and buffalo racing on a nearby field (check out the video in link above). I went with a couple friends and witnessed some extremely fast cows! It was also boiling hot that day so everyone was huddled under umbrellas.

In the evenings, Pub Street has a large stage set up at one end where famous Cambodian singers performed. Everyone stands in the street to watch, making it feel like at though you are in a sardine can. Some of my friends and I even got to go up on stage and dance! Every night of the New Year, you get completely soaked with water and your face has smears of talcum powder all over it. What an amazing way to celebrate the New Year!

April 12, 2017 – The Floating Village of Kompong Khleang

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Zac and I at Kompong Khleang

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskTvi9Sa

Kompong Khleang is the farthest floating village from Siem Reap but it is supposedly the most authentic. Zac and I hired a bat-mobile tuk tuk from the main market and then headed off. Our tuk tuk driver accidently took us to a closer floating village so we got to the Kompong Khleang later than we expected.  The boat ride to the floating section of Kompong Khleang was another $25 USD and would take another hour so Zac and I decided to just enjoy the town from the land and walked around. Additionally, the water level was very low and it most likely was not worth going all the way to the floating section. On the mainland, all of the homes and buildings were built on stilts. The drive there and back was one of my favourite parts of the day. Just viewing the countryside and the different styles of Cambodian homes was fascinating.

 

April 11, 2017 – Sunrise at Angkor Wat!

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Sunrise at Angkor Wat Temple

see more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskXHd8UY

I went to Angkor Wat for the first time with Christina, an American, and Tom and Luke who were both English. We caught our Tuk Tuk at 4:15 am to buy tickets and arrive on time to watch the sun rise. The group of us got there in plenty of time and watched the sun rise over the temple of Angkor Wat. It was beautiful and Angkor Wat feels like such a magical place.

In total, we trekked around 7 temples including Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Tah Phram or the tomb raider temple. The temples are very unique with exquisite detailing and architecture. Luckily I am in Siem Reap for a long time so I got a 7 day pass for $72 USD which is extremely expensive but I can use up all the days over the duration of one month. A one day pass is $37 USD and a 3 day pass is $62.

 

March 29-April 5, 2017 – My first week in Siem Reap, Cambodia!

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Traditional Apsara Dance in Temple Club

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskSWSjJ6

My first week teaching vinyasa yoga at The Siem Reap Hostel was great! I feel like I’m really getting into the groove of it. The hostel has lots of amenities including a pool! It’s situated near the old town and the staff are wonderful.

Siem Reap is a very different from India. The roads are quieter and hardly anyone honks their horn. Traffic as well as bikes also drives on the right side of the road. Everyone smiles and is very friendly. I find it interesting that businesses accept both US and Cambodian currency. Siem Reap has a little bit of everything in terms of cuisine and activities which is wonderful!

With friends I’ve met at my hostel, I’ve had the chance to explore much of the night life in the city. It is mostly centered on “Pub Street” and is very easy to find.

The Phare Circus was amazing! I especially liked the acting and story line that went along with the acrobatic routine. The performers also had unwavering energy throughout the performance and used a lot of humor.

I also caught the Apsara Dance at the Temple Club on Pub Street happening daily at 7:30pm. Apsara dance is traditional Cambodian dancing accompanied by live music. It was well done and included several different acts with costume changes in between. The dancers focus on the careful movement of their feet and fingers. The only downfall was that the background music from the street and different levels of the Temple Club were competing with the traditional instruments which took away from the performance.

One of my favourite bars in Siem Reap is X Bar. It’s just past Pub Street and provides a panoramic view of the city. It also has a half pipe on the roof!

Through my hostel I joined a “Food Walk” where we explored the main market and tasted different foods. We tried an assortment of snacks, spring rolls, and traditional desserts. We even tried lotus seeds which taste like beans.

The Night Market in Cambodia is much like the markets elsewhere in Asia. One particularly interesting booth they have are miniature bars set up. I’ve also tried the fried ice cream. Bug, tarantulas, and snakes are also sold at some food carts.

Fish Spas are popular in Siem Reap, so I definitely had to try one! They had tanks with small fish and big fish and I tried both. After about half an hour I finally felt less ticklish. I did go in the morning though so I think the fish were extra hungry.

To learn more about the traditional crafts and trades of Cambodia, I visited Artisans Ankor. It is a small workshop where carving, painting, and sculpting takes place. I was admitted for free and joined a tour group in progress to get more information. Artisans Angkor provide a great model to engage young artisans to keep their traditional arts alive!