Temples, Floating Villages, & Markets- Day 3 in Siem Reap

Friday, January 31, 2014

After our first full day trekking around Angkor Wat, I wasn't sure if the boys would be up to another full day back at the temples.  To my surprise, all 3 boys were begging to go back.  It really is a paradise for 3 little boys who are looking for an adventure.  My three year old had convinced himself that we would end up finding a hidden treasure among the ruins.  My eight year old discovered that he loves photography and has a pretty great eye. And we learned that my six year old has great appreciation for ancient art.  He was amazed by the carvings and architecture there.  We all walked away with a sense of adventure and love for the Cambodian culture/history.

Grey taking more photos

Lincoln with the Apsara 

We started out New Years Eve morning heading back to Angkor Thom to get a better look at the Elephant Terrace per Greyson's request.  We learned that the Elelphant Terrace was built for the king to address all the people in the town for ceremonies and meetings.  You'll recognize the Terrace from the elephant carvings all along the wall and the three elephant head sculpture at the front.  Climbing up the Terrace is pretty spectacular.  Looking out at the land that a past king addressed his people is a strange experience.  I wondered what it was like for the royal family, how the staff was treated, how did the townspeople feel about their king?  When you see these amazing ruins, it's hard to imagine them actually in use at one time.  The boys favorite part of the terrace was watching large groups of monkeys running around.  Even after living in Asia for 2 1/2 years, it still is a bit shocking to see wild monkeys running around!
 Numbered stones that helped piece the terrace back together

 3 elephant at the front of terrace

Standing at the top of the Terrace

After the Elephant Terrace, we headed to two smaller temples.  The main thing to see at these temples were more of the trees growing out from the buildings.  We loved the tree that looked like an elephant trunk.  These smaller temples were a little more difficult to admire due to many women and children trying to sell handicrafts.  They swarm around you trying to get you to buy postcards, bracelets, & artwork. It was sad and frustrating all at once.  It brought up great discussions with the boys about these children who were their age spending all day trying to sell items. We did end up finding a beautiful table runner with Angkor Wat sewn into it and a few more postcards to send back home.  

The elephant trunk tree (look at the bottom)

This hallway stretched forever

We decided to change our plans after we left this temple and made our way to the Tonle Sap Lake Floating Villages.  A few months back, I had watched a special on the floating villages in Cambodia, but while planning our trip, I never connected the two.  I didn't realize we were in the right part of Cambodia to see these villages.  The villages were built by refugees that were not able to afford land in Cambodia.  If they lived on the water, they did not have to pay for "land".  Pretty ingenious.  So now they have entire villages of floating houses, grocery stores, churches, schools, & restaurants.  Food, water, & supplies are shipped it, but the people of the village bathe and wash their clothes in the lake. When the villagers are asked if they like all the tourists coming to see their homes, they say yes.  It has brought jobs to many of the people in the village.  They have a welcome center that sells handicrafts and  restaurants to eat at, but it also makes you very aware of the poverty these families live in. There were many boats with women and one or two small children (one of the children typically had a python around their neck) begging to have their photos taken for money.  In all honesty, we probably had more pictures taken of our children by the Cambodians than we took of them.  We noticed that most of the tourist were from Asia, so the villagers do not get to see lighter skinned children that often. Our boys were being followed around like rock stars.  
 Lots of kids playing around in bins in the water

Lots of pythons around.  They use them for photographs.

 This little boy's family wanted him to get a picture with Britton.

The boats that take the tourists to the village.

This girl was selling drinks and hopped right on our boat to ask if we wanted any!

Floating houses

They farm crocodiles for their skin.

Checking out the gift store.

 We really enjoyed our two days at the Temples and at the floating villages.  I highly recommend getting a tour guide.  We learned so much about the history and culture from our guide and I am not sure I would have come back with as much appreciation for Cambodia without a one.  

Our tour guide, Ravi

To finish off our night, we spent time out on Pub Street.  This street has loads of places to eat and markets to shop at.  We also walked over to the Night Market, which was a really nice market.  We had a great New Year's Eve in Cambodia and were even treated to a front row view of the fireworks from our hotel window!
 Pub Street

 Shopping at the markets

Night Market

Happy New Year 2014!

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Best Field Trip of our far!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Whoa..I had every intention to have all nine days of our trip blogged about and here we are a month after the trip and I have only accomplished one day.  Life sure got away from me over the past few weeks, but hoping I can catch up before I forget everything about our trip!!

The main reason for visiting Cambodia was to see Angkor Wat.  We were all very excited about this day and honestly, couldn't believe we were actually getting see one of the 8th Wonders of the World! Our tour guide, Ravi, picked us up from our hotel at 8 am and we were off to start our whole day of exploring.

We arrived at Angkor Wat with masses of people.  Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat, so we had to cross the bridge to get in.  What I first noticed was the markings on the stones of the bridge.  Ravi explained to us that Angkor Wat was built in the 11th century, later it was abandoned and not discovered until the 1700's.  The place was completely covered by trees when it was rediscovered and most of the temples had to be put back together.  The markings were numbers to help them piece the temple back together.  Pretty amazing.
Looking out over the moat and towards the bridge.

Once you cross the bridge, you are at the temple gate which is pretty amazing by itself.  The entire corridor is covered in carvings that explain the history of the king that had Ankor Wat built. It's absolutely incredible to think how long it would have taken to make all the carving and have these temples built.  There are also carvings of Apsara dancers, supernatural female beings, who are superb in the art of dancing and also compared to angels.  They are beautiful.  The boys had fun finding all the Apsara that covered Angkor Wat.
 Angkor Wat gate

Apsara Dancer

 The first view of the whole temple

Carvings explaining the history

This whole hall had carvings!

More of the carvings
The boys inside of one of the ceremonial pools for the King.

Monkey outside of Angkor Wat

We spent a couple hours at Angkor Wat exploring and learning about the history.  I was able to climb to the very highest point of the temple and look out over the whole complex.  They only let adults and children over 12 climb to the top due to the steep climb.  You also need to make sure you are dressed appropriately by having your shoulders and knees covered.  I would have loved to spend more time up there, but raced through it so the boys wouldn't have to wait any longer.

Looking out over Angkor Wat

Tour guide, Ravi, explaining the temple to the boys

After Angkor Wat, we headed to Bayon.  You may know this temple from all of the smiling faces that are carved there.  Originally there were 54 heads, but due to the destruction from the trees, many of the heads  are gone.   But, even among the ruins, it is breathtaking.  I was amazed to watch my boys, ages 3-8, climb, explore,and laugh and thoroughly enjoy themselves at Bayon.  One of their favorite things to do there was to stack the stones into towers.  There were hundreds of them on the backside of Bayon.  They reminded me of the stone pillars that the Inuit would build as landmarks.  They could have done it for hours.
The sign to the entrance 

 Stacking stones 

We also explored the "Tomb Raider" ruins with the amazing trees that were growing out of the buildings.  I feel like I keep repeating myself, but absolutely stunning.  These trees are massive.  Most of them are dead, but they are so beautiful against the ruins.

We also discovered Greyson's new passion.  He took over 600 pictures at the three temples.  

If you only have one day to spend in Siem Reap, check out these three temples.  You will not be disappointed. Our first day at Angkor lived up to every expectation I may have had and is a very family friendly place to visit.  We all learned so much and later that night the boys were asking to go back the next day!  It really was one of the best cultural trips we have taken together as a family.
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Kid Friendly activities in Siem Reap- Day 1

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A few days after Christmas, we were ready to head to Siem Reap, Cambodia.  This was our first trip out of the country and I wasn't really sure what to expect about the culture, people, or customs.  As soon as we landed and made it into the airport, I was completely at ease.  We headed to the Visa line and were pleasantly surprised that it was much cheaper than we had been originally quoted.  For all five of us, it was a grand total of $55 for us to buy our Visas.  We thought it was going to be double that. Now, that could have just been the worker that approved us or the price that it actually is...who knows...but we were happy with the savings!

Flight to Cambodia

The first thing we noticed was that everyone spoke English.  Our taxi driver was super nice and told us a little about the country and some ideas of places we may want to visit.  We also noticed the steering wheel is the same side as in America, as well as the side of the road they drove on.  They also use American dollars, which was so nice to not have to convert currency for a few days! It also had a very small town feel and we found out the city with 900,000 people only has 2 stoplights!  It was pretty amazing to watch them drive.

Our hotel, Angkor Riviera Hotel, was in a great central location. We were a few minutes from Angkor Wat and walking distance to Pub Street and the night market.  It was great being able to walk everywhere.  The staff at the hotel were amazing.  When I booked the hotel, we were automatically signed up for the New Years Eve Gala. For some reason the kids were not on our reservation and we decided we didn't want to go to the gala since it was so expensive.  The staff decided to credit me and not charge me for the boys breakfast, since we had already paid for 2 people to attend the gala.  The manager said since it was our first time in Cambodia he wanted us to have a great experience there and didn't want us to be upset.  (I was in no way upset and figured it would just be a loss.  I had gotten a great price on the place anyway.)  They were so accommodating and willing to help whenever we had a question. I really enjoyed our stay there.

 Finally a hotel that can accommodate all 5 of us!  Very rare in Asia!!

 Very nice bathrooms

We had a really nice view of the city from our room.  

Since we were going to have a long day at the temples the next day, we decided to have some fun and play Putt Putt at Angkor Wat Putt.  The owner was so kind.  He didn't even charge us for Britton and let him play all 12 holes.  The big boys loved it.  Many of the holes were models of the temples in Siem Reap.  It's a little outside the city, so if you plan on going, make sure you make arrangements with your tuk tuk driver to stay while you play.

Earlier in the day I made reservations at The Temple Bar, for their traditional Apsara show.  So, after Putt Putt we headed to The Temple Bar for dinner and to watch the traditional dancing.  The food was wonderful.  Greyson ordered some yummy fried noodles, Lincoln and Britton were able to get pizza, I had Khmer Curry (so good and not spicy at all like Thai curry), and Ben had fish & chips.  The show was very well done.  The boys were all so sleepy after travelling and playing mini golf.  The show didn't start until  7:30 pm, but the boys were really interested with the dances even though they were so tired. There is a total of 8 dances, but we only made it through 4 of them.  The announcer gave a description of each dance and why they would perform each dance.  It was really nice to see a little bit of the culture.  The show is free and your only expense is your dinner.

 Listening to traditional Khmer instruments and music

 Khmer Curry & Rice- Delicious!

 4 Cheese pizza for the boys

 Grey was in noodle heaven.  Lots of fried noodles in Cambodia.

 One of the Beautiful Apsara dancers.

 Britton trying to get a good look.  He loved the dances.

The dancers in traditional clothing.

We had a full first day in Cambodia and my first impression of the country was that everyone was so kind.  I didn't feel like we were being taken advantage of when hiring tuk tuks.  I also felt really safe when we were walking down to the main street.  People smiled, said hello, and were helpful when we asked for directions.  After our first day, I could tell we were going to have an amazing time in Cambodia. Stay tuned for day 2 and our first day at Ankgor Wat.

 Thumb wrestling in tuk tuk.  Carrying  over from our Chiang Mai trip.

Tuk Tuks in Cambodia.  A little different than Thailand.  

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