Cambodia, Pt. 5

Here are some tropical fruits. OK, ya got the watermelon & bananas, name the rest…

Here in Cambodia tuktuks are lil’ caravans pulled by a motorcycle (as opposed to the single unit moto-tuktuk), AND they’ve got motorcycle trailers. In this set, the kids are in one, the driver is featured in another, etc. (I’m ready for the biker Winnebago, an Amercan hybrid!) Feelin’ it…?

Pub Street in Siem Reap, the place to go for dinner. Organized, diversified coolness…

Clips…!

 

Cambodia curated. Top 10 best pix (maybe?)…

 

Study Questions:

  1. Research tropical fruits you have never eaten. So whatcha gonna do ’bout that?
  2. What’s cooler: motorcycle trailers or Pub Street, or cruising one on the other?
  3. Top 10 best images ever? Explain, describe, justify!

Cambodia, Pt. 4

After lunch, we went to Ta Prohm. Known as the largest “root temples,” Ta Prohm is now most famous for being featured in the movie Tomb Raider. Root temples have trees growing out of them, and while that makes a compellingly beautiful effect, it also destroys the walls out of which they grow. But it takes awhile. According to our guide, some of the trees growing out of the walls of Ta Prohm are over 300 years old. According to Wikipedia, the temple is in the same condition as when it was found, although it is currently being restored with the help of India. (Several other temples are sponsored by various countries and are in various stages of restoration, an exceeding difficult job.) Here are some pix…

Here are some pix of Ta Prohm that don’t involve trees. Note the crane that is part of the restoration process, other supports, and various doorways and passageways…

More of the trees growing from the walls, including the Tomb Raider tree that is apparently prominently featured in the movie. Can you find the face smiling from within the roots?

OK, I know, it’s a lot of pix. I need to curate them more, and pic the best pix. But I think there is strength in numbers: a thousand pictures tell a million words! I want my reader/viewers (Mom) to have some idea of all that is here, there, and everywhere we’ve been, the big picture if you will, and I have posted less than half of the photos I’ve taken. Anyway, here’s the last set, including more trees, carvings, and an alter…

Finally, here’s a before/after sign showing the restoration of one section of Ta Prohm…

IMG_8383

I’ll post some clips when I have better wifi. In the meanwhile, here are some of the Cambodian houses, etc. we saw or drove by during our brief visit here…

 

Study Questions:

  1. Research Ta Prohm. Interesting and compelling facts, other than movie appearances?
  2. Research trees. What kind of trees grow out of temples, in the jungles/tropics, and what are some of them used for?
  3. Curation? How do you pick pix?

Cambodia, Pt. 3

For our second day (April 29th) touring the Angkor Temple Complex we visited Kbal Spean, Banteay Srei, and Ta Prohm.

Once again our guide met us at 8:30 and off we went, this time on a drive out of town into some hills. The mountain (hill) at Kbal Spean) was the source of the sandstone out of which Angkor Wat was made and it is now forbidden to take any more stones from the mountain. We hiked a 1.5 kilometers up the mountain to visit the River of a Thousand Lingas, stone carvings that are more naturally situated on the rocks along a stream that leads down to a waterfall. Linga (along with Yoni) are the sexual symbols of the Hindu God Shiva. The area is also a natural preserve, but the drought was evident. While we were able to see more of the stone carvings because the water was so low, there was no waterfall. First, some signage…

The following pix are of the flora and fauna. The jungle was quite dry, but the big trees and many vines were still beautiful. We saw several lizards and a doggie…

Here are the stone carvings and our guide Mr. Hoeut. The water has eroded some of the carvings considerably, but after almost 1000 years that is to be expected…

Some clips…

 

After Kpal Spean, we drove to Banteay Srei. Built as a Hindu Temple to the God Shiva, it is made of red sandstone which lends itself to more elaborate (and better preserved) carvings. It is in a different style from temples of Angkor Wat & Thom…

More pix of Banteay Srei, walking back to the car, and lunch…

 

Study Questions:

  1. Research Kbal Spean. (links above) What is interesting or compelling to you?
  2. Research Banteay Srei. (links above) What is interesting or compelling to you?
  3. Research the South East Asian drought. Truths and consequences?

Cambodia, Pt. 2

This post is the second half of a busy day at Angkor in Cambodia and our visit to the famous Angkor Wat. Built by Khmer King Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat is the largest religious site in the world. But first, we went to lunch. After lunch we came back to our hotel for a siesta and a swim. Nice & necessary, as the sweltering heat is exhausting. (And at this point my battery needed a charge.) Here’s a taste…

Back on the bus, we went to the namesake, the star of the show, Angkor Wat. Dating back to the 12th century, Angkor Wat has a long history. Originally built as a Hindu temple complex, it became a Buddhist temple complex, and represents both religions spectacularly. While it was never lost and thus was not really discovered, Frenchman Henri Mouhot made Angkor famous. After the rule of Pol Pot‘s Khmer Rouge, since peace treaties and the take over of Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party, in the last 20 years tourism to Angkor has grown enormously. While that might not be great for the site nor the environment, it has been very good for the local economy. Anyway, some pix of Angkor Wat…

IMG_7866IMG_7892IMG_7894

This set of pix shows the moat, the monastery, the entrance, and the first part of the interior. There’s one of a big bullet or mortar blast from a battle during the relatively recent Cambodian civil war.

There are several long and detailed bas relief friezes that depict tales from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Here is just a sampling (some of the darker spots are where people used to be able to touch the walls and they usually depict key parts of the stories. These relief sculptures alone are incredible. The vast artistry and the pictorial storytelling are breathtaking…

These pix are from the interior, the second level, and waiting in line to go to the third level (and there may be a couple from the top, third level)…

Most of this next set of pix are from the top or third level. Here one is closest to the five towers (a quincunx!) that adorn the center of the temple complex.

More…

This set of pix is walking out the back entrance to (or exit from) Angkor Wat. The sun was setting through the jungle and over the massive moat that surrounds the complex…

That night we saw a tradition Cambodian dance during dinner and there’s one pic of a nearby shop…

 

Clips of one Angkor Wat bas relief frieze and the walk back…

 

Study Questions:

  1. Research Angkor Wat. Give a quantitative description (sizes, lengths, weights, numbers, etc.).
  2. Research King Suryavarman II. How did he come to build Angkor Wat?
  3. Research the entire area. How many temples are there, etc…
  4. Research Cambodian food. What is unique, tasty, and worth a bite?

Cambodia, Pt. 1

It’s all about bucket lists. When you’re close to one you gotta go for it, and the flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap was less than an hour. Angkor has been on my list since I first heard about it not long after Apocalypse Now came out and I was doing research on the song “Holiday in Cambodia.” (Actually, it’s Kampuchea!)

Back then it was not the massive tourist destination nor the UNESCO World Heritage Site that it is today. Virtually unknown for years, it is one of the Alternative Wonders of the World. And tho’ the tour guide books/sites warn you about all the other tourists, they also say it is worth it. And tho’ the heat is sweltering here in late April, yes, it is worth it.

It is cool not only because it is vast, not only because it is old, not only because the stone architecture and carvings are amazing, but it is the art that I love – nature reclaiming the works of mankind, especially when both are so beautiful. Unfortunately, the evidence of global climate change is apparent here too as South East Asia is having a horrendous drought. Many of the venerable old trees that adorn the venerable old stones are dying.

We started this morning at Angkor Thom which features many magnificent towers with Buddha faces on four sides, along with hundreds of other beautiful carvings. First, through the entrance gate…

Among the splendors of Angkor are the relief sculptures. There were many, here are just a few…

At the center of Angkor Thom is Bayon, the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII. In addition to the towers, here are pix of inside the temple, other wall sculptures, and some visiting monks…

Ceiling selfies Cambodia style…

More of Angkor Thom, including the hundreds of stones laying outside that have fallen off, been removed, or are waiting to be replaced, some panos, diagrams, and doorways…

Beyond Bayon is the Elephant Terrace, featuring more bas-relief sculptures, here too are some pix just inside and outside the walls…

 

Clips around Angkor Wat & Siem Reap…

IMG_7764

 

Study Questions:

  1. Research Cambodia. How is it the youngest Asian country? Discuss it’s recent history. What else did you learn.
  2. Research Angkor (Wat, Thom, etc.). How old is it? How was it built? What else did you learn.
  3. Click on any of the other links in this post. What else did you learn.
  4. Describe your favorite pix in this post, and why.

 

Mui Né

After three nights in Ho Chi Minh City and two interesting tours, we left for a couple nights at the beach in Mui Né.

On the road…

 

Here are some of my first pix at the Allezboo Resort, including a mini-iguana and a cool little doggie…

More pix of the Allezboo and the beach at Mui Né…

Just flowers and a bruised banana slug…

Next door to the Allezboo is either a new resort being built or an old one being rehabilitated. It looked like several folks were living in a couple little corrugated shanties there. Also, on the Sunday evening I walked over in that direction exploring the rocks and tidepools there were dozens of locals enjoying the beach there. Some pix…

In reading about fun stuff to do in Mui Né I learned about the red & white sand dunes and a place called the Fairy Stream. The dunes were kinda far away, and I’ve see a lot of sand. The Fairy Stream (also called the Fairy Spring) however, seemed different, and it was!  This first set of pix is of my ride on a motor scooter getting there, some of the signs near the entrance, fish sauce vats, laundry, and water hyacinth flowers…

The Fairy Stream (mylittlenomads link) was amazing. With clay and limestone cliffs on one side and tropical vegetation (palms, bamboo, bananas, etc.) on the other side it was a delightful walk up shallow little stream. There were red sand dunes (cool & different from what I’ve seen before) and intricately eroded off-white cliffs and out croppings. Several other tourists were enjoying the barefoot walk in the stream…

Some clips to and of the Fairy Stream…

 

Study Questions:

  1. Research Mui Né (see link above). Cool?
  2. Research the Fairy Stream (see links above). Cool?
  3. Your coolest beach vacation, favorite beach spot?

Ho Chi Minh City…

The Fall of Saigon. Since Ho Chi Minh City was Saigon, and since we’re leaving Vietnam the day after “Reunification Day,” I feel it necessary to make a couple comments. Rarely is this event described as an American loss, but it was. The United States spent millions of dollars, killed millions of people, lost almost 59,000 of its own, and lost the war. (How would it feel to be Charles McMahon and Darwin Judge, the last American soldiers to be killed in Vietnam? Is the latter’s name not ironic?) But the Vietnamese don’t refer to victory, they call it Liberation Day or Reunification Day. Rather than proud, they seem humble. You can read more at the links above, about Operation Frequent Wind, watch The Fall of Saigon, read the plight of the Vietnamese Boat People, or research any of the many related topics. This Time article points out that we have not learned the lessons from the fall of Saigon as evidenced in Iraq & Afghanistan. Perhaps if we could see the loss, admit the failure, acknowledge the mistakes, and apologize for the horrors of war, then we might stop the madness, put the Military Industrial Complex out of business, and have peace – with honor or otherwise. (Bonus link.)

Wars after the American War. Perhaps the Vietnamese are humble about their victory against the United States because war contined. Immediately after the Americans left, they had to fight the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodia-Vietnam War until the late ’80’s. In 1979, there were battles on the border with China in the Sino-Vietnam War. It wasn’t until 1990 that Vietnam started to have peace and did not have to defend itself against aggressors. Since then they seem to have made great strides in developing their country. The rest of this post is about the rise of Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City

In between trips to the Mekong, Cu Chi, Mui Né, etc., we stayed in HCMC/Saigon. We were in the Signature & Silverland Hotels. Here’s a view of the city from the former…IMG_6988

At a nearby restaurant the kids found their favorite toilet. (Note the control panel with buttons control a variety of posterior cleansing features.) And a shot of the Signature Hotel, phone/power wires, a hammer/sickle logo, and a road off of the road to HCMC…

On the road…

 

We had dinner with a friend, Swati, we met in Kochi. She’s from India, but lives in Saigon. Street food pic and a couple restaurants…

One of the sites in HCMC is the Saigon Post Office. Designed by Gustav Eiffel (of the tower) it is a beautiful old colonial building well cared for. Across the street is a cathedral.

Saturday night on Nguyen Hue Street in Ho Chi Minh City and the Ben Trang market…

The Silverland Hotel, one of our many tourist vans (which we love), a BBQ snack at a very cool restaurant (where you cook your own meal with a little personal BBQ), the view from the Silverland (since I showed the view from the Signature), a shot straight down at another building, etc…

 

We’re going back to Ho Chi Minh City two more times: tomorrow and when we get back from Cambodia before leaving for Sydney. I may add more pix here…

 

Study Questions:

  1. Read at least two links above and comment on the Fall of Saigon.
  2. Read two other links above and comment on the Fall of Saigon or the wars against Cambodia & China.
  3. Research Ho Chi Minh City. What is it like now?

 

Ho Chi Minh City: Cu Chi Tunnels

The next day in HCMC we took a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels, a tourist version of the tunnels used by the Vietcong during the war to not only defend themselves, but perpetrate guerrilla warfare against American soldiers.

Before we arrived there however, we stopped at another factory/shop/rest area for tourists, but this one was about artisans who were victims of Agent Orange. It wasn’t evident in all the people who were working on various laquerware designs using egg shells and oysters, but one of the fellows in this set was congenitally handicapped. (I imagine that the effects of Agent Orange may not always be so obvious.) There’s a close up of the inlays that need to be cut, a vase up close and further away, artisans doing their work, the shop, and some dragon fruit…

Here are some displays of American weapons collected by the Vietnamese. The myriad uses of bombs was fascinating: exploded casings were used as shovels, picks, etc., and unexploded ordnance were dissected for their powder and other deadly contents to be used against the enemy – US. The anatomy and devastation of cluster bombs was shown, as well as the details of grenades and chemical weapons.

There were a variety of displays of varying effect. One showed the various booby traps used by the Vietcong with details on their design, note the bamboo spears and barbed iron spikes that were used to impale the enemy. Another showed one of many American tanks taken out by a ‘delay mine,’ and another showed the variety of mines used. Somewhat disturbing was the behavior of other tourists who wanted pictures of themselves on tanks and took selfies with booby traps.

We had several experiences with the actual tunnels. We poked our heads in a couple, then crawled or walked (hunched and struggling) through another, and looked at/into several others. Claustrophobia would have been a problem, ventilation another, and simply digging them a nightmare.

Here are some photos, mostly of the Vietcong in the process of digging the tunnels, living in them, engaging in the war, and taking care of their wounded.

The following is an odd collection of pix. A bust of Uncle Ho, bamboo growing out of a B52 bomb crater, a VC sweetpotato snack, rice paper (for spring rolls) production, a map of the region, a diagram of the tunnel network (there were 250 kilometers of tunnels), etc.

A stranger and perhaps more disturbing feature was the shooting range. Tourists could pay to fire guns (M15s, AK47s, etc.) at several dollars per bullet. In addition to pix of the shooting range, ammo, sign up desk, and affiliated gift shop, there are couple shots of replicas of US GI lighters (used for cigarettes and torching villages) and figurines of jeeps, jets, and helicopters made out of bullets or shell casings. It was loud!

 

A concluding note. I was angry, disgusted, and flabbergasted about at least five things:

  • First, that the United States had gone thousands of miles around the world to kill other people in their homeland, ignoring the lessons of the French who’d also been defeated by the Vietnamese (and the advice of Eisenhower and his military advisers).
  • Second, that around three million Vietnamese were killed, mostly by Americans in the name of our war on Communism (which we lost, but which doesn’t seem to matter now based on our trade with China, Vietnam, and now Cuba), and many by chemicals we dumped on their country by the thousands of tons, not to mention the damage done in many ways to people on both sides who were not actually killed.
  • Third, that unsuspecting young Americans were sacrificed for this unjustified war of aggression, not only those who were killed, but those who were hurt, damaged, or left to question what they and their country had done, and why?
  • Fourth, that the Military Industrial Complex perpetrated this evil, this unholy war, not only at the cost of lives but actual dollars, millions and millions of them paid by taxpayers – not for schools, infrastructure, healthcare, or the betterment of humanity, but the rampant destruction of nature, people, and social institutions on another continent.
  • Fifth, that it is still happening today as if we have learned nothing from our mistakes.

 

Study Questions:

  1. Research Cu Chi (see link above). What is interesting, compelling, or important?
  2. Research Digital History pages about the Vietnam War. What is interesting, compelling, or important?
  3. How should tourists behave at a place like this, where people lived and died in war?
  4. What is your reaction to my list at the end of the post?
  5. What makes you mad?

 

Ho Chi Minh City: Mekong Delta

For our first full day in HCMC we took a tour of the Mekong Delta. Like Halong Bay, the region is vast, and the tourist glimpse is inevitably incomplete. I also would have liked to have seen some of the war zones that we saw photos of at the War Museum the day before. However, the tour was fun and interesting, and our guide was particularly entertaining.

This first set of pix is from a tourist potty stop and restaurant complex along the road from HCMC to the Mekong Delta…

The next set of pix is from a famous Buddhist Temple in the Mekong region, Vinh Trang. First, just the outside which includes the temple building, monuments, sepulchres, and three enormous Buddha sculptures…

This set of pix is from the inside of Vinh Trang temple, mostly a series of alters…

We finally made it to the first of three different boats. This one took us across a large section of the river to Unicorn Island. There we had some some honey tea and honey snacks, some fruit snacks and other tea, and the kids got to handle a Burmese python. We also were entertained with some local music. BTW, on our tour we were accompanied by a mother, son, and daughter from the Philippines, and two sisters from Thailand. Here ya go…