29 February 2012

Southeast Asia- Next Stop Cambodia

After Thailand, we traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Angkor region is the main attraction, which consists of hundreds of temples in a 150-square-mile area. While Angkor Wat is the largest and most well known, it is only one of many that are, hands down, mind-boggling.  And if the size alone isn't enough, virtually every surface, column and roof has detailed carvings. The must-see temples are Angkor Wat (if you can wake-up, highly recommend going there to watch the sunrise) and Ta Prohm (where Tomb Raider was filmed).
Angkor Wat - love how you can see the reflection

Ta Prohm - huge trees are throughout the temple

Example of all the carvings. Of course I found an elephant...

I also liked Banteay Kdei which is smaller and being restored but it leads to the Srah Srang, the royal bathing pool. This man-made pool is 2,300 ft x 900 ft and literally was used for the king and his wives. I highly recommend taking a helicopter tour to see the temples and pool from an aerial point-of-view; it provides perspective of the enormous size.
Angkor Wat

Siem Reap has some great shopping options, including day and night markets day and several boutiques. The shops at The Grand Hotel carried items from local artists including Eric Raisina, who has been commissioned by Yves Saint-Laurent and Christian Lacroix. In addition, Artisans d’Angkor is an educational organization that trains locals the traditional Cambodian art forms since so much was lost during the Khmer Rouge regime. The items that they make are available to purchase.
Painted tiles in the Artisians d'Angkor work room

While Cambodia isn’t known for their food like Thailand and Vietnam, I ate my way through it. It used to be a French colony and they offered amazing croissants and other pastries every morning.  Khmer Kitchen was one of our favorite restaurants with delicious Khmer food and a baked pumpkin dish that I could have eaten every day.  
Christmas treats from the hotel

The people in Cambodia were by far the nicest and the most humble of anyone we met on our trip. It is hard to imagine after everything they've been through, how positive and grateful they are for what they have. I think everyone could learn something from them.

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