Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Jakarta Travels in Cambodia

Some random shots of people, places and things from a recent trip to Cambodia.

Kids being kids on the Ton Le Sap

Victims of landmines playing traditional music outisde of the Banyon temple
Evidence of landmines were everywhere, the most disturbing being the large number of maimed people. There are many organizations in Cambodia trying to assist in this frustrating siutation. The most successful of the development programs are the ones that train and encourage the affected people to help themselves. One of the more interesting ones we experienced was a restaurant whose employees were primarily street kids and orphans. They learned the business while sharing the various duties of running the restuarant. The food was excellent and the waiters memorized all the orders. They brought me the wrong thing at first but we all laughed about it and they seemed pretty good natured about the whole thing. The place was packed out so the work crew was defintiely learning the hard way - which is often the most effective. I think the place was called the Banyan Tree and it is located in Phnom Pen across from the school turned prison by the Khmer Rouge This group of musicians performed along the trail to the Tom Pra. They accepted donations and sold CD's of their music. Very nice to stroll through the forest of the temple complex accompanied by their playing.

Lonely Planet Guy
Probably the most photgraphed old guy in Cambodia. He is on the cover of one of the editions of the Lonely Planet: Cambodia. He hangs out at the place where picture was taken along with a couple fo the Lonely Planet books, gets his picture taken and sells trinkets.

Girls Playing in Siem Reap
I snapped a shot of these two pirls playing a game which involved using chalk to mark out the various grids formed by the tiles in the sidewalk. Soon after I snapped the photo I was in the bargaining session of my life over a few postcards and some bracelets. I am not a big fan of such activity but I had nothing better to do while Alicia was pouring over every nook and cranny of some nice little shop with really special things to buy so I figured I would hang out and mess around with them. They were full on and had a very good pitch going. They asked where I was from and then told me all sorts of random facts about the US. They then started producing the vaious goods they had to sell and went to town. Finally they wore me down and I went into get money from Alicia. When I told them I had to do that they asked what my wifes name was and when we walked out of the store she was greeted with a chorus of "hello miss lisa". The next several days whenever I would see one of the girls around the streets they would smile and address me by name. I don't know what the racket is but I am sure that most of their money is turned over to a guy wearing a bad suit and see through dress socks or the Cambodian equivalent of such a uniform, which is sad. But these girls sure had some attitude and won't be easily forgotten.


The entrance to the Banyon temple

One of the many giant faces of Bhudda at the Banyon

Life on the Ton Le Sap: Houseboat

Life on the Ton Le Sap: Small boat

Life on the Ton Le Sap: Small boat at sunset

Ton Le Sap sunset

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Jakarta Baby

Not so tiny anymore ... Emmerson is a bit bigger and a lot more mobile than my last Jakarta Baby post. These are from our recent trip to Cambodia.

Not so tiny baby in the airport

Tuktuk in Siem Reap

We hired a driver (car), Sawan, for each day we were in Siem Reap. Its relatively cheap and a good way to get from town to the various site seeing venues. Sawan was a really nice guy, very flexible and fun to talk to about things going on in Cambodia. When the Khmer Rouge were in power he was a little kid. His parents were sent away to work and he was raised by a family selected by the Khmer. I guess this was supposed to strengthen the tie to the state by weakening the link to families - another one of Pol Pots brilliant ideas.
But for getting around town a Tuktuk is the way to go. It is a carriage attached to a motorbike and is a pleasant way to travel. Many do take Tuktuks out of town and it looked pretty fun but not the best way to go with a squirmy little baby.

Emmerson and the waitress

Emmerson enjoys attention from pretty much anyone who will give it to her and the Cambodian people certainly obliged. My favorite was when we were eating at a restaurant and Emmerson began to fuss. This waitress came and took her away. She and Emmerson ended up hanging out in the back with the kitchen crew.
The food in Cambodia has some similarities to Thai - without quite as much heat, and to Vietnamese but with more of an emphasis on coconut curries. But it is unique in a variety of ways and is certainly its own cuisine. It was excellent.

Emmerson enjoying the attention

This group of monks was visiting from Korea and asked if they could get a photo with Emmerson. I snapped a few while they were posing for their friend.

With the boat guy on Ton Le Sap

Phnom Pen is attached to Siem Reap by the Ton Le Sap River and the lake by the same name. It is a rather bizarre natural situation as the river flow changes direction and the lake alternates between being a source or terminus for the river depending on the season. During the dry season the Ton le Sap River flows south towards the Mekong River and eventually into the South China Sea. In the wet season the rivers reverse direction and flow into the lake casing it to dramatically increase in size. Of course the people living on and around the lake have figured out how to take advantage of this phenomena and the area is the "rice basket" of Cambodia supplying most of the rice and fish for the country. Supposedly up to four crops of rice a year can be grown in the flood plains around the lake when the water recedes. i very much enjoy visiting the worlds natural wonders and was quite excited to finally get to see Ton Le Sap. Emmerson liked it too.

Emmerson on the boat

Not so tiny baby at Angkor Wat

At the Banyon

Sunset on Ton le Sap

Emmerson munching on a stalk of lemon grass. She seemed to like it - but then again she likes to chew on my wallet and keys as well.

Emmerson in the rice.

The rest of the pictures from our trip can be seen here Cambodia 05

Monday, November 07, 2005

Jakarta Travels Cambodia Temples

Monks relaxing during a visit to the Angkor Wat complex

Last week Idul Fitri was celebrated marking the end of Ramadan; the month of fasting in the Moslem calendar. The city of Jakarta gets real mellow as the effects of the fast (and lack of sleep - the prescribed time for the first and only meal until sunset is in the wee hours of the morning) begin to set in. Also many leave the city for their hometowns and thus traffic tends to be light which makes a huge difference in Jarkata life. While a week in a mellow Jakarta was enticing we opted to venture off to Cambodia via Singapore.

Singapore is always a pleasant and orderly respite from the craziness and chaos of Jakarta. There are many who criticize Singapore as too sterile, rigid and boring and praise Jakarta because it is not, but I enjoy the change. Its the simple things like a stroll through the city on an actual sidewalk without having to worry about dodging a motorized vehicle or maneuvering in, around or over a pothole, street vendor, cat family, garbage pile, parked truck, sleeping bajaj guy, and/or a number of other random and often curious objects which do make Jakarta perpetually interesting and yet rather taxing at the same time. Actually there are very few working sidewalks in Jakarta and those that do exist tend to disappear at random and often very inopportune times. For example, a supermarket might have a very nice and completely navigable sidewalk out front but it disappears at the end of the supermarkets property depositing the walker directly onto the street to fend with the madness of Jakartan traffic - which is traumatic enough in a vehicle let alone on foot. Or perhaps the sidewalk leads the foot voyager directly to a giant muddy field or maybe into a construction zone, again both quite exciting experiences, yet perhaps not the type of thrill one is seeking while out for a simple shop. A ride on the Singapore subway is a similarly simple yet soothing experience to the Singapore sidewalk stroll. The Jakartan answer to the subway, the bus way, just doesn't cut it. Maybe when they get the monorail up and running..... if you ever need to use the idiom "pipe dream" in a sentence, here is a good one: "The planned completion of the monorail in Jakarta is a pipe dream". I like Jakarta and I like Singapore and both for what the other is not.

After Singapore we headed off to Cambodia - a wonderful country with beautiful people - and I am not just writing that because that is what you are supposed to say about the people of such countries that tend to be off the beaten track and thus hold a certain mystic. Althoug our contact was limited in time and place, the people we met were incredibly helpful, genuinely friendly and simply pleasant to be around. Perhaps they are just happy to be rid of the horrors of their recent past and glad to see people from the rest of the world again or maybe it is just they way they are - anyway it was a special week.

The places we went are the typical things most tourists due - the temple tours, a visit to the Ton Le Sap (big lake), sites from the Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge nightmare. I think these were experiences that are represented well through images - so I am going to post a few from the bunch we took. One bit of advice - if you are planning on visiting Cambodia and have a rather detailed, busy and time sensitive itinerary, and have a baby who is just starting to crawl and is making up for months of immobiltity by trying to move around as much as babily possible - DO NOT miss the last plane of the day flying into the Cambodian city of your primary destination - it can really set in motion one serious butterfly effect. Some day, after time allows the mellowing mechanism of my brain to work its magic, I will see the experience as a funny little travel tale ... some day.

Cambodia: Temple Complexes

Ta Prohm entrance way

Ta Prohm - a tree flowing over the temple wall

Angkor Wat

A secondary building at the Angkor Wat complex

Emmerson making friends with some monks visiting from Korea