Wednesday, March 23, 2011

last minute change

Not to be outdone, Bunny Rabbit took some pretty awesome sunset shots, too.

24 February 2011, 5:30PM. After Phnom Bakheng, Pre Rup is the next most popular spot for sunset-viewing. Actually, we were not optimistic. The ominous yellow haze was back again. It looked like the sun would never be able to break through the bizarre screen that tinted everything.

at day's end

After Preah Khan, we had time for one last temple. I chose Ta Som, a small Bayon-style (meaning with big faces) monastic complex similar to Ta Prohm (Angelina Jolie). Our guesthouse was named after it, which I thought made it a fitting end to our temple tour in Siem Reap.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

angkor in a nutshell

By lunchtime of our third day in Siem Reap, we had seen:

1. Angkor Wat
2. Phnom Bakheng
3. Angkor Thom, which encompasses the South Gate, Bayon, Phimeanakas, the Terrace of the Elephants, the Terrace of the Leper King and the Victory Gate
4. Ta Prohm
5. East Mebon
6. Pre Rup
7. Banteay Srey

I was starting to experience temple fatigue, but we still had a long afternoon to go and I didn't want to waste it. I looked at the map and randomly chose a temple not too far, not too large and not too famous. And that's how we ended up at Preah Khan.

It was a good decision. I'm mentally giving myself a pat on the back as I write this. If you want to see everything that's important and need-to-know about Angkor temples, go to Preah Khan. To wit:

It has a moat.

girls just want to have fun

For our third and last temple-hopping day in Siem Reap, I decided that we should go to Banteay Srey, an important and famous temple that should not be missed, said the guidebook. Best visited in the morning before 10AM, or in the afternoon after 2PM.

It was a 45-minute drive, on Sok Cheat's tuktuk, through a weird and surreal landscape. I don't know what it was-- for all intents and purposes we were driving through a normal countryside with regular houses surrounded by groves of sugar palms and rice fields, but somehow it felt strange and a bit eerie. The ghosts of the Khmers?

Anyway, I was a bit shocked when we got to Banteay Srey because it was so organised and touristy. They had a vast reception area with a gift shop, a humongous concrete parking lot, their own museum, and the grounds were manicured. It was Angkor Disneyland. 

I was even more shocked when we saw the temple. Compared to the colossal edifices we'd been seeing, it was tiny! Like, built for midgets. The entire temple was roped off and you could walk around the whole thing in less than a minute.

Monday, March 21, 2011

afternoon delight

24 February 2011, 4:30PM. East Mebon is a temple known for its elephants.

But there are other creatures, too.

sincerity on a plate

In Siem Reap, we stayed at Ta Som Guesthouse. At only US$15 a night, it was the best deal ever in the history of the world, no kidding.

Our room was huge, with three double beds. We had AC, cable TV and a mini ref. The hot shower worked perfectly in the jumbo en suite bathroom that can easily fit five people doing their business all at the same time, I don't know why. Plus they provided bottled water, shampoo and soap everyday.

The price included free pick-up from the Siem Reap International Airport (the country's largest and busiest airport) as well as a hearty breakfast every morning. Oh, and a free ride to Old Market whenever you want.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

eating khmer

Let me tell you about our first lunch (but not our first meal) in Cambodia.

Since there are no direct flights from the Philippines to Cambodia, we had to fly to Vietnam first. Saigon, to be exact. Now, I am seriously addicted to Vietnamese food in all its noodle-ly, as well as non-noodle, incarnations, and I was definitely excited about eating in Saigon. In the 24 hours before our flight to Siem Reap, I ate and drank my way through a veritable smogasbord of Vietnamese culinary delights. More on that later.

But Cambodian food? Meh. There's not a lot of information about it. The few descriptions I could find on the interweb said: lots of rice, lots of veggies, filling, not bad OK lah. In fact, faced with the formidable cuisine of its neighbors Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodians seemed to be almost... apologetic... about their food.

On our second day of temple-hopping at Angkor, we asked our tuktuk driver Sok Cheat to take us to a restaurant that served Cambodian or Khmer food. He brought us to Neary Khmer.

Tourist trap, isdatchu?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

in lara croft's footsteps

Actually, Cambodians could care less about Lara Croft. They don't even know who she is. But they DO know Angelina Jolie. Just say these three words, Angelina Jolie temple, and they know exactly what you mean-- Ta Prohm.

Photo by DB, Lumix LX3

Here's the same tree with me in front of it for scale:

Photo by Bunny Rabbit, Nikon D90

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

in your face

The next morning, we woke up at 4AM to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Good thing I brought a torch as it was pitch dark when we entered the park. We made our way to the reflecting pool, where a mob of people had already set up their cameras and tripods.

We all waited in (relative) silence; the Taiwanese tourists were chattering away and sharing their packed breakfasts. At 5AM, we started to get some light, but no sun. There was a gray haze hanging over Angkor Wat, and there was hardly any color in the sky. My best picture is this:

Monday, March 14, 2011

back to cambodia

OK, here's what happened next. We came out of Angkor Wat at around 4:30PM. Our tuktuk driver was patiently waiting for us.

As y'all know, I am hopelessly obsessive-compulsive (and sometimes manic-depressive) and so I spent the month before our trip cramming all the information about two countries I'd never been in into my underexercised brain, in order for me to formulate the best possible itinerary for the specific purpose of taking the best pictures of the temples.

Phnom Bakheng is THE must-go spot for sunsets at Angkor. You can't not do it. You MUST watch the sunset from there. Our tuktuk driver Sok Cheat (pronounced "suk-eat") knew this. Of course, hundreds of other people knew this, too.

We had just gotten off a plane, we were getting hungry and kinda overwhelmed by the excitement of meeting Angkor Wat for the first time. I had to half-force Bunny Rabbit to go to Phnom Bakheng. He said that we would just be wasting our time because it was overcast, the sun won't come out and besides, there's this weird yellow haze everywhere and the pictures won't be so nice.

And there's just so many people. Everywhere.

go, jesuits!

Sorry, I just had to interrupt my Cambodia/ Vietnam series for this.

Father Bernas gives me HOPE!

How 'bout you? What's your stand on the RH bill?

angkor of my dreams

I had been waiting for this day for as long as I could remember-- the day I met Angkor Wat in person.

Friday, March 11, 2011

an unexpected moment

Louisa May Alcott: "Stay" is a charming word in a friend's vocabulary.

Shangri-la's Boracay Resort & Spa, 6:15PM, 10 March 2011.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

dinner at the lost horizon

Remember my Best Picture of 2009?

Shot with my Vivitar Ultra Wide film camera.

Guess where we had dinner the other night?

A bonfire at the entrance of Solana Bar at Shangri-la's Boracay Resort & Spa.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

bagel break

Everybody knows that I very recently came back from a trip to Saigon and Siem Reap, but before I blog about it, let me just say: I am so glad to be home!

I rushed to our latest foodie discovery on Boracay. Last month, we ordered some sandwiches from Brother Bakers and immediately fell in love with their bagels. And since sharing is caring, we bought some for our friends Hot Tuna and Canned Tuna to taste.

Sandwiches made fresh as you order.

The best way to eat bagel sandwiches? With champagne, of course. (Hot Tuna: "Of course!")

The champagne that traveled round the world.