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Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States

Jan 29, 2012

Siem Reap- the rest

As we traveled around by foot and tuk-tuk we would see buildings under construction. At the same time it appears that other structures were abandon. It gave me the impression that some have tried their business at Angkor, hoping to cash in on the tourist, but couldn't make it.

Where were we on News Year Eve 2011?
At midnight we were asleep, at 12:05 AM I awoke to the sound of fireworks.
Our hotel was not close to this area, so thankfully the fireworks was the only noise we heard that night.

Having the fish massage is a popular business. The fish come and eat the dead skin off your feet. I wasn't interested, but the kids begged us to try it. The cost was $1 for 15 minutes. We saw one sign that said $2 no time limit!

The Acodo
Assisting Cambodian Orphans and the Disabled Organization.
According to the director, Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. The kids here may have parents, but they are unable to take care of them. Most children are supported through sponsorship, I believe adoption from Cambodia is not that stable. This was my first visit to any orphanage.
These kids smiled, played and seemed well taken care of. I fought the lump in my throat as I talked to a few of them. I wanted to take them all home. The older ones English was quite good. I found their names almost impossible to repeat accurately.
One way they generate money is having the kids perform Traditional Khmer dances and songs. And ask for a donation.

This place had pizza and fries and was the kids break from the Khmer dishes. The money from here, according to the information provided, went to support an orphanage in the capitol city of Phnom Penh
"The Haven" (no photo) was another place we ate at. Their slogan "where helping tastes good." That place trains young adults leaving orphanages to cook and manage a restaurant.

We had to check out at noon, our temple tickets were expired and our plane for Hanoi didn't leave until 6pm. Here we are taking an ice cream break to help us pass the time.

I also don't have a photo of the $2.50 half hour body massage I got, while kids had the fish massage. I haven't had a massage before so I am not sure what to compare it with. Sometimes it hurt more than it felt good, maybe that is normal? The girl who did it was about a foot shorter than me and used her whole body to twist and pull on my limbs. If she gets paid the same for massaging some six-foot, 300lb,sweaty foreigner that comes in as she does for someone like me (who wasn't too sweaty thanks to it being winter) I am not sure it would be worth the money.

We needed laundry done during this part of our vacation. Thankfully for us laundry seemed to be every ones side business and the going rate was only a $1 a KG.

Everyone in the family enjoyed Cambodia. Siem Reap was a nice relaxing time for us. The people we encountered seemed genuine and friendly.
I know kids are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse where poverty is rampant. But Siem Reap did appear to have a lot of organizations that are caring for the poor with the money generated from tourism. Organizations that not only meet the needs, but provide skills that will help the poorest create a dignified income.

Our video

Jan 22, 2012

Siem Reap -The Temples

Nathan has wanted to visit Angkor Wat for some time.
It was not on my must see list, as I imagined old ruins in the middle of a hot jungle. In 2009 we visited Window of the World in China. There I saw a scaled down version of the temple site. I was quite impressed and began to think it might be worth a trip to see after all. Here is a photo of the model

It could take me 4-5 post to show photos of the temples. I will just highlight.

Ankor Wat

I knew old buildings might be boring for the kids, so I tried to interest them in sketching what they saw. Elliot liked the etchings with the swords and an apparent beheading. There were a handful of monkeys around.
The classic Ankgor photo, isn't so post card perfect due to scaffolding.

My personal favorite temple site.


This is also a popular spot at sunrise and sunset to get photos of Angkor Wat in the distance. It is a short hike up, maybe we are used to walking and Hong Kong but we didn't think it worth the $15 to hire an elephant ride up the hill.
We kept thinking how amazing it must have been to just be walking in the jungle and stumble upon these temples.

Angkor Thom (Terrace of the elephants)

Ta Prohm
This was the busiest temple we visited. It was the temple featured in the movie Tomb Raider
Impressive trees that have overtaken parts of the temple

Chau Say Tevoda and our last day of the temples

Children were often the vendors outside the temples. We learned later that the government tries to discourage tourist from buying from kids. This can keep them out of school, which is offered for free. It is my understanding apart from free education there is not a lot of government assistance, so it is possible some families may feel they have no choice. Buying from a cute 4 year old who counts to 10 in 4 different languages is more tempting than an adult.
At one site we were followed by a large group of kids repeating over and over "one dollar" only one dollar". We were told to bring candy and offer that to the kids. Jane and Elliot enjoyed passing it out.

Jan 19, 2012

Siem Reap 2011

After a few days in Bangkok we were on to our next destination Siem Reap, Cambodia.
We are always hoping to encounter airports with good playgrounds and activities. This airport did not offer much to keep us busy during our two hour delay. The kids watched Cars 2.

As we got off the plane and felt the fantastic breezy warm air, I felt excitement and apprehension. We had to wait in a line with all the other foreigners to get our on the spot visas. Foreigners are also finger printed upon arriving. Our hotel was expecting 4 adults and had brought us two Tuks Tuks. We let our luggage go in one and shared the other to make our way to the city. I hadn't researched much about the demographics of Siem Reap. Nathan informed me that it was a relatively rural and small in population. As we passed rice fields, farms and lots of cows, this became evident. After living in Asia, it isn't uncommon to hear people talk about being from a small town of 5-8 million.
Siem Reap has about 172,000 residents. We would sometimes see people at the temples and later in the town. It was peak season, but compared to China it felt like a small town hosting a fair wherever one comes out to participate and visit.

Our hotel was the Wooden Angkor (Almost everything has the name Angkor attached to it) When we entered the lobby, removing our shoes first, we were greeted with cool towels and some tea. The family suite is two adjoining rooms. The kids had their own beds and bathroom. That night we decided to try the restaurant upstairs. It was situated on a veranda, on the top level of the hotel overlooking the street. The kids immediately took to the two hammocks that were available and claimed them during our entire stay. We soon realized that as our cheap ( dishes ranged from $2-$4) and delicious food arrived on the table, so did the bugs. It is nice to have the openness, feel the breeze, but the bugs at night were too much for us and ate there only for breakfast and lunch after this. Khmer food I found to be relatively mild, with aromatic combinations of ginger, garlic, coconut milk, lemon grass. Possibly a fusion of Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese? I liked everything and the price was great. Siem Reap has no McDonalds. It was nice to tell the kids it wasn't even an option and they both found Khmer dishes they enjoyed.

The hotel staff were friendly to the kids and pleasant to talk to.
They arranged a tuk tuk driver to take us around. He was hired from 7am-7pm and the cost was only $14US.

Banana pancakes for the kids. Breakfast was included in our stay and we could order off the menu.

more post to follow..

Jan 16, 2012

A Sunday

We recently took the ferry over to Hong Kong island. This day out found us visiting familiar places and trying something new.
We started out on the Mid-Level escalators. We were going to visit Fat Angelos an italian restaurant, sadly we found that the restaurant had been replaced.

We had to "settle" for one of our favorite Mexican restaurants Carambas. The nachos and burritos were delicious. The kids liked picking out the red and green chips in the basket.

The Dr. Sun Yat Sen Museum
Is a place we decided to visit. Dr. Sun-Yat was a Chinese revolutionary that devoted His life to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. We had free entry with our museum pass.

Photography was not allowed in the majority of the museum. It is housed in a historical Hong Kong building.
The Hall was built in 1914. It was named after the former owner of the Mansion, Ho Kom-tong, who was a younger brother of the prominent philanthropist Sir Robert Ho Tung. The Ho family is the first Chinese family permitted to live in the Mid Levels in the early colonial period.

The interactive computer games for the kids and the cartoon friendly presentation of the Dr. were well done.

We found a frozen yogurt shop and stopped in for a treat.

Nathan was interested in finding the Catholic church. We stopped and took photos in front of the Christmas tree.

The Church is located near the Botanical garden and Zoo. It had been over a year since I last visited with the kids and Nathan had not been back since 2009.