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Off to Cambodia

Border to Siem Reap and Angkor

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After a 6-hour bus ride from Bangkok, we arrived at the lovely Cambodian border town Poipet. I (Justin) overpaid our visa fee, which zipped us through the border in about 1 hour, instead of 2-3 hours (basically sweetening the coffee of the border patrol, you gotta love corruption!). We had heard that the town of Poipet was about the worst place in all of Cambodia, and it definitely lived up to it’s reputation.

The chaotic border crossing. Adding to the confusion, the two countries drive on different sides of the road!

From there we had two options to get to Siem Reap, a 5 hour bus ride or a 3 hour cab ride on the infamous “nightmare road”. The bus ride was $10 pp, and the taxi was $40 for the whole car. We asked everyone around the border we could find until we managed to locate a Finnish couple who had the same timesaving idea that we had. So we were off! We think the taxi drivers either have an ongoing bet who can make the best time, or who can make the most people in the car pee their pants, because this guy flew. While speeds of 55 mph may not seem like that fast, you have to realize what this road is like. I had to remove my sunglasses as they kept on falling off and my head literally hit the ceiling many times. In addition to the road conditions, there are no real traffic lanes, nor considerations of imaginary traffic lanes in Cambodia. We were all over that road, into oncoming traffic, swerving around animals, people, whatever. It was like we were in the Baja 5000 in a Toyota Camry; I can't believe that car made the trip. After a 12-hour day of travel, we kissed the solid ground in Siem Reap and made our way to a guesthouse.

The next day we headed off to explore the ancient ruins of the Khmer Empire. The Khmer Empire established it’s capital in the area of what is now Siem Reap in the early 9th Century. The empire at its greatest extended over the valleys of the lower present-day Thailand and the lower present-day Cambodia and Vietnam and north into Laos. The capital city was centered around the massive Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious structure. When Europe was in the Dark Ages and London only had 50,000 residents, Angkor has 3 million inhabitants and the ability to build some of the greatest temples ever built.

Angkor Wat
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Justin at the top of Angkor Wat.

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The view above the trees.

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They built glorious temples throughout the city, all with extensive carvings. The temples were all made of stone and were built to house the Gods. The empire thrived for hundreds of years until the Thais captured Angkor and the capital was abandoned in the 1400’s. The only surviving structures today are made of stone, as the wooded ones were either burned or taken back by the jungle.

The size and ornateness of the temples is quite mind boggling, I hope these pictures do it justice, a few of them have a good looking model or two in them for perspective.


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There are over 200 of these large faces on this temple, pointing in the 4 directions of the compass.

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Ta Prohm

This temple has been taken over by the jungle and the massive banyan roots.


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Preah Khan

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Justin showing some novice monks a few pictures from home.

We toured the temples for two days with a guide that took us around in a tuk-tuk. The third day we rented bikes from town and saw the sites on our own.



The town of Siem Reap was very nice with lots of restaurants and nightlife to keep the tourists happy. We were overwhelmed at times by the constant begging and the onslaught of people selling the same thing over and over again. It was very heart wrenching to have a 5-year-old carrying a 6-month-old follow you saying, “poor, milk, help”. We at times would buy a carton of milk for the child, but once that happened the kids came out of everywhere after you, which made us feel that we were not greatly impacting the child’s life by this small offering. We decided that money was not the best thing, because it would probably just go to the parents sitting around the corner, so we mainly have given food, which the kids usually eat on the spot. Hey, we can’t all be like Angelina Jolie, who by the way has a drink named after her at one of the places in town. We have had many discussions between us and other travelers about the children and the overall poverty situation in Cambodia and we have not found a solution (big surprise), but maybe the fact that we are openly discussing this between us, other travelers, and now you is a step in the right direction to finding a way to help.

Overwhelmed by bracelet sellers.


To follow are just a few other photos of some of the things we have seen here in Cambodia. You’ll notice several pictures dealing with various methods of transportation by the locals, which still amaze us.

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They will ride for hours on the top of trucks and vans like this. This was a mild case, we saw many much more loaded.

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Supposedly, this is not a frog or a toad. Not sure what it is, but it's cute!

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We accept the photo assignment given by Coomey (iwannafly), and will be keeping our eyes open.

Posted by rebmamber 01:38 Archived in Cambodia

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Imagine the beauty of these temples when they were first built and the time it must have taken.

Coincidentally, I drove by your house and because no one has trimmed your banyan tree since you left, your house looks much like Ta Prohm

by juliebmac

So you found the “Lost City” It must be incredible!
Beautiful, inconceivable even!
Where to next? Phnompen?
When does the planting start?
And don’t be picking up anymore colorful “toxic” frogs! :)
The odyssey continues!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

by UBe

Ah!!! I must say that the two of you LIVE. I mean the other day I was reading a book that spoke of a man that lived the romantic life that you only read about in books or see in movies. I thought of the two of you. I only wish that Lexi and I can see the things that you've seen and do the things that the two of you have done. The two of you are truely living "la pura vida". From Atlanta, with traffic that mimics thai traffic in terms of chaos and the work that needs to be done with my new job, I must say that I am literally living vicariously (sorry about the spelling) through the two of you.

But to keep the two of you abrest, the state of the union went very well :( . NOT that I would want to ruin yalls trip with politics or anything, but our pal Bush is really some kind of leader. I apologize, the last thing I want is to make this page a posting board for political debate. I just thought yall should know.

Will the two of you please find that sailboat that can float to Atlanta, magically blown by the winds of the good life, and carry Lexi and I to the terrific Elephant infested waters of south East Asia. A beer is raised to the two of you for inspiring us to live life to the fullest, follow your dreams, and to live romantically, as if in a book or movie. I hope all is well and continues to be so. Travel well and light and continue with the terrific writing. It really is award winning.

by jexi007

you do realise i am totally coming with you on your next adventure. Jeff and Lexi are right that you 2 lead a life only heard of in books or movies. I envy u almost as much as i love/miss u guys... just kidding(about the envy part, not the love and miss part). I love u, hope to see u soon(not gonna happen tho). I bet diving or snorkling there would be awesome
love u,
p.s. Watch out for the bird flu!!!!

by Bad-barry

Question of Travel (Elizebeth Bishop)

There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down the sea, and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops makes them spill over the sides in soft slow motion, turning to waterfalls under our very eyes. -For if those streaksm those mile-long, shiny tearstains, aren't waterfalls yet, in a quick age or so, as ages go here, they probably will be. But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling, the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships, slime-hung and barnacled.
Think of the long trip home. Should we have stayed at home and thought of here? Where should we be today? Is it right to be watching strangers in a play in this strangest of theatres?
What childness is it that while there's a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, we must dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And we have room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?
But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
-Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pain there would have identical pitch.)
-A pity, not to have heard the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bambo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
-Yes a pity, not to have pondered,
blurr'dly and inconclusively,

by iwannafly

on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
-Never to have studied history in the weak
calligraphy of songbirds' cages.
-And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveler takes a notebook and

"Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one's room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there... No. Should we have stayed at home, wherever that may be.?"

ca. 1965

(if any misspelling, please excuse the transriber. I was rushing to the end.) cc

by iwannafly

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