Thursday, 17 March 2011

Laos, March 2011

We arrived in southern Laos from Cambodia, and went to see the UNESCO World Heritage site of Wat Phu, which is of Khmer architecture and Hindu religion, and is about 1000 years old.

This is the causeway lined with sandstone posts which leads to the first buildings, one of which is pictured below. 



Another causeway leads to seven flights of eleven steps, and is perfumed by the scent of many frangipani trees.



This is the main sanctuary building :


It's still used for Buddhist religious worship today :


Apsara (female divinity)

Seven-headed serpent (naga)
We saw this sign in the temple grounds, presumably to avoid graffiti on the tree bark:

"no scratch write"
We also saw various carvings in the temple grounds :

Buddha's foot and elephant
elephant
From left to right : Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu (= the Hindu trimurti)
view from the sanctuary showing two barays
offerings
After visiting Wat Phu we crossed the Mekong to have lunch at La Folie Lodge.


The next day we visited the Bolavens Plateau, which is about 1000m altitude and is famous for coffee-growing :


coffee drying

Sinouk coffee resort
Laos is famous for its textiles.
women weaving
 We also visited several waterfalls. This is Tadxe Phasouam.



In Laos women swim and bathe clothed. These teenagers were actually in their school uniform.

at Tad Lo waterfall
Can't go to Laos without seeing an elephant !

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Cambodia

We started our trip to Cambodia in Phnom Penh, where we visited the Royal Palace (below) and Silver Pagoda.


We also visited the Central Market (built in 1937) :


One of the most pyschologically difficult places we visited was the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (aka S21) a former high school used as a prison and place of torture by the Khmer Rouge


Interrogators used the wooden pole (originally used for students' physical education) for torture. Prisoners were hung upside down until they lost consciousness, then their head was dipped into a barrel of filthy water which shocked the victim back into consciousness and the process started again.




Phnom Penh streetfood :


After a few day in Phnom Penh we travelled to the coast, to Sihanoukville to go diving. Our dive sites were two hours offshore near islands called the Koh Rong.






Leaving Sihanoukville we travelled to Siem Reap where we started visiting the fabulous temples of Angkor.

offering to Buddha - note the meat offering

At the temples were many carving of apsaras - which are female devatas (angels).



At the most well-known temple, Angkor Wat, we saw bas-reliefs depicting the Ramayana, the Mahabratata and heaven and hell.




seated buddha in front of a naga

Ta Phrom is famous as the temple that has been left overgrown with trees. Some might recognise it from the film Tomb Raider.








The Bayon Temple has fifty towers sculpted with four-faced Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. A bodhisattva is an enlightened being, and Avalokiteshvara is one who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.



loved the colour contrast here

four-faced Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvaras

Typical Siem Reap tuk-tuk :


Statues depicting the Churning of the Sea of Milk - from Hindu mythology




These musicians have been maimed by landmines :


We later visited the Mine museum.


A typical Cambodian rural house on stilts :


Pre Rup temple at sundown :

  


South gate of Angkor Thom




On our last day in Siem Reap we went to Tonle Sap lake to see the floating villages.





After leaving Cambodia we travelled to southern Laos for a few days.


Suggested reading:

Angkor (New Horizons) by Bruno Dagens. "This book traces the origins of the mysterious ruins and tells the story of their rediscovery through documentary photographs, maps and illustrations".

'Twixt Land and Sea (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) by Joseph Conrad. Not directly connected to Cambodia but more related to the Gulf of Siam this a collection of three short stories first published in 1912.