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AUGUST 10th, 2013—JOURNEY WITH US TO THE REMOTE TEMPLES OF KOH KER & BENG MEALEA
Leaving from Lotus Lodge, Siem Reap
Please Call 098871903 If You Would Like to Join! We are Departing at 7AM – Returning Mid Afternoon
It was a firey week here in Siem Reap with the anticipation for the July 28th elections. Campaigners in the hundreds took to the streets of Siem Reap all week honking their horns and blaring election noise on their loud speakers.
Although the election results are obviously in favor of the CPP, it is an important election in Cambodia. It was only a few months ago that President Barack Obama was in Cambodia. Obama became the first ever U.S. president to visit Cambodia. During his visit he emphasized his concerns over the Cambodian leader’s poor democratic leadership model and the country’s worsening human rights abuses. Prime Minister Hun Sen is Asia’s longest-serving prime minister, ruling for 28 years.
The US and other countries had said the exclusion of Opposition Leader Sam Rainsy would call into question the polls’ legitimacy in Cambodia’s General Election. Last week the Government gave a royal pardon to the exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
Upon arrival he received a hero’s welcome with thousands of cheering supporters. The US welcomed Cambodia’s decision to pardon Sam Rainsy earlier this month, with the State Department urging Phnom Penh “to allow for his meaningful and unfettered participation in the elections”.
“I have come home to rescue the country.” Rainsy told the crowd gathered at Phnom Penh’s airport after kneeling to kiss the ground. Supporters shouted, “We Want change!”
As the main challenger to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Rainsy has been barred from the elections. His application had been rejected to stand against Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“If I can’t participate, after the elections all the Cambodian people will protest and the whole international community will condemn the result and regard this as a sham election,” Sam Rainsy was quoted as saying.
Reports of violence today over missing names. Rocks were also being lobbed despite police presence. Military trucks were reported to have been deployed, and water cannon trucks have been assembled on the streets of Phnom Penh. A power outage here in Siem Reap gave a boost to the frenzy as well.
Tonight Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen call for calm after 2 security forces trucks destroyed by angry mob. Sam Rainsy also said in a press conference tonight “We want rule of law, we do not want chaos”.
From what we’re hearing on the ground, it’s quite certain the CPP will win the general election.
It’s a tense weekend in Cambodia, but for the most part, things are as usual. Tourism is still bustling and the sun setting over the beautiful temples of Angkor are always mesmerizing.
This is an interesting look at one of the many Bas Reliefs at Ta Prohm –
At least two very significant books testify to the authenticity of the stegosaurs carving. Ancient Angkor was first published in Thailand in 1999 by River Books Ltd., Bangkok. A small picture of the carving is seen at the bottom of page 143. On page 144 we read, “Along the vertical strip of roundels in the angle between the south wall of the porch and the east wall of the main body of the gopura there is even a very convincing representation of a stegosaur.”
The large, beautiful 320 page book, Angkor, Cities And Temples, by the same author and photographer, includes a half page picture of the stegosaur sculpture. On page 213 the author describes it as “an animal which bears a striking resemblance to a stegosaurus”.
The Lotus Lodge is Canadian owned and operated and while Siem Reap is approx 13711 Km’s from Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. That didn’t stop Lotus Lodge from celebrating Canada Day. It certainly was exciting to see so much Canadian patriotism at the Lodge!
Other than showing some Canadian pride, it was a good excuse to have fireworks, wear red and white, and dare I say it, eat some oh so delicious Canadian poutine. We were pleasantly surprised to see so many people attend and not just Canadian expats, but expats from all around the globe! From Australia to Great Britain, guests swarmed in, chowing down on poutine, drinking their free draught, and proudly wearing their Canada Flag pin that was given to everyone at the bar. Not to sound soft, but it did warm our hearts.
Thanks to our lovely staff and everyone who came out for Canada Day.
Elephants have quite a history in Cambodia. From the stone carvings throughout Angkor to the famous parade of elephants, the importance of elephants can be seen throughout Cambodia’s history. The reality is that the plight of these magnificent elephants in Cambodia is very real.
Indigenous highlanders in Ratanakiri, have captured, tamed and worked with elephants for 2000 years. Elephants were the heart of their culture and are quickly disappearing. As we consistently encroach upon the elephants traditional home grounds for farmland and deforestation, the number of elephants drops. In the past decades it was not uncommon for a village to have a dozen or more elephants. Now most villages have none, and those that do only have a few.
In 1296 a Chinese diplomat named Zhou Daguan arrived in Angkor and wrote a detailed report on life in Angkor. His portrayal today is one of the most important sources and understanding of historical Angkor and the Khmer Empire. He recorded a royal procession of Indravarman III who carried a sacred sword in his hand standing on an elephant.
When the king goes out, troops lead the escort; then come flags, banners and music. Palace women, numbering from three to five hundred, wearing clothes decorated with flowers, with flowers in their hair, hold candles in their hands, and form a troupe. Even in broad daylight, the candles are lit. Then come other palace women, carrying lances and shields; then the king’s private guards; then carts drawn by goats and horses, all in gold. After that ministers and princes mounted on elephants, and in front of them one can see, from afar, their innumerable red umbrellas. After them come the wives and concubines of the king, in palanquins, carriages, on horseback and on elephants. They have more than one hundred parasols, flecked with gold. Behind them comes the sovereign, standing on an elephant, holding his sacred sword in his hand. The elephant’s tusks are encased in gold.
One’s imagination can picture what this outstanding performance would look like.
When you travel to Cambodia, make sure to see the Terrace of the Elephants. The Terrace was used by Angkor’s King Jayavarman VII as a platform from which to view his victorious returning army. The 350m-long Terrace of Elephants was used as a giant reviewing stand for public ceremonies and served as a base for the king’s grand audience hall. You will also find the 12th century temple Bayon has superb elephant bas-reliefs carved along all four of its walls.
Although the current situation of Cambodia’s elephants seems dire, there is a great effort from the Cambodian government and International NGO’s to preserve these majestic creatures. Elephant Sanctuary Cambodia in Phnom Kulen National Park, about an hour north of Siem Reap in a Tuk Tuk is doing a wonderful job at rescuing elephants and planning a sustainable future for them.
In 1857, Henri Mouhot traveled to Indochina to conduct a series of botanical expeditions for the collection of new zoological specimens. His initial requests for grants and passage were rejected by French companies and the government of Napoleon III. The Royal Geographical Society and the Zoological Society of London lent him their support. On 27 April 1858 Henri Mouhot and his King Charles dog, Tine-Tine, sailed from London for Bangkok via Singapore, a journey that took four months.
Below are some of his sketches from his journey to Bangkok
Beyond the Temples
It’s no surprise that visitors to Cambodia come to gasp at the magnificent ancient temples of Angkor. Many of these visitors however overlook what’s beyond the temples. Siem Reap is a charming little town with a small population of nearly 175,000 people. Even with this modest population there is a ton to do.
Siem Reap has a colonial and Chinese-style architecture in the Old French Quarter located in the centre of town. You will find dozens of pubs, restaurants, Apsara dance performances, shops, clubs, and so much more. Not far from Siem Reap are craft shops, fishing villages, a bird sanctuary, water falls, an animal conservation centre and so much more. If you want to leave the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap, you only need to go a few kilometers in literally any direction and you will be in a beautiful rice-paddy country side.
An excellent way to experience the beauty, tranquility and history of the countryside is to take one of the many tours available. Whether you want to explore by bicycle, tuk tuk, motor bike, quad, balloon, and even helicopters! The choice is yours. Visiting traditional villages, lotus fields and exploring ancient temples off the beaten track is certainly a fascinating experience.
It was only recently that new temple discoveries had been found in the Siem Reap area. An airborne laser servey revealed a much larger Angkor landscape. It confirmed the existence of a huge medieval city buried beneath impenetrable jungle on a remote mountain.
In the same year a new species of bird was found. The Tailorbird was named by the team that documented the discovery. Tailorbirds get their name from the way they build their nests, by threading spider silk or other fibers through a leafe, creating a sort of cradle.
These kinds of discoveries are just another reason that make this country such a wonderful place to explore and adventure. For more information Click Here.
The enchanting town of Battambang is just a few hours by bus from Siem Reap. Fewer travelers end up in Battambang but if you do find yourself in this beautiful town, you’ll soon discover the many hidden gems it has to offer. Whether you’re enjoying some of the best coffee in Cambodia at Kinyei Expresso Bar, riding the tracks on a make-shift train made of bamboo or watching the millions of bats fly out the Phnom Samphou Bat Cave.
Here is a list of a few more things to check out!
- Phare Ponleu Selpak: Battambang’s permanent circus school, Phare Ponleu Selpak offers training in circus skills, art and music to local children and students. Performances (with art exhibition and welcome drink before the show) take place three or four times a week, showcasing the excedingly talented performers’ skills. Many students go on to perform internationally when they leave. Visit www.phareps.org/ for up to date show times.
- Phnom Samphou and The Bat Cave: About 11km outside of Battambang town centre is a mountain, home to the Killing Cave of Phnom Samphou, and the Bat Cave. An easy cycle, or about 10 minutes by moto, the Killing Cave is about two thirds of the way up the mountain, and still houses the remains of those killed there during the Khmer Rouge genocide. The Bat Cave offers an amazing spectacle at around 5pm each day – thousands and thousands of bats leave the cave as dusk falls, a steady stream flying out for around 45minutes. It is possible to combine a visit here with a visit to Banan Temple, also situated out in the countryside; arrange with a moto driver to take you to both, or hire a motorbike (Royal Hotel and Gecko Cafe rent them for approx $7 a day) and visit them yourself.
- Traditional Khmer House (Homestays also possible)– The village of Wat Kor, in Wat Kor Commune, Battambang is home to several traditional Khmer houses, built in the early 20th Century. Located south of Battambang town along the river, the houses are a little hard to find so it can be easier to get here by Tuk Tuk if you don’t have a local guide. The only English speaking owner in the village is called Yee Sarith, who will explain the history of his home, which was built in 1906 and finished in 1907. Some traditional houses in Wat Kor also offer homestays, which can be arranged with them directly. Donations are asked for from visitors.
- Bamboo Train: Battambang’s most touristy tourist attraction, the Bamboo Train is an old fashioned railway track and bamboo platform, which takes you on a 20minute ride to a small village. Worth a trip if you go in a group (it costs about $5 each for a group, $10 if you go alone), the easiest way to get here is by Tuk Tuk. Beware the children in the village who will act as a guide un-asked, they will try demanding dollars from you when you leave!
- Crocodile Farm: located a few kilometers to the north of Battambang, along the river’s west bank, the Crocodile Farm is home to hundreds of crocodiles. Visit early in the morning to catch them at their livliest, during feeding time. If you want to, you can also hold crocodiles that are only a month or so old. Costs $1 if you cycle and $2 if you visit by Tuk Tuk.
- Swimming: If the heat gets too much, head past the night market to Victory Club, a large outdoor pool with sun loungers and massages. Popular with expats as well as locals, it is acceptable to wear western-style swimwear, but be prepared to receive a few curious glances if a group of locals turn up. There’s also a gym here if you’re feeling actice. $2 to use the pool, $1 for the gym.
- Food and Drink: Battambang has one of the most thriving coffee shop cultures you’ll come across in Asia. Many restaurants and coffee shops are also either part of an NGO or a social enterprise, providing training and qualifications for those that work there. The best of the best are:
- Cycling: whether you want to meander through the countryside on your own, or join one of the social enterprise-run bike tours on offer, Battambang is best seen by bicycle. Several hotels rent bicycles for a dollar or two a day, or you can hire slightly more rugged mountain bikes from Kinyei coffee shop on Street 1 1/2 (one road up from the river, just south of the market) for $1.50 a day. If you want to learn more about the country side, both Soksabike and the newly launched Butterfly Tours offer guided bike rides, where you will get the opportunity to learn how locals live, sample locally produced food and drink, and visit historic sites such as the Killing Field and memorial Stupa. Both companies employ local students as guides, all whom speak exceptional English and are great company for a day out. Soksabike are based at Kinyei and Butterly Tours have posters in most coffee shops in the town centre- ask at Coconut Water for details.
For more information, feel free to contact us!
Here is an amazing find. Video Archives and Old Photos Archives of some of the earliest and only pieces of footage taken from Cambodia. A tour of the ancient temples of Angkor Wat and Cambodia as early as the 1920’s. If you’ve been to Cambodia, it’s hard to imagine what this country would look like nearly a hundred years ago but the reality is that, besides the cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, not much has changed.
It’s been over a hundred years since French explorer Henri Mouhot popularized Angkor. Today, millions visit the ancient temples of Angkor. There are hundreds of temples, pyramids, palaces and water features spread across the remains of the ancient Cambodian civilization. A city that is more than 1000 years old and underground has recently been discovered. Still today archaeologists are discovering new temples, roads and dykes linking monuments in the dense vegetation.
Discover ancient Cambodia! Find out more info here.
Old Footage of Cambodia from a 1937 Expedition Trip
A tour of the ancient Cambodian temples of Angkor Wat and Bayon in the 1930s.
The 1930’s narrator begins with – “Only since 1907, have we known much that was worth knowing about wondrous Angkor. In that year Siam ceded Cambodia in southeastern Asia to the french, who soon began to dig out from the depths of its impenetrable jungle, the vast bones of a forgotten city. They found enthroned here, rising in a steady masterful sweep, the five lofty towers of Angkor Wat. A midst such terrifying desolation and amazing mystery as no mortal had beheld for hundreds of years.”
Cambodia: 1920’s KHMER IN COLOR
It was the French explorer Henri Mouhot who popularized Angkor to the western world. He drew detailed sketches and his wrote of his expeditions to the ancient city, which ultimately led to the popular support for a major French role in its study and preservation.
This is how he describes some of his events from the mid 1800’s. “One of these temples—a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michael Angelo—might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.”Mouhot also wrote that:”At Ongcor, there are …ruins of such grandeur… that, at the first view, one is filled with profound admiration, and cannot but ask what has become of this powerful race, so civilized, so enlightened, the authors of these gigantic works?”
These temples are still as magnificent and mysterious today as they were a hundred years ago. Come discover Cambodia as Henri Mouhot did in 1859. Let us ensure that you have an unforgettable experience in Cambodia. Contact Us today!
On Wednesday, those children handed over half of their new windfall to the Paul Brandt Build It Forward Foundation, specifying that they wanted the money to go to victims of the Alberta floods. Together with donations from orphanage staff, the final tally came in at $900 — impressive from children of any socioeconomic background.
These children, though, are the neediest of the world’s needy. They live in a place called Place of Rescue Orphanage, a Cambodian sanctuary for children and adult AIDS patients and other unfortunates.
While such an act of generosity is jaw-dropping — the poorest of the poor giving to citizens in one of the wealthiest cities in the world — it doesn’t surprise someone like Brandt.
“You go there thinking you’re helping them, to make their lives better,” says Brandt, who visited the orphanage in 2004 and 2009, one of those visits with Samaritan’s Purse. “Then they give to us what’s a month’s salary to them. It’s pretty neat, pretty neat.”
Besides, they learned the art of giving from one of the best in the world: when I speak with Brandt, he’s just wrapped up a day of visiting flood victims at Siksika First Nation; the day before, he visited Nanton and the Turner Valley area.
“I’ve just been letting them know that people aren’t forgetting about them,” he says. “I was crying with people … you just want to be there for them.”
Orphaned children giving money to Alberta flood victims also doesn’t surprise Blaine Sylvester, director of the Calgary-based Canadian Foundation Place of Rescue, who had the honour of wiring the money Wednesday afternoon to Brandt’s foundation.
“They consider themselves very fortunate, because their lives are better than the kids they see on the streets,” says Sylvester, who adds that they have never forgotten Brandt’s visits to the orphanage. “The children may live in spartan conditions and sleep 10 to a house with a house mother, but they’re safe, they’re secure and they’re loved.”
In addition to their love for our homegrown country music star, some of those kids have a personal connection to the city itself. A couple of years ago, a group of them came to Calgary and presented dance performances in various venues around the city.
“One of those places was Bowness Park,” says Sylvester, whose mother-in-law Marie Ens founded the orphanage in 2003. “When they were told that the park had been flooded, they wanted to help.”
Sylvester, who has made 10 visits to the orphanage over the years, is preparing to go there again next week, taking 48 Calgary volunteers with him.
“We will be hosting an English camp for the kids,” he says.
Over the past week, Calgary and its environs have seen the worst of Mother Nature, the best of human nature.
Whole armies of smiling volunteers have descended on destroyed neighbourhoods, lending a hand to lift a crowbar or haul away a rotted two-by-four, their busy hands offering both practical and spiritual relief to those who have lost so much.
On Wednesday alone, I was witness to the generosity of people from all walks of life: former Flame Jim Peplinski offered up trucks free of charge from his leasing company to be used to haul debris to the dump; famed entrepreneur and philanthropist Brett Wilson didn’t cancel his fundraising annual Garden Party, instead choosing to add flood relief to his recipient list; and the Calgary Foundation announced the creation of the Flood Recovery and Rebuilding Fund, which has already received a donation of $100,000 by Suncor Energy and pledges to match all future donations up to an additional $150,000.
Then there are those stalwart helpers of the needy, the Calgary Food Bank and Calgary Meals on Wheels, announcing a temporary collaboration to provide a steady stream of nourishing meals to area evacuation centres, as well as volunteers and homeowners in the hard-hit areas.
But children in an orphanage, living in an impoverished country on the other side of the planet? If this does not fill your heart to the brim, then I am afraid you might not have one at all.
Brandt echoes my sentiment.
“When you hear about this kind of thing, from orphaned kids, it’s humbling,” says Brandt.
“It is an incredibly heartwarming, wonderful thing to see.”
For more on Place of Rescue, including donation information, visit its website at http://www.placeofrescue.com