Cambodia and Bali 9 February until 10 March 2013

February and March 2013 a trip to Cambodia and Bali

Cambodia (9 until 19 February)

Cambodia or Kampuchea, officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia and once known as the Khmer Empire, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Its total landmass is 181,035 square kilometres, bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. We Elly & Gilles, Jeanette & Ben, visited for 6 days Siem Reap for the ancient Khmer Temples and for 3 days the main capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. After this trip to Cambodia we went to Bali, Indonesia, to relax in Bugbug.

Angkor Wat, 11 February

After relaxing a bit, the second day at Siem Reap we visited Angkor Wat, which is visually, architecturally and artistically breathtaking. It is a massive three-tiered pyramid crowned by five lotus-like towers rising 65 meters from ground level. A very impressive site, one of the World Wonders. Angkor Wat is a Hindu, then subsequently Buddhist temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world. The temple was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yasodharapura (present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. Breaking from the Shaivism tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu.
Angkor Wat lies 5.5 kilometres (3.4 mi) north of the modern town of Siem Reap, and a short distance south and slightly east of the previous capital, which was centred at Baphuon.

Bas-relief highlights include the mythological Battle of Kuru on the west wall; the historical march of the army of Suryavarman II, builder of Angkor Wat, against the Cham, followed by scenes from Heaven and Hell on the south wall. The classic ‘Churning of the Ocean Milk’ on the east wall  we missed, next time then. For more detailed descriptions read the articles at wikipedia
pictures Angkor Wat

Tonlé Sap Lake (12 February)

The Tonlé Sap lake is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hot spot that was designated as a Unesco biosphere in 1997 and is also known for the many floating villages of fishermen.
The water flow changes direction twice a year, and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons. From November to May, Cambodia's dry season, the Tonlé Sap drains into the Mekong at Phnom Penh. However, when the year's heavy rains begin in June, the lake backs up to form an enormous lake.
On our way to the lake we visited the village Chong Kneas.
The process of actually catching fish is simple, but the aftermath takes much more time and effort. Because the drop in the water level, the Tonlé Sap naturally carries away thousands of fish. The fishermen simply cone-shaped nets into the water from their floating houses, and then lifting the net as soon as seconds later. Using this technique, two or three tons of fish are trapped each time and more than ten thousand tons of fish can be caught in under a week. One by one, fishermen, mostly Vietnamese and Khmer women, cut off the fish heads then bring the fsh back to the river to be cleaned and to remove the fat. Salting the fish for preservation is the final step in this process, but the fish will continue to macerate for several months in order to transform into a paste called prahok, a nourishing condiment that compliments almost any dish. These couple of days, on average three days, of fishing supply enough prahok for the entire year.
For more information Tonlé Sap lake

The second part of our trip is the Prek Toal Sanctuary bird park in the Northwest point of the lake. The 'bird sanctuary' at the Prek Toal core area of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve has been called "the single most important breeding ground in Southeast Asia for globally threatened large waterbirds." The Biosphere covers 31,282 hectares at the northwest tip of the Tonle Sap Lake and plays host to species including Greater and Lesser Adjuncts, Black-headed Ibis, Painted Stork, Milky Stork, Spot-billed Pelican, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle and many more species.
pictures Tonlé Sap

That evening we enjoyed the Royal Khmer dances at the Somadevi hotel. The dances performed show mythical stories from the ancient Khmer time, like Lamthon and Robam Tep Apsara and Cambodian folkdances.
pictures Khmer dances

Angkor Thom (13 February)

This day we visited the main temple sites of Angkor Thom, Bayon, Baphuon, Phinemeakas, some smaller temples like Khleang see pictures, Angkor Preah and Palilay Tep Pranam see pictures, the terraces of the Leper king and the Elephants. It was an exiting and long day . . . . .

Bayon is well known for the giant carved faces from the classic Khmer art and architecture. looking in the 4 directions. Who the faces represent is a matter of debate but they may be Loksvara, Mahayana Buddhism's compassionate Bodhisattva, or perhaps a combination of Buddha and Jayavarman VII. The best of Bayon are the bas-reliefs on the exterior walls of the lower level and on the upper level where the stone faces reside. The bas-reliefs on the southern wall contain real-life scenes from the historical sea battle between the Khmer and the Cham. Also the carvings of unique and revealing scenes of everyday life, like market scenes, cockfighting, chess games and childbirth are very beautiful.
pictures Bayon

Baphuon is built in the mid-11th century, it is a three-tiered temple mountain built as the state temple of Udayadityavarman II dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. It is the archetype of the Baphuon style. The temple adjoins the southern enclosure of the royal palace and measures 120 metres east-west by 100 metres north-south at its base and stands 34 meters tall without its tower, which would have made it roughly 50 meters tall. A 9 meter tall by 70 meter long statue of a reclining Buddha was built on the west side's second level, which probably required the demolition of the 8 meter tower above, thus explaining its current absence.
pictures Baphuon

Phimeanakas is an impressive laterite and sandstone pyramid. The lack of surviving carvings leaves it artistically uninteresting, but it is the tallest scalable temple in Angkor Thom, providing a nice view from the top. The western staircase (at the back) is the most easily ascended. Located inside the ancient Royal Palace compound, Phimeanakas served as the king’s temple. Legend has it that the golden tower crowned the temple and was inhabited by a serpent, which would transform into a woman. The kings of Angkor were required to make love with the serpent every night, lest disaster befall him or the kingdom.
pictures Phimeanakas

Terrace of the Elephants is an impressive, two and a half-meter tall, 300 meter long terrace wall adorned with carved elephants and garudas that spans the heart of Angkor Thom in front of Baphuon, Phimeanakas and the Royal Palace area. The northern section of the wall displays some particularly fine sculpture including the five headed horse and scenes of warriors and dancers. Constructed in part by Jayavarman VII and extended by his successor. 
pictures Terrace of the Elephants

Terrace of the Leper King shows deeply carved nagas, demons and other mythological beings. The inner wall is an earlier version of the outer wall that was covered at the time the outer wall was added. The inner wall was excavated by French archaeologists in the late 1990s. The terrace was named for the statue of the ‘Leper King’ that sits on top. Some argue that when the statue was found, its lichen-eaten condition gave it the appearance of leprosy. Others have argued that it is a statue of the leper king of Khmer legend, or that the condition of the statue inspired its connection to the legend. The model for the statue is also a matter of debate. Suggestions include a couple of different Hindu gods, and the Khmer kings Yasovarman I and Jayavarman VII.
pictures Terrace of the Leper King

It is 13 February and today we took some time for the city Siem Reap. We visited the Angkor National Museum (very well exhibited) and the central market Psar Chaa. The old central market nowadays has a lot of competition with the well provided new Malls in the city, but is still nice to visit.
pictures Siem Reap

Ta Phrom, Pre Rup and Banteay Kdei, 15 February

The Ta Phrom is a sprawling monastic complex is only partially cleared of jungle overgrowth. Intentionally left partially unrestored, massive fig and silk-cotton trees grow from the towers and corridors offering some of the best ‘tree-in-temple’ moments at Angkor. Flocks of noisy parrots flit from tree to tree adding to the jungle atmosphere. Ta Prohm has a lot of dark corridors and open plazas. This temple was one of Jayavarman VII's first major temple projects. Ta Prohm was dedicated to his mother.Ta Prohm was originally constructed as a Buddhist monastery and was enormously wealthy in its time, boasting of control over 3000 villages, thousands of support staff and vast stores of jewels and gold. Of the monastic complex style temples, Ta Prohm is a superior example and should be included in almost any temple itinerary. Ta Phrom is in modern time best known because of the movie with Angela Jolie, Tomb Raider.
pictures Ta Phrom

Pre Rup, an architecturally and artistically superior temple-mountain. Beautifully carved false doors on upper level, as well as an excellent view of the surrounding countryside. Richly detailed, well-preserved carvings. Traditionally believed to be a funerary temple, but in fact the state temple of Rajendravarman II. Historically important in that it was the second temple built after the capital was returned to Angkor from Koh Ker after a period of political upheaval. The artistically similar East Mebon was the first to be constructed after the return to Angkor, less than a decade earlier.
pictures Pre Rup

The next stop is Banteay KdeiBanteay, meaning "A Citadel of Chambers", also known as "Citadel of Monks' is a Buddhist temple, located southeast of Ta Prohm and east of Angkor Thom. The temple is built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries AD during the reign of Jayavarman VII in the Bayon architectural style, similar in plan to Ta Prohm, but less complex and smaller. Its structures are contained within two successive enclosure walls, and consist of two concentric galleries from which emerge towers, preceded to the east by a cloister. The hall of the dancers is the most beautiful and impressive part. 
pictures Banteay Kdei

Phnom Penh (16 until 19 February)

Waiting for the bus to bring us to Phnom Penh, the main capitol of Cambodia, a 6 hours travel, lots of people pass by, by bike, motorbike, tuktuk rebuilt in the most practical way.
pictures Siem Reap

The most important attractions of Phnom Penh are the Royal palace, the National Museum and Wat Phnom. Although a little small, the museum has some magnificent pieces of the old Khmer period. The city is located on the banks of the Mekong river. It was one of the most loveliest French-built cities in Indochina, which can be noticed in the grand boulevards and the colonial buildings. Phnom Penh first became the capital of Cambodia after Ponhea Yat, King of the Khmer Empire, moved the capital from Angkor Thom after it was captured and destroyed by Siam (Thailand) a few years earlier.

The Royal Palace is built in the 19th century in the classic Khmer style and is the official residence of king Sihamoni, sun of the well known Norodom Sihanouk. The main attractions are the Thrown hall, Preah Dheva Vinnichayyeaah, the Dance pavilion, the Silver pagoda and the fresco’s on the walls . The sealing of the Thrown hall and these fresco’s shows the Reamker, the Khmer version of the Indian Epos Ramayana.

The National Museum houses one of the world's largest collections of Khmer Art, including sculptural, ceramics, bronzes, and ethnographic objects. The Museum’s collection includes over 14,000 items, from prehistoric times to periods before, during, and after the Khmer Empire, which at its height stretched from Thailand, across present-day Cambodia, to southern Vietnam. The Museum buildings, inspired by Khmer temple architecture, were constructed between 1917 and 1924.
pictures Phnom Penh

On 18 February we visit the Killing FieldsThe Khmer Rouge reached Phnom Penh and took power in 1975. Led by Pol Pot, they changed the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea. The new regime modelled itself on Maoist China during the Great Leap Forward, immediately evacuated the cities, and sent the entire population on forced marches to rural work projects. They attempted to rebuild the country's agriculture on the model of the 11th century, discarded Western medicine, and destroyed temples, libraries, and anything considered Western.

Estimates as to how many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime range from approximately one to three million; the most commonly cited figure is two million (about a quarter of the population). This era gave rise to the term Killing Fields, and the prison Tuol Sleng became notorious for its history of mass killing. Hundreds of thousands fled across the border into neighbouring Thailand. The regime disproportionately targeted ethnic minority groups. The Cham Muslims suffered serious purges with as much as half of their population exterminated. We visited one of the many killing fields in Cambodia, near Phnom Penh, Choeung Ek, where about 19.000 victims of the regime where tortured and buried. Very impressive and also impressive the way the Cambodian deal with this period, forgiveness.
pictures Killing Fields

Bali (19 February until 10 March)

At Bali, during our relaxed stay in our house at Bugbug we enjoyed visiting two special ceremonies in Bugbug, the temple at Jalan Pantai and on the beach near to Bug-bug Valey Beach Resort. 
The first ceremony is named Usaba Dalem from desa Bugbug (7 March) and  the second Bali Melasti of desa Bebandem (9 March). 

Some more pictures concerns our visit at the Sunday school of Widyasantih Ecw Bugbug and diving with the Bambu Divers from Dandidasa, with some special thanks to Harold for providing some very nice pictures of the spots at Padang Bay.

The Usaba Dalem ceremony at desa Bugbug started in the early morning of 7 March with visiting the (completely renovated) temple on Jalan Pantai, the road to the sea. At a certain moment all women at requested to leave the temple. The offering of a young black pig and young black cow took place in the presence of men only. In the afternoon the people of Bubug left in a huge parade from the center of Bugbug to the temple honoring their deceased relatives. The ceremony takes place until late in the night while eating the Bali Guling (suckling pig) and chicken, the food they took with them in the ceremony.
pictures Usaba Dalem desa Bugbug

One of Balinese important ceremonies in Hindu rituals is Melasti or purification the Pratima (god symbol) and other Hindu Religion symbol at the beach. The Melasti ceremony is conducted once a year in conjunction with the big Hindu Holiday called Nyepi Day or silent day. The Melasti event is generally done three-day before Nyepi day or depends to the local custom countryside rule. At the Melasti celebration, all Hindu people in Indonesia especially in Bali troop to carry the holy symbol of Hindu religion to the sea to be cleaned and looked at the alongside road the parade of Umbul-umbul symbol and others. It is also accompanied by the gamelan traditional enliven this event. The Melasti decermony of th edeas Bebandem ended at the beach near Bugbug Resort.
pictures Melasti desa Bebandem

Close to the Bug-bug Village Resort every Sunday the school, supported by Wydiasantih, gives the children of Bugbug some extra chances for developing their English skills in a relaxed atmosphere.   
pictures Wydiasantih Sunday School

From Candidasa we went for diving at Padang Bay with the rather new organisation Bambu Divers. With a special for diving built boat in typical Balinese style we went to two very nice diving spots, where it can be also very nice snorkelling, Blue Lagoon and Japun. Very nice, in-spite of the cloudy weather, clear water and relaxed dives.
pictures diving Padang Bay