Tonle Sap Lake and Fish Pedicures!

After a long day of visiting temples, and a short rest, we headed out to Tonle Sap Lake to view the sunset, and visit a floating village (Kampong Phluk Village).

Just driving there was eye opening as you saw so much poverty. And other interesting things:

Then the village on the lake is a whole other level.

We headed out on boat:

As we travelled down the lake, there was quite a lot to see:

We stopped at a floating restaurant, more to take in the surrounding area:

There was a Chinese couple that had a drone that we watched:

We headed back and our guide dropped us off for dinner.

It was pretty funny that we all felt like Italian again. I guess we aren’t used to all the Asian flavours and craved some more comfort:

  

But we quickly stepped out of our comfort zones and got “fish pedicures”.

At first I was the only one who wanted one, but then everyone joined in. Soon we were all laughing hysterically. It sort of pinches and tickles!

It was another awesome day.

 

Other temple visits

Once we met up with Happy, we set out.

First stop:  Ta Prohm, which was a beautiful temple in the jungle where the trees dominate. I took a ton of pictures, combined then with what Zach was taking, and Rob! But, on a trip like this, you can’t take too many pictures!

We then headed to headed to two other temples.

The first one, we were able to climb, Pre Rup:

We continued along our way, enjoying the signs of every day life:

Next, was Preach Khan:

Our guide picked up the resident cat… we weren’t so sure about it, but the cat didn’t seem to mind:

Our last temple was Banteay Srei (and yes, we were exhausted!).

We had lunch at the temple but were really overcome with the heat!

These signs were everywhere over the toilets:

Pretty funny!

We headed back to the hotel and everyone just chilled for a couple of hours.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

You can’t go to Angkor Wat and not go for the famous sunrise.

Of course, you can’t go alone either.

Hundreds go end up going too, so we arranged for two tuk tuk’s to pick us up at 5:00am to try to get there early.

We arrived and got “second row standing” – not so bad.

It was pretty crazy how everyone takes every inch of space and is sort of pushing and wedging their way in there. We tried to stand our ground, and got some great pics. (Sorry if they all look the same! But which ones to choose?!?!)

  

 

We headed into the temple again, and tried to go to the top level (it had been closed the day before), but there was a long line up.

We decided to head there the next day, and went back out and watched the sun continue to rise.

We also watched the monkeys at play!

  

A few family shot and selfies:

 

The light on the path leading up to Angkor Wat and from the front gate was pretty beautiful too:

We headed back to our hotel for breakfast and a tiny rest, before we met Happy.

Angkor Wat

My computer is up and running again! Yah! We think it was the humidity. So here’s my write up of our first day at Angkor Wat:

Getting up early hasn’t been a huge problem since we are all still a bit jet lagged. It’s not that “I want to die” jet lag, more so the  “I can get up early no problem but am exhausted by 7pm” jet lag. So heading down for a 7:30 breakfast was not problem. The buffet was enjoyed by all with its mix of eastern and western cuisine.

We met our guide, “Happy” in the lobby at 8:30 and he shared with us the plan.

We headed over to the Angkor Wat complex to get tickets, and then spent the next few hours at Angkor Wat itself.

It was so nice to have Happy share so much history with us, and guide us to shady spots to listen to that history. He’s also a whiz with the iPhone, so was often offering to take some fun pics of us all, so that was a real bonus for me!

I’ll let all the pictures tell the story (and there’s a lot of pictures… and they won’t all be exact order as it’s hard to keep track of! ):

  

After Angkor Wat, we headed out for lunch and had a nice lunch in a breezy patio across from a lake (not sure what it is called).

It was so hot!

We then headed to the next temple on our agenda: The Bayon Temple.

Happy did this cool panoramic picture and  I also loved the shots of how he took it!:

The Bayon temple has all the faces and is quite stunning:

  

We passed The Elephant Terrace and Terrace of the Leper King, but it was so hot and we were all drained .

We also stopped at this Buddha along the way:

We headed back to the hotel, where we  quickly changed and headed to the pool for some cooling off and relaxing.

After the pool, we all snoozed a bit more. The heat is a killer!

We then headed into town where we had booked some massages. I tell you, there were a few really funny things about the massages and massage place, but I think everyone found it relaxing and overall it was a success!

Starving, we searched for an Italian restaurant I had read about. I know, Italian??? But we have had a lot of rice, so we were craving some Italian. The place we went to was awesome! Right out of Italy! Everyone was a bit irritable (including me) and we were happy to head back to climb in bed after a wonderful day!

 

Computer woes 

Following an awesome, but sobering day participating in an activity organized by a charity in Cambodia to help families below poverty (anyone who makes below 2.50 a day), we flew to Vietnam. 

After a good night sleep, I went to organize my pics as per usual in the early hours (nice and quiet and I’m usually awake). All of a sudden, my computer went black. Normally Rob can fix any problem, but apparently not this one. He thinks it’s my screen:( 

Later that same day, Josh’s phone (which was cracked for months), went kaput! Crazy! Same day! Our guide knew “a guy”, and while we were resting mid afternoon,  he had Josh’s phone repaired! We weren’t comfortable getting our whole computer done here though…

So, I’m computer less for the remainder of the trip. My blog posts (although I can prepare the words on my phone) and my photos will have to wait until I’m home! (But I am still posting some pics and mini stories on Facebook and Instagram:))

As sad as I am about not having my computer… Perspective is easy to take on this trip. Small, small, small first world problem.

Heading to Siem Reap

On our way to Siem Reap, our driver stopped at a little market in a place called Skun.


There, they have for sale deep fried bugs.

Gross.

But my brave boys wanted to try: spiders and scorpions. Impressive! We got some good photos and videos of it:

Josh and Zandra held a live one:

We continued on our way and then stopped in a little town for lunch. We pretty much all ordered the same noodle dish (except for adventurous Rob) and Josh was mortified again at the amount of vegetables with the noodles. Poor guy. Good thing he had had fried rice for breakfast!


We continued on and stopped at an area called Sambor prei kuk, where we saw some pretty incredibly old temples in the middle of nature. After the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh, the silence in the woods was great — (except for when then cicadas started, but they are pretty cool sounding!)


The journey continued on …. forever. We could have flown into Siem Reap, but the agent had said it’s only a 5 hour drive, and it sounded fun to see the country side, and it was…. But after a while we were all a little restless from driving bumpy roads in a van with partial air conditioning working….flying might have been worth it.

We saw two LDS chapels (one posted further down)

We loved this little girl on her giant bike!


We were happy to arrive. And we’re even happier with our hotel the Tara Angor Wat.

After settling into our rooms (which this time were side by side, and across the hall), we tried to decide on dinner. We ended up going to a place recommended by the hotel as we had looked on our own and frankly were just too tired to do the due diligence of reading reviews, and didn’t feel like wandering the busy streets in the dark with the kids find a place.
We took two tuk tuk rides – which were pretty wild and the kids were mixed with exhilaration and fear! We ended up going to relatively fancy place called Chanrey Tree. It was actually quite delicious! The boys and I had variations of Khmer steak and beef skewers wrapped with porc belly, while Rob had their fish amok and Zandra went for curry again. It definitely was pricier than any meal we’ve had (but nothing compared to home), and the little guys were asleep at the table by the time we left, but it was a nice way to end such a long travel day!


A crazy tuk tuk ride back and we were dead by 9pm!

What an adventure!

Privilege

I awoke super early yesterday morning and was able to get some pics organized and write a blog post. Benefits of still having jet lag! By the time we got the kids up, I was all packed up for our next part of the journey.

 
We had a great breakfast again, this time I tried the noodles for breakfast- which were awesome, and a few kids opted for pancakes.

 

We packed up and bid farewell to the King Grand Suites hotel, as well as smoggy Phnom Penh. Zach had commented last night that the city has a certain smell to it. All the time. Sort of like pollution?!

 
We drove through the city and snapped some pics.

I had a little doze and woke up to our driver saying he had to stop for a minute to see his mom, who was at a little stall/shop at the side of the highway. We were about an hour outside the city. I watched him give her a bag of things, and then count out money for her and give it to her. Two little kids were there too and started waving and blowing kisses to us. So cute!

 
I was overcome by this feeling of privilege. Here we are, being driven to Siem Reap. On this incredible trip. Bellies full from a great breakfast. After a good night sleep in air conditioned rooms. My kids playing on their own iPhones in the back of the van. Heading to experience and explore an area that most will only dream about.

 
Why me? Why them? Why were we born in such different surroundings? We talked a lot yesterday with the kids about how if you were born in poverty in this country, there’s really very little way out of it (our guide has been sharing a lot about the poverty in the country). Why do some of us live in extreme privilege and others in extreme poverty?

 
I don’t know the answer.

 
I just know that this privilege brings me to my knees in gratitude for what I have. And for no other reason that I was born in a different land, to different parents. No more deserving of it than anyone else.

 
It also brings me an overwhelming sense of responsibility to raise my kids – highly privileged kids – to have a social conscience. To be kind and compassionate humans. To use travel as a way of expanding and educating their minds. And to serve serve serve. And then serve. Expressing gratitude along the way. Always.

 

I know it doesn’t change much. Poverty still exists. Privilege still exists. But small acts all together can make a difference. I hope.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We had heard that there was not much to see in Phnom Penh, but knew we needed a couple of nights to adjust to the time difference. So, for the day we were there, we wanted to make the most of it and booked a guide. We don’t always book guides, as sometimes it’s enough to follow a guide book, but I figured this was the kind of place that required one!

We were awake pretty early and headed down to the reception area for our included breakfast. It was a la carte and you could order a western breakfast, or an asian breakfast. We almost all opted on asian – after all, it’s part of the adventure. Then we all opted for the most familiar item on the menu: fried rice. Fried rice for breakfast? Yup. And it was absolutely delicious. We enjoyed it with our mini shot glasses of pineapple and mango juice (we have noted that even on the flights when you asked for a drink, you got this tiny glass!)

We then headed out with our guide, Lee – who not only showed us around, but shared with us about his own life, the Cambodian lifestyle, economics, politics etc. Although he was hard to understand with his thick accent (super hard for me with my hearing challenges), he was great!

We first went to the Royal Palace. (warning, I’m gonna be posting a lot of pictures!)

On the same grounds is the Silver Pagoda (temple with silver flooring – very cool looking – and costly, although a lot of it is covered by a rug.)

It’s a shame that you can’t take pictures of the inside (completely understandable, of course), but it was beautiful and impressive looking. We wandered around the area and learned about the other temples and buildings on site:

After spending time on the Palace grounds, we headed to the National Museum of Khmer Arts. I can’t say that the kids were exceptionally excited about this museum. It is partially outdoor, so there was no rest from the heat. There were many neat Buddha statues and sculptures, but we didn’t spend too much time there.

We then headed to Wat Phnom Hill – which is another site of a Buddhist temple that is very active and a mix between the old and new. We learned about the food offerings of eggs, raw meats etc. which was very different to see. It was very interesting temple.

We saw a tree with tons of bats (all those little black things hanging! Ugh!)

We then went to the local market. We first wandered around the souvenir area and picked up some small souvenirs. We then found ourselves in the clothing/shoe area, which we really didn’t have much interest in the knockoffs. We stumbled into the food area, and that was an experience. The smells! Raw meat and fish were abundant! It was an experience in itself walking through it. Gabe would have died!

Our guide then took us to a restaurant for lunch. The downfall of some guides is they take you to a place where they clearly get some kick backs. We had a mediocre lunch at best. Living in Toronto, you can pretty much get good, authentic food anywhere, so it’s very disappointing to eat somewhere with such mediocre food, clearly catered to you because you are a tourist. We had a good chuckle though that Rob’s dish had so much shaved ginger in it that he thought they were noodles. And Josh was overwhelmed with all the vegetables that came on top of a very few noodles.

After lunch we headed outside the centre of the city, where we got to really experience the busyness, the traffic, the craziness as we drove!

We also got to hear more history about our next stop, Choeung Ek Killing Fields.

Before we left, each one of the kids had to do some research on the sites/history of different places we were going to. Zach had shared with us the background of the Killing Fields; such a devastating part of Cambodian History.

Our guide talked with us as we drove, giving us more historical and political background about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, and Choeung Ek, which is the site of a former orchard and mass grave of victims. He took us around the site and shared with us the stories and significance of different areas within site. Sobering.

Its’ a beautiful memorial, and such a tragic story for the millions that lost their lives. We met a woman on the plane who was coming back to visit Cambodia; she had told us her entire family was killed under Pol Pot. Such tragedy.

We were completely zonked by the end of the afternoon. The heat, combined with the jet lag kicking in! We headed back, and continued to hear more about the Cambodian people, and experiencing the city. It’s truly sobering for our kids to see the extreme poverty of some, and to learn about life here. A teacher is paid the equivalent of $200 US per month! That fact put things in perspective to our kids – especially when you consider the kind of trip we are on…

More to absorb:

After a snooze, we decided we would head out and explore the area around our hotel by foot. Except, that Phnom Penh is NOT a pedestrian city!! Let’s just say that we had a lot of laughs and were able to cross the street a few times only!

Street food:

Gasoline, anyone?

We found a little peaceful spot:

There was one area we were trying to get to, but it is the equivalent of crossing outside the Arc de Triomphe in Paris! Rob braved it as he wanted to get a picture on the other side, and we took pleasure in cheering him on and recording him! I suggested we all try — and I loved how Josh and Sam put their complete faith in me and said they would cross if I guided them…. Just too hard for 5 people to cross all together, so we enjoyed watching the game of Frogger Rob was playing!

Rob’s adventures:

We rested again (the kids really wanted to use some wifi, because it’s hard to snapchat back home because of the time difference and so our dinner time is perfectly lined up with before school time back home! LOL)

Rob found us an awesome little place for dinner – Mok Mony, which we got to take a Tuk Tuk to (even though it was literally a 2 min ride!)

The owner was fantastic and suggested some great specialty dishes which were awesome! Beef rolled up in a kind of leaf we had tried earlier in the day (can’t remember the name), curry, and fish with mangos. The boys also tried some frog – which they really liked the legs – but when Zach hit the chest and ribs, he became repulsed!  (I think Zach got a few pics which I will add later) We were all completely zonked and certainly hit a wall. We were all a bit snappy at each other and got annoyed that our Tuk Tuk driver got lost even though we are 2 min away! Ah well, part of the adventure!

Next stop: driving to Siem Reap with some stops along the way!

Cambodia and Vietnam – here we come! 

And we’re off! 

We set out early to head to the airport for this next grand adventure. 

Must admit it felt a little weird having only 6 of us. Even at the airport, Zach pretended to put his arm around “phantom Gabe” – who is with us in spirit – in the “Vietnam wing” (seriously!!) of his residence at BYUI.

Because Gabe’s not with us, I might end up posting a lot more random pics – as I keep texting him pics so he can follow closely along our journey. So forgive the shots that you wonder, “why would someone take those??” I am as passionate about documenting as I am about travel! 

So many people asked us, “why in the world Cambodia and Vietnam?” 

I’ve always had a huge desire to go (since high school I remember talking about it), and Southeast Asia was top of the list of a couple of my travel addicted kids. We decided it would be our next “big” destination on our last big March break trip to South Africa in 2015. 

But I have to admit, it’s a long way to come! We also know we are truly in for an adventure of a lifetime!

We started out pretty early, saying goodbye to a sad Reggie who I think recognizes our suitcases….and headed to the airport 


We checked in (and I was annoyed that 1 of us was sitting apart. Really? How does that happen? Can’t they just seat people who are on the same reservation together??? It wasn’t even a full flight! Luckily, a nice man switched with Rob (the designated loner) so he could sit with us). 

I love getting the walking pics as I’ve taken them over the years when they had their little matching backpacks and the suitcases were too big for them! Not anymore!



The kids got some homework done at the airport and also “won” some free soft drinks (an iPad game which I’m pretty sure is gambling).


We got all settled in for our 14 hour flight to Seoul.


Rob was on a conference call while we boarded…

The movies weren’t the best by the kid’s standards; but we all managed to watch a few, catch some shut eye and take some cool pics flying over  Russia:



We had a 4 hour layover in Seoul, where the wifi was appreciated, and more homework was done (poor Josh is really the only  one who had it,so wanted to get it over with! They are missing 5 days of school altogether)


We then boarded the 5.5 hour flight to Phnom Penh, where everyone was zonked, but I still saw a  beautiful sunset  (as did Zach who was sitting across the way — I often use Zach’s photos so I will just give him photo creds across the board now!) 


We finally arrived. You need Visas for Cambodia so had to fill all that paperwork  out (which we knew ahead of time and had all the required photos). The whole process was smooth, and we met our driver outside (I used a travel agent in Vietnan to help with all the drivers, hotels, guides etc.)

I took a few pics for Gabe to see as I texted him as soon as we landed:


And we finally arrived at our hotel – a full 24 hours later! I was a bit frustrated as they had rooms on different floors instead of all together. However, 1 room had enough beds for all the kids to sleep in (just across from us). They said only 2 people per room though, so we are left with an empty bedroom, but happy kids all together.

Our hotel: King Grand Suites Hotel (we arrived at 11:30pm their time) : 



Looking forward to exploring Phnom Penh tomorrow! 

Quote of the Week 

Bonhoeffer has a very special place in my heart as my grandfather studied under him.

I especially loved this quote as so often I feel like we praise silence.

We are taught to be peacekeepers. To strive to limit conflict in our lives. To be easygoing and agreeable.

And we should be those things. Often. 

But we also have the ability to discern right from wrong. We have the ability to make choices, evaluate what is out in front of us, and be led by inspiration, gut feelings, or whatever you want to call it. 

Keeping peace to avoid conflict; staying silent to not make waves; catering to the lowest common denominator because “it’s easier”; these are things that allow evil to continue. 

We need to take a stand. We need to find our voice and use it for the good. Only then will we truly find peace.