Monday, March 31, 2008

The Cambodian Tuktuk

The Thailand "tuktuk" is similarly called "tuktuk" in Cambodia, but of different design. In the Philippines we also have a different design and we call it "tricycle" because of the three wheels which includes the two of the motorcycle. The Cambodian "tuktuk" is a 2-wheeled carriage pulled by the motorcycle, total of 4 wheels. It normally carries 2 passengers, but there is also a seat in front of the 2 passengers, behind the driver. The normal seat has a cushion and a nice cover if the tuktuk is for tourists. However, the 2nd seat is not cushioned and it is customary for the tourist guide to sit in this harder seat.

Another version of this tuktuk in Cambodia serves like a small truck. It can carry many passengers together with their baggage like sacks of rice, banana bunches, agricultural supplies, etc. You will be amazed how a 125cc motorbike can pull such heavy load. The picture here will substantiate that. I even saw a longer carriage with more people and things in it, but was not successful in taking the picture.

(Marlowe tried to be the driver of the big tuktuk while the driver looks on)

The Siem Reap Ruins

Before leaving Manila we already booked on-line in a guesthouse in Siem Reap, specified 2 separate rooms, hot shower, etc. Nimol was with us and decided strongly to give up the booking and look for another guesthouse. He is sure we can get a cheaper one because it is not the peak season. And we did. The Bunnath Guesthouse is small in front but is long at the back with more than 30 rooms. It is also near the major road. They also serve meals and arrange for tourist cars to the ruins and to the airport. The rooms are clean with 2 beds and cable TV, hot water and other normal amenities. The manager, Thann, is also very accomodating and friendly. We were comfortable and at home in Bunnath.
We have two full days and a half in Siem Reap, so we got a 2-day pass to the ruins. They have different price rates for locals and tourists. They check this pass, which include my picture in it, in every temple we visited. The system is fairly organized, and the guesthouses and hotels already have vehicles depending on the need of the guests. In our case, the tuktuk was a convenient and comfortable vehicle to use. The tuktuk drivers are also familiar which sites to visit depending on the guests' length of stay. They arranged visits to sites near each other and major or "must see sites".

These two pictures show some details of the gallery in Angkor Wat. The walls along the walk on the outside portion of the temple contain these details, some historical, some common things about their lives, about dieties, etc, etc. This 2nd picture is already shiny due to constant touching by tourists. Take note of the different headress styles of the Apsaras.

These are typical sites in the Siem Reap ruins. (The two men on the left are Marlowe and Nimol)

The temples were built from different kinds of materials, sometimes sandstones, others are bricks and other different stones. But most used laterite as structural materials and finished with more solid stones. Laterites are said to be soft in natural sources but hardens when air or sun-dried. They look like hardwoods eaten by termites, with holes and tunnels dispersed fully in the whole blocks.

The colors vary depending not only on the color of the stones used, but also on the seasons.

It is really amazing how the ancient people were able to put the stone blocks together in building high temples, which are sometimes even built on top of the mountains. Detailed observations showed some small protrusions on the rocks and a counterpart hollow on the adjacent rock to serve as hinges for the blocks not to slide and be kept in place. AMAZING!!!

Travel Buddies

Marlowe is my Travel Buddy. However, those words change meanings abruptly on demand (insistent public), on purpose (to elude strict immigration officers) or in the eyes of the beholders, hahaha!

Still Angkor Wat, of course!

While waiting for the sun to change the color of the horizon, everyone tried to take pictures of everything they see. My contribution is the reflection of the vegetation at the left side of Angkor Temple. This is about 5:45am, 17 March 2008. I am at the other side of the pool, where most of the tourists are waiting for the momentous-spectacularly-famous Angkor Wat Sunrise.


Then, the color changed and here is the reflection of Angkor Temple!

Finally, the most awaited moment! I will not
put words anymore. You have to be there too
to savor these moments.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Still at Ankor Wat Sunrise

This is a few minutes before the one below. Because i am still studying the uploading techniques in this page i lost this one which i thought is already saved.

In effect i dont have the chronological order, but backwards, hehe.

Angkor Wat at Sunrise is already swarmed by people. Nimol said we have to leave at 5:30am and that is exactly what we did. No matter how hungry i felt, we were there at the appointed time, before sunrise! Marlowe and I thought we will be there among the firsts, but a lot of them were ahead of us. Majority of the tourists are French because they are said to have discovered the ruins which were camouflaged by the forests for centuries when the French found them. The big Angkor Wat temple is far from the main temple gate, and reached through an elevated old walkway, flanking the two dams. However, this time of the year the right side is dry and only the left pool is filled with water.

I think everybody has a camera, whether a point and shooter or a professional. Some even have very long lenses and maybe there to shoot for a book or a magazine. The atmosphere is pleasant and exciting for everyone, leisurely waiting for the sun to change the color of the horizon. When it is not good anymore to get nice shots everyone started to explore the temple. Inside the ruins is more awesome, the major details of the artworks in the long galleries are still there, but some parts at the back are already destroyed. It is good that some Japanese projects in coordination with UNESCO and the Cambodian government have ongoing work on restoration. The stone blocks are heavy and really large, we wonder how they will be able to restore it to approximate the real thing.

I saw a couple from a Manila TV network also leisurely enjoying the area. We talked a bit and they left off to the ruins. Later the following day we passed by the Angkor Wat again to see the difference at sunset. It is still amazing and incredible. I told Marlowe and Nimol that maybe the Petronas Tower in Malaysia took inspiration from the towers of Angkor Wat at night. The five major towers seem to glisten in white splendor, as in the two towers of Petronas at night.

Making a blogspot

 Hello everyone. It has long been my wish to make a blogspot, but time doesn't always allow me. Ging Ortiz (doctorging.blogspot) inspired me because her spot can efficiently convey her experiences. I can visualize her descriptions very well. I might not be as good in writing but i will try to convey my messages too. Dennis and Joyce blogspot (gumpal.blogspot) is equally beautiful, with the nicely worded essays in the dialect, with very good pictures as well. I hope you will join me in this corner.

Since last year, Marlowe and I tried to make the Lenten Holidays as the time to visit friends. That way we only have 3 days official leave but we were out the whole week. Last year we were in Malaysia. We stayed in my friend's house, Aminah, at the University Kebangsaan Malaysia. Last week we went to Cambodia and Thailand. We are very-very lucky to have very close friends around the world. Even without much travel money we were able to travel abroad with their help.

Aminah was also a visiting scientist at the CSIRO, Sydney in 1985 when i was there. We stayed in one flat at Chatswood in our last month there. Email was not yet discovered during those years and we lost contact after a few years. Fortunately, she is still in the same university making it easier for me to contact her even after 22 years. Malaysia was a very wonderful learning and travelling experience for me and Marlowe.

The Cambodia-Thailand trip is an equally enriching experience. Nimol is Marlowe's dormmate at the International House (IH) in UPLB during their graduate studies. He is from Pnomphen so we took the Bangkok-Pnomphen flight, stayed there for a day and a night before proceeding to Siem Reap, our main destination. Nimol used his car guiding us in Pnomphen, took a leave from teaching for 3 days from his university to join us in Siem Reap.

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, i thought is the whole term for the ruins. False, it is only one temple in the so many temples built since the 10th century.
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