Thursday, December 2, 2010

Trip to Phnom Kulen

I've been back from Cambodia for about a week and I'm still in recovery mode.

My sleep schedule is off.  I haven't done any of my laundry.  And paying more than $10 for a dinner just seems unreasonable. 

But it's time to get a grip.  Get back in the daily routine.  Put those dirty clothes in the washer ...

Oh hell, I can do all that later.  It's my day off and I want to post some pictures of our incredible trip to Phnom Kulen

Phnom Kulen is the most sacred mountain in Cambodia.  It is there that Jayavarman II proclaimed himself a god king and started the Khmer dynasty.  It takes about an hour  or so to get there from Siem Reap and although the road is mostly paved, it can be quite a bumpy ride.  The main attraction is the giant waterfall although some would argue that the massive reclining Buddha is the most important reason for Cambodians to make the trip. 

We took about 25 kids from the orphanage.  With the adults, it made for quite a tight squeeze into two cars but we did it.   Everyone have seatbelts?  Sure, officer ...

After the long drive, the first stop was the bathroom.  In Cambodia, don't expect luxury.  Most of the time, you just get four walls and a hole.  No toilet paper?  No problem.  There's usually a hose. 

Here were the "facilities".  At least there was good ventilation. 

At Phnom Kulen, it is customary to buy a stack of riel (the Cambodian money) and hand out the small bills to the beggars who line the stairways.  There were children and elderly and handicapped. 

Then we made the uphill pilgrimage to the reclining Buddha.

And when we got to the top, there he was--a really big Buddha who had a very serene look on his face.  The Cambodians touched him and took their pictures and made offerings.   

And then it was off to the waterfall and it was a doozy.  We were coming off the rainy season so the water pounded down.  It was an incredible sight.  

Phnom Kulen is a beautiful place and if you're tired of the temple trampling, then you should make the trip.  It won't be cheap by Cambodian standards (a car, guide and entrance fees may cost over $100) but it'll be worth it. 

We played for hours; swimming, splashing, posing for pictures and generally goofing around.

I was a little worried about the little ones.  There were several times when I rescued them from flowing waters but at the end of the day, there weren't any of the casualties that I feared.  These kids were remarkably tough and even when they slipped on the rocks, there weren't any tears. 

This picture cracks me up.  We have muscle guy on one end and naked baby at the other.   

Everyone is happy showing off their stuff.  Yahoo! 

I'm the white guy.  And there's naked baby again posing on a damn pole! 

This is my buddy, Sehn otherwise known as monkey #1.  Nicest guy.  Hard to believe he is 16. 

For some odd reason, I got stuck with naked baby at one point.  He didn't really like me and was squirming to find his mother.  We were BOTH trying to find his mother.  I have no parenting skills.  Didn't she know that? 

And then it was lunch.  The adults brough along a couple of uncooked chickens, vegetables, rice and lots of cold drinks. 

Cambodians eat a lot of fish so the chicken was a special treat. 

I call it massacred chicken because the meat isn't carved; it's butchered.  I suppose they do it this way because there isn't a lot of meat and it's just easier.  Makes for more difficult eating though.  Watch them bones!   

And nothing is wasted.  Even the chicken feet. 

Chicken feet are a little rubbery but apparently still edible. 

Phnom Kulen was really an amazing trip, probably the highlight of my latest trip to Cambodia. 

But it wasn't necessarily the place, it was the people.  Cambodians are the friendliest people , kindest, most sincere people that I know and I can't wait to go back to see them.

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