A Travellerspoint blog

Cambodia

Cambodia is a jewel of a country, framed by its glorious  past of the Angkor kingdom and the recent horrific and tragic rule of the Khmer Rouge.  Every Cambodian we met greeted us with a smile and we were very quickly mesmerized by this wonderful Buddhist country.

Siem Reap with the expansive, magnificent temples of the ancient Angkor dynasty was our first stop.  We spent many days wandering the 50 km2 ancient holy site. The largest city, Ta Prom was very impressive.  Within this ancient city is a Buddhist temple, the "Bayon"', with massive and numerous pillars, each containing 4 carved Buddha faces.  We had lots of fun finding the Buddha with the biggest smile.  I can't help but think that it is all of the smiling buddhas in this land that sustained the Cambodians during the sad times.  Restoration efforts are in full swing everywhere but some of our favourite temples were ones where nature once again rules.  Gnarly trees grow around stone door frames and one can explore while climbing over a heap of stones and through crumbling tunnels.

The crown jewel of Angkor, Angkor Wat was spectacularly enjoyed by all of us at sunrise.  This is the largest religious monument in the world and is modeled after the Hindu concept of the universe: ocean, continents and mountains of the gods.  The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.  The gallery walls (continents) surrounding the temple are richly carved with myth and legend.  We were all entranced by the story, The Churning Of The Ocean Of Milk.  We will recount the story for you over a cup of tea sometime...

Perhaps our most memorable day was a jungle hike up to a mountain stream.  An ancient king had 1000  lingas and numerous gods  carved into the river stones, believing that as the river water flowed over them it would be more fertile for the rice crops and people.  After this very peaceful hike we were awe-struck by yet another temple complex, Banteay Srei.  This sublime, pink sand stone temple literally blew me away with its intricately carved walls, tympanums, columns and statues.  It is widely believed that this particular temple contains some of the finest intricate stone reliefs in the world.  

Other highlights for our family in Cambodia include: a powerful visit to a land mine museum, a visit to a silk farm, lunches at the Blue Pumpkin, visiting the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, a heavyhearted visit to the Killing Fields, our kind and lovely tuk tuk driver at the Angkor site, the pure enjoyment of soaking in the Cambodian countryside, and interacting with the lovely people of Cambodia. (Mike says the silk worms tastes better than the crickets).

Time and time again on this trip Mike and I are reminded how fantastic our kids are.  They have been extremely adaptable, tried many unfamiliar foods, endured long bus trips, remained open minded, made many friends and spread many smiles.  As I write this blog they are dancing, laughing and grooving around the hotel room to good tunes.  They are so much fun to travel with!  Solstice keeps us fit, Manas keeps us organized and Aleix solves our problems.  Miss you all, the flying five, flying high!

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Posted by The Flying Five 00:35 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

Island living in Thailand

sunny 30 °C

Both time and I lie  suspended in a hammock strung on the verandah of our poolside bungalow. We are currently on Koh Phi Phi having just left Koh Lanta, both Thai islands surrounded by the warm waters of the Andaman Sea. 

The water temperature is about 29 degrees centigrade, crystal clear and is inhabited by a huge variety of colourful marine life including the tiny anemone clown fish (of "Finding Nemo" fame)', sea turtles, and different species of sharks. 

So with nothing better to do with our time,Manas, Solstice and I are proud to announce we have completed our SCUBA open water divers course.  The list of fish types Manas has memorized is most impressive, Solstice is a natural, and I just like rolling over on my back from 30 feet beneath the waves and watching my air bubbles trickle to the surface.  

Meera and the kids have completed some Thai cookery courses.  Aleix has perfected his pad Thai and everyone is looking forward to preparing theses flavourful, fresh dishes next year.  A scrumptious Thai noodle salad will taste pretty good at -30.....

We continue to hang out with our friends the Prawdzik's and the whole lot of us do the typical tropical paradise stuff like diving & snorkeling, collecting shells at the beach, chilling by the pool, and drinking shakes that come in flavors like pineapple and cocunut.

But our island life is about to end as in a couple days we are off to Cambodia via Bangkok.  Enjoy the photos of our island life. That's all for now, folks!
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Posted by The Flying Five 06:28 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Touchdown in Thailand

sunny 30 °C

It was a long flight from Goa via Mumbai and Bangkok to land in Phuket.  To make the voyage more exciting our flight was extremely late landing in Bangkok, to the point that Meera and I were resigned to having missed our connection to Phuket.  But as we walked off the jet a young women in a Thai airlines outfit was holding a sign with our names.  Twenty minutes later having passed through diplomatic passport control and literally running through the airport at the (high) heels of our Thai Airways angel we were winging our way to Phuket; our luggage arrived one hour later as promised. This was our introduction to the friendly, well-oiled Thai tourism machine.

We were only in Phuket long enough to catch a ferry to Tonsai, Phi Phi Island. Here we immediately loaded into a taxi boat that took us to our resort.  A taxi boat is a thai longtail boat made of wooden planks and propelled by a large air-cooled engine that sits at one end of a twenty foot pipe/linkage at the other end of which sits the propeller. The boat can carry about 15 passengers and all their gear but will carry anything you can imagine as it serves as the vehicle of choice around the car-free island.

Phi Phi island and our resort is the tropical paradise one sees on Lotto 6/49 commercials.  Thatched huts and Pina Coladas appear wedged between a steep, limestone cliff thick with vegetation and a warm, clear sea stocked with fish and coral in a rainbow of colours.  

To make it better my sister Lara and her fiancé Lindsay arrived the next day. Even more Pina Coladas and fresh fruit shakes magically appeared  after we snorkeled in the sea. A highlight of our time together was celebrating Manas' birthday with a snorkeling trip to swim with sharks (gulp!) -
see Manas' "Shark Fast Facts" below). 

All too soon we were saying goodbye to Lara and Lindsay and were back on the ferry for Lanta Island to hook up with Yukon friends Mike, Jane, Mac and Megan Prawdzik.  Megan and Jane met us at the dock and escorted us back to our resort complete with massive swimming pool and excellent air conditioning - two "must- haves" in this hot and sticky weather.

So press rewind with us as this beautiful beach, snorkeling trips and Pina Coladas story starts all over again...

  • **Manas' "Shark Fast Facts"

THE BLACK TIPPED REEF SHARK...

...grows up to 1.8 metres.
...is not to be confused with the Blacktip Shark.
...is Near Threatened (in other words it is doing pretty well).
...can be attracted by banging metal tools together underwater.
...eats almost any small creature like mullet, squid, rays and even smaller sharks!
...the way to discourage these sharks is to submerge yourself.
...lives mainly in shallow water.
...is found in the Pacific near the equator including Southeast Asia (and I have the photographs to prove it).
Phi Phi island

Phi Phi island

Mosquito island, Phi Phi

Mosquito island, Phi Phi


Looking for the sharks!

Looking for the sharks!

We promise....it is a black tipped reef shark

We promise....it is a black tipped reef shark

The boys making up infinite hammock games

The boys making up infinite hammock games

Frisbee fun on the beach

Frisbee fun on the beach

Solstice and aunty Lara<img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Solstice and aunty Lara:)

Cocktails on the beach...

Cocktails on the beach...

At the top of the mountain....

At the top of the mountain....

Long tail boat

Long tail boat

A monkey taking a blessing

A monkey taking a blessing


emerald cave

emerald cave

Posted by The Flying Five 19:07 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Goan ... Goan ... Gone!

sunny 30 °C

We arrived in Goa December 19 and after one full month of sublime bliss we are about to fly to the Thai island of Phi Phi where we will hook up with my sister Lara and her fiancee Lindsay. Hooray!

My memories of Goa are paradoxical in that the long, lazy days have blurred together yet recollections of moments and experiences remain clearly fixed in my mind: a sweet water lake separated from a dancing ocean by a narrow strip of sun burned beach, a writhing sand dragon with coconut eyes and palm frond wings, Ajit's scotch- induced wisdom on Christmas, "Marzipan is the essence of the earth", home made party hats proudly placed on our heads as we were the fun table for New Year's Eve, our two year old nephew Rohan's exited cries of "Mana"' "Laish" and "Noni", the lingering sunset seen from a cliff-top Greek restaurant, the boys and I on the grounds of the Taj hotel playing chess with pieces so big Aleix couldn't lift them, Meera's face of delight and terror as she struggled to keep her bikini bottom on tight as the waves tried mightily to pull them off, the sound of Sol's violin wafting over the hotel's banyan and coconut trees, the excitement of the kids as they ran to greet our Yukon friends Kyle, Jen and Lucia upon arrival, the repeated delicious  bellyfuls of fish tikka, garlic naan and sweating cold Kingfisher beer,  Team Toews Sarin riding rented Hero bicycles on empty beaches with nothing but the sound of wind and waves to accompany us, adults and kids alike cheering on their favourite at our poolside paper boat races, the  tear in Meera's eye as she hugged our San Francisco friends Chris and Shannon goodbye, three Indian rockers at an ocean side bar moving seamlessly from Nirvana to the Beatles while the crowd both foreigner and local lapped up every guitar riff and drum roll, 30 degree plus weather and clear skies - every day without fail.

I believe it is better to leave a place with a tinge of sadness than with pure joy.  That said, it is with somewhat heavy hearts we leave our India.  But we also leave with eager anticipation of the yet to be beheld wonders of the Buddhist lands of southeast Asia.
Beach bum

Beach bum

Solstice and Lucia

Solstice and Lucia

Cheers jen!

Cheers jen!

Check mate

Check mate

Sand castle engineers

Sand castle engineers

Sun kissed

Sun kissed

Kyle and Aleix about to hit the waves

Kyle and Aleix about to hit the waves


Aleix happy in the garden

Aleix happy in the garden

Sunset bike ride

Sunset bike ride

Solstice with her fabulous pink bike!

Solstice with her fabulous pink bike!

Fishing boat

Fishing boat

Sunset walk

Sunset walk


Big, beautiful beach

Big, beautiful beach

A beautiful Goan church, as plentiful as palm trees

A beautiful Goan church, as plentiful as palm trees

Rohan and Manas swinging in a hammock

Rohan and Manas swinging in a hammock

Sol and Meera, enjoying life

Sol and Meera, enjoying life

Farewel!

Farewel!

Posted by The Flying Five 02:21 Archived in India Comments (1)

Happy New Year!

New Year was quite an international event.  We dined out at an open -air Italian restaurant where we started with  the roasted pumpkin on a bed of arugula. The main course was pasta with fresh local vegetables and dessert was tiramisu.  Meera washed her meal down with a mojito while I enjoyed the local Kingfisher beer.

After dinner we returned to our hosts' (Maggie and Ajit and family) place and to add to the cheer we were joined by our dear friends from San Francisco Chris and Shannon. It was a Mad Hatters party and everyone celebrated under a hat, themed to suit their personality.  We wandered down to a nearby dance floor to bust a move and shake a leg to 80's tunes mixed with techno.  With our hats we were definitely the fun table.

We danced until about eleven and then it was back to our hosts' aforementioned for 'Minute to Win It" games.  Ever tried to tilt back your head, place a cookie on your forehead and through face contortions get the cookie into your mouth?  I didn't think so. And don't forget you only have a minute to succeed.  Meera was the unofficial champion of the night, but some people might dispute her deserving the crown.  

Midnight saw Auld Lang Syne and a great round of fireworks to celebrate the coming of 2012. The only thing missing was all of you, family and friends whom we miss so much.

We all slept in this first Sunday of the New Year. After a bit of pool time we are all set to head out for Greek food at a beach not far from here to celebrate Ajit's birthday.

As to the next week, we are heading to Southern Goa and a beach called Benaulim. 
All the best for 2012!

Sand creations

Sand creations

Under the sea

Under the sea

Anjali, Tamara, Manas and Meera on Christmas Day

Anjali, Tamara, Manas and Meera on Christmas Day

Happy holidays!

Happy holidays!

Savoi organic spice farm in Goa

Savoi organic spice farm in Goa

Tarzan!

Tarzan!

Surya Namaskar

Surya Namaskar

Being Rohan

Being Rohan

Aleix's new Year's hat

Aleix's new Year's hat

Mad Hatters

Mad Hatters

Posted by The Flying Five 08:22 Archived in India Comments (1)

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