Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cambodia is Colorful

 "SHOES OFF," read the sign at the entrance of the temple. Remembering that shoes are not allowed to be worn inside of Buddhist temples, I slid my sandals off and placed them on the nearby shoe rack.I continued into the temple sans les chaussures, feeling the hot,sun-soaked tiles under my feet. My jaw dropped as I walked into my very first Buddhist temple, Wat Phnom. 

Colorful Cambodia
The first thing I noticed was the bright colors of Wat Phnom. Saffron candles stood proudly in the temple's corners.  Burgundy bunches of incense released silver streams of smoke past the silent, yellow gold Buddha. Lilac-hued flowers lay on the ground and jasmine petals lay immersed in silver jars of water. Every inch of the temple seemed to glow.

Colorful Cambodia
While my eyes were drawn to all that was glittering and gold, Wat Phnom was a feast of scent and sound as well. I could hear the whispered chanting of loyal Buddhists who knelt before the golden alter. A light breeze stirred a clamour from tiny bronze bells. Invigorating jasmine cut through the smoky, rich scent of old-world spices that hung in the air.

I slowly walked around the central alter, upon which sat a gilded Buddha figure. The Buddha was quite stunning but my eyes were really drawn to the temple walls. Covered with murals, the walls of  Wat Phnom are painted with scenes from Buddhist mythology such as from the Reamker, the Khmer version of the Ramayana. I reveled in the paintings of gods, goddesses, elephants and men. 

Colorful Cambodia
Looking up, I noticed even more murals on the ceiling of Wat Phnom! It seemed like every inch of this temple was covered in vivid color. To this day, Wat Phnom remains one of the most impressive religious sites I've ever seen. These murals are really hard to beat!

Even the floor of Wat Phnom radiated color! I loved how delicate the fushia and cream lotus pods looked as they rested delicately over the printed tile floor. 

Colorful Cambodia
After circling the central alter, taking in the gorgeous murals and people-watching for a bit, I continued outside to have a look at the exterior of Wat Phnom. Because it is situated atop a man-made hill, Wat Phnom offers some nice views of the city. I had to dodge a few wild monkeys while walking around the temple but I found the temple's exterior to be lovely!

Colorful Cambodia
I walked down the naga-lined stairs to see a sculpture in honor of the Khmer King Sisowath. I learned that he was king during a time of fierce conflict within the country when French colonial rule became norm.

I enjoyed the beauty of Wat Phnom and I think it was a perfect introduction to Cambodia, Phnom Penh and Southeast Asian Buddhism. If you're traveling through Phnom Penh, Wat Phnom shouldn't be missed. 

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Cambodia Discovery  tour.Ancient temples, empty beaches, mighty rivers, remote forests... and (outside Angkor) only a handful of tourists. But the word is out - Cambodia has emerged from decades of war and isolation and is well and truly back on the Southeast Asian travel map. From Phnom Penh we fly to Siem Reap. At Angkor we have 3 whole days to explore the complex; from the splendor of Angkor Wat to the enigmatic faces of the Bayon and the haunting Ta Prohm temple, enveloped in the clutches of the jungle.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Roadside Smiles: Cambodia

By Willie Weir 

Family in Cambodia

When people say they've visited Cambodia, it usually means they have been to Angkor Wat. This ancient temple complex is often listed as one of the top travel destinations in the world. Many travelers fly in and out, bypassing the rest of the country.

At first glance, Cambodia doesn't have the elements most travelers are looking for in a bike trip — there are few paved roads and lots of dust. The country is relatively flat, so no epic mountain passes to climb. And yet, this small country is one of our favorites. Ask us (and just about any other cyclists who has braved the bumpy, dusty roads) why we loved it, and the reply will come quick ... the people.

 Bikking in Cambodia
Maybe that is the answer to why I've loved every country I've traveled. But the people of Cambodia hold a dear place in my traveler's heart. Pedal the back roads of Cambodia and you will be greeted with a tapestry of smiles more beautiful than a hundred Sistine Chapels.

One afternoon, Kat and I were pedaling near the Mekong River. We stopped to fill our water bottles at a roadside pump. There was a little girl, struggling to fill a five gallon plastic container. Her little muscles could barely move the pump handle. I offered to help, and took to the task with gusto. The little girl laughed. Then we heard a chorus of giggles and laughter and looked up to see a dozen faces looking out of the doorway and window of a wooden dwelling on stilts across the field. The harder I pumped, the louder they laughed.

It was just one of the hundreds of daily encounters. Nothing truly epic about it. And yet it is one of my fondest memories of our time in Cambodia.

Grand vistas please the traveler's eye ... but simple smiles warm the traveler's heart.

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Biking Coastal towns and Phnom Penh tour.This trip is for those who want to see a different and true Cambodia by discovering coastal towns in southern Cambodia. The ride through small towns and villages give you a great experience of this beautiful country. The trip is balanced with challenging biking day and laid back time on Sihanoukville beach and Rabbit Island.

  • Beautiful cycling roads
  • Sihanoukville beach
  • Phnom Penh tour
  • Rabbit Island