Home! 
We only stayed in Bangkok a few nights. Our intention was to do some sight seeing, but it never really happened. We did some shopping, but that was really it. Our last night in the hotel, we had trouble sleeping anyway, but at 1am, the toilet started bubbling. When it wouldn't stop, Joe went and talked to someone so they moved us to a different room. We finally fell asleep. The next day we were hoping to go to Wat Pho and then come back to the room to nap and shower. Since the toilet was disgusting we asked if we could stay past check out time so we could nap. They would not budge on it. So crazy. So, no nap time.

Anyway, Sandra's flight was leaving at midnight. We decided to just head to the airport with her and hang out in the arrival area to wait until we could check in. After saying goodbye to Sandra we tried to nap, but were pretty much unsuccessful. Around 3am, we headed to the check-in counter which looked completely different than it did when Sandra had checked in. Delta completely took over the area. We waited in line to talk to a security person who asked us the normal "Who packed your bags", "Did anyone give you anything" etc etc. After we got past that, we waited in another line where we finally got to check-in and check the bags. We then walked to immigration, where we waited in line again. After that, we went to security. No line there really. I guess immigration took longer than security, so that was quick.

Once we were in the airport, we walked for a while towards our gate. Then waited in line yet again to go through more security. Here they patted everyone down and looked in our carry on bags... What would have changed from the time we went through the first security to there is beyond me. Then we waited in line to get on the plane. It took basically 2 hours.

Our first flight was 6 hours to Tokyo. Once there, we got off the plane, went through security again with our carry on bags (again, what changed since we got on the plane?) then found our gate and hopped on that plane. That flight was 9 hours. Woohoo! We were able to sleep a little on the first flight and even less on the flight from Tokyo to Portland.

Once in Portland, we had to get our bags to go through immigration and customs. No problems there. The officer was very friendly. We chatted a little about the trip while he processed stuff. Customs was no problem. He just looked at the sheet, asked if we had food and off we went to recheck the bags and find our gate. There we had a couple hours of sitting before we boarded the plane.

We arrived in Minneapolis at 5:30pm. It was a full 24 hours of traveling, arriving 12 hours after we left (because of the international date line). Mom and Papa picked us up. We stopped for dinner at Good Earth and then headed home. I don't think we're going to have too much trouble with jet lag because not really sleeping made it easy for us to sleep even though our bodies thought it was 11am, not 11pm.

We were awake again at 7:30am. So we didn't really sleep in. We're heading to the house today after running some errands. So nice to be home.

-Miranda

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Day Three of Temples 
For our last day, we spent about three hours in Angkor Wat. The views from the top were amazing. Out the west gate were a number of monkeys which we watched for a bit. After walking around and having lunch, we walked around the third enclosure which is covered with bas-reliefs telling different stories. It was incredibly detailed and fascinating to study.

Once we were done with Angkor Wat we headed into Angkor Thom, which was the ancient capital city with Bayon at the center. That temple is famous for its many towers with faces facing most of the cardinal directions. It was quite a maze as it has been changed and added to a lot since it was originally built in the 12th century.

We enjoyed the temples quite a bit and Siem Reap is a neat city to explore. Our day today was mostly a relaxing one and we're headed to Bangkok tomorrow.

-Miranda


Inside Angkor Wat.

View of Angkor Wat from the north.

Checking out the bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat.

Faces of Bryon.

Bayon reflecting in the surrounding moat.

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Day Two of Temples 
The second day we left at about the same time, which was around 9am and headed towards Banteay Srei, which is about 35km outside of town. Along the way we stopped at Pre Rup which was a neat temple. Most of them aren't too big, so we spend just under an hour exploring them.

Banteay Srei was very neat. The towers are quite a bit smaller than most other temples, but the bas-relief designs are all over, essentially covering everything. They are very detailed and still well preserved. This one also has the first 'monkey guard' statues that we've seen.

After, we headed to Ta Som, Neak Prahn and Preah Kahn. Again, all very neat. Preag Kahn is pretty big and has a few trees growing on the walls and buildings, though not even close to as extensively as Ta Prohm.

On our way back to the hotel we drove by Ankor Wat and through Ankor Thom. In Ankor Thom, there are some locals with monkeys. The driver stopped, so we did buy a bag of bananas and fed the monkeys. They were climbing all over the tuk-tuk. One even jumped up on Joe's shoulder, which was amusing. I tried to use a banana to lure it off, but instead it just took it and munched on it while sitting there.

We took a day off today, but we plan on spending tomorrow seeing Ankor Wat and exploring the temples and sights of Ankor Thom, which was the ancient capital city. The little we saw in there while driving through was spectacular. It should be an interesting day tomorrow.

-Miranda


The towers of Pre Rup. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

A very detailed bas-relief at Banteay Srei. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

The 'monkey guards'. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

An old dead stump on a building at Preah Kahn. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Joe with a monkey.

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Day One of Temple Exploration 
We left Phnom Penh and took the bus for about 6 hours to Siem Reap. One we found a hotel we did some research to decide where to go and what to do. The next day began our first day of visiting temples.

There are a few different ways to get around, but we chose tuk-tuk. Basically you find a tuk-tuk driver and use him for your entire trip. You just pay a set price (agreed upon before starting) for what you plan to do on that day. You also have to buy a pass to see the temples. Cambodians don't have to, just foreigners, which is hopefully going to help protect and restore the temples.

All the temples were built during the Angkor period, which was the 9th to 13th centuries. For our first day we six temples; Lolei, Preah Ko, Bakong (previous three are part of the Roluos Group), Ta Prohm, Banteay and Prasat Kravan. The temples in the Roluos Group were relatively small, but pretty interesting. Ta Prohm has a number of trees growing on top of the walls and buildings, giving it a bit of an 'Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider' look. This is a large and pretty popular temple. Banteay Kdei was similar, just a little smaller.

It was a bit hot, especially when the sun was out, but the temples were amazing, especially the carvings and bas-reliefs that are left. You could spend hours just wandering and checking examining those. So many are different, especially over each of the doors on the towers.

Our favorite of the first day was probably Ta Prohm, though all were awe inspiring.

-Miranda

A link to a map of the temples if you're curious.
http://www.palmasplace.com/images/maptemples.jpg


Preah Ko. Lions guard most entrances and stairways in the temples.

Bakong. This is a brick tower.

One entrance of Ta Prohm.

Ta Prohm

Banteay Kdei

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The Killing Fields 
In April of 1975 the Khmer Rouge defeated the Lon Nol Government and took over the capital city of Phnom Penh. People were immediately forced to abandon their homes and walk for days to other villages where they were to live and work. Many atrocities happened during the 4 years the Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia. Labor camps were formed where people had to work from sunrise to sunset digging trenches or planting rice. The Khmer Rouge also systematically killed anyone they deemed a threat to their government. This included officers of the former government, foreigners and intellectuals, people that could speak a foreign language, were formerly teachers, doctors, etc. They even killed people that wore glasses.

Tuol Sleng (S21) used to be a school, but since all schools were closed, it was turned into a prison. The Khmer Rouge brought prisoners here they wanted to interrogate. Interrogation involved a number of forms of torture. They also kept meticulous records, including photos of every prisoner and even photos of the tortured. The space has now become a museum which was horrific to walk through. Some rooms just had photos of all the prisoners. One building showed where prisoners were kept in small skinny rooms. Some of the buildings didn't have separate 'cells'. One room could be crowded with 30-40 people simply lying on the floor. These buildings also had barbed wire over the walkway/balcony area in order to prevent prisoners from trying to commit suicide.

Once the interrogation was done, most of the prisoners were stuffed into a truck and shipped 14km outside of town to Choeung Ek, now known as "The Killing Fields". Officers, men, women, children and babies were all killed here. Many by simply beatings because they didn't want to "waste precious bullets". Mass graves were found, the largest containing 450 bodies. One just had women and children in it.

In 1989 a memorial stupa was built for those killed. It has 17 tiers and contained the bones and ragged clothes from those found in the mass graves. How many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge is up for debate, but most numbers we saw mentioned almost 2 million.

The day was very sobering. Especially since there are still so many people alive that survived it or were greatly affected by what happened.

Sorry for the depressing blog post, but I felt it important to mention the history. It was something I was relatively ignorant of before this trip.

-Miranda


One room that contained wood cells.

View through the barbed wire to other buildings at S21.

The memorial stupa used to house the bones.

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