Posts Tagged With: elephants

Walking with Elephants

Happy February! Please forgive me for not posting in the past month. We’ve been absolutely crazy busy with visitors and traveling. My aunt and her friends flew over from Wisconsin for two weeks, and my dad and sister are here with us now. I love having guests visit—when else do I get an excuse to show off one of my favorite countries, visit my favorite restaurants, and play tourist on a school night?

In terms of the blog, the Go Pro is a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse in the sense that we take a lot less photos now, so have less to work with when writing a blog. On the other hand, it’s a total blessing when you have so many hours of absolutely perfect film footage that you don’t even know where to start.

That’s a bit how our photos of Mondulkiri were. Sean took great photos, but even more video. This weekend he took the best of the best and made a stellar film about our trip. I hope you enjoy. I fell in love with the elephants all over again, and groaned at the sight of our poor car being towed by a tree limb behind a van. (Our timing belt broke, and how else do you tow a car 200 miles in Cambodia? Hail a passing van, find a stick and some rope, and cross your fingers.) Take a look, and if you can, watch it in HD.

Advertisements
Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mondulkiri Part Two

Back so soon, huh?

Yes, it’s only been a week, but I have some absolutely stunning photographs to share with you.

After my first post on Mondulkiri, my friend Shap wrote me and said, “Hey, you should have told me about the blog, I would have sent you these photos earlier!” I told him not to worry, and that I would make another post highlighting his work.

And, honestly, he takes great photographs.

Shap and Kari live on Maui. Kari works for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kihei, and Shap works for Maui Kayaks.

After spending a week with him, I have to tell you: If you’re going to Maui, book with Maui Kayaks. John would make the absolute best guide, like, ever. Really. Check out his Tripadvisor reviews here.

So, he shared these photos with me, which totally blew my mind. Not only were they great pictures, but I love looking at an event through someone else’s eyes. He took photos from an angle I never saw in person, and now my memory of Mondulkiri is multi-dimensional.

Check out his photos. In the words of Kari and Shap, mahalo!
trip'14 9345

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

trip'14 8349

trip'14 8508

trip'14 8515

trip'14 8553

trip'14 8554

trip'14 8607

trip'14 9534

trip'14 9553

trip'14 9563

trip'14 9685

trip'14 9739

trip'14 9740

trip'14 9365

trip'14 9369

trip'14 9374

trip'14 9366

trip'14 9368

trip'14 9355

trip'14 9750

trip'14 9349

trip'14 9347

trip'14 9760

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mondulkiri

Happy Thanksgiving! Or, if you don’t live in America, happy winter! Or, if you live in the Southern hemisphere, happy summer!

The weather here in Phnom Penh is moving along predictably as usual. The Water Festival, Pchum Ben, marked the end of the rainy season. Unbelievably perfect timing, it rained every day up until Water Festival, and once the festival arrived, the daily rains stopped and it hasn’t rained since. Now we enter the cool season, where the temperature drops just enough to justify a long-sleeved shirt or a pair of pants. The Cambodians, on the other hand, get out their winter jackets and hats and gloves. None of it makes any sense, though, when you look at the monthly averages and see that July is normally 90 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas December drops just one degree to 89. It’s pool and smoothie time all year long!

That is, however, unless you go to Mondulkiri.

mondulkiri-mapLocated in the Northeastern corner of Cambodia, Mondulkiri is the most sparsely populated region of the country. It is also the highest, with elevations ranging from 600-3,000 feet! That makes for a beautiful, Swiss-like land with rolling hills, pine trees, and chilly temperatures!

 

We had a five-day weekend holiday for Water Festival, and we had friends visiting from out of town. Together we drove the 240 miles from Phnom Penh into the hill country.

DCIM102GOPRO

Our first stop was Sen Monorom waterfall. A small falls, but with a crazy swimming pool at the bottom. There was just enough current to force you to kick your feet to stay in one place, but not enough to pull you down stream. Sean wanted to jump so badly, but all the logs in the water made it pretty obvious that he shouldn’t.

We had heard the sunsets were beautiful in Mondulkiri, so our first night we went sunset hunting.
DCIM102GOPROLook how empty the background is! There is nothing but rolling hills and beautiful nature.
DCIM102GOPROOur car was loving the smooth, red dirt roads. And we loved our car.
4Not only did we find the sunset, but we found the most beautiful hill to set up a small camp for the night.

DCIM102GOPROWe didn’t sleep there, but built a small fire and watched the moon rise.There was no one around for miles! It was one of my favorite moments of the trip.

But the main reason everyone heads to Mondulkiri, is the elephants. DCIM102GOPRONative to the area, there are still wild elephants roaming the forest. However, due to reasons such as logging, poaching, and even tribal traditions, there are less than 50 wild elephants left.

 

DCIM102GOPRONow you can visit Mondulkiri’s elephants through a bunch of tour companies. I booked with Mondulkiri Project, which provides a sanctuary for overworked elephants. Instead of riding them, we trekked with the elephants through the forest, fed them bananas, and hugged them every chance we got.

DCIM102GOPROI really loved this style of elephant interaction as opposed to riding them. When you ride elephants, you are on a different visual plane; you don’t get up close and personal with them. When you can interact with them at eye level, you really get a feel for their individual personality. They were the world’s happiest elephants!

DCIM102GOPROThis is Sophie, and she was my favorite. Sophie was 33 years old—mind you that they can live to 100.
10The goal of Mondulkiri Project is to help these elephants live a peaceful, healthy life. They are not overworked like some of the tourist camps you see. You could tell by their demeanor that they were happier than most elephants you see with a chain around their legs and a basket on their back. These elephants could walk wherever they wanted, and we just followed them!

DCIM102GOPROWe had so much fun feeding them bananas and getting up close and personal!

12Like I said it was trekking, so we then left the elephants in the forest and hiked to a swimming hole. The bridge we had to cross was pretty precarious…

13When we got to the swimming hole after lunch,  we found the mahout and the male elephant waiting.  That mahout was born in a local village, and his father was also a mahout. He has spent his entire life around elephants.

DCIM102GOPROAnd then we swam. Swimming with an elephant is the most indescribable feeling… you are in water that is waaaaay over your head, with a beast that could easily crush you. What do you do? You tread water and hang on to his scruffy hide, giving him a back rub.

14 After our swim, we had another couple hours to hang out one-on-one with the ellies in their natural habitat.

15It was amazing, the sun slowly setting, and us all alone walking slowly behind Sophie as she searched for snacks.

16When it was time to leave, they loaded us into the back of their trusty Toyota HiLux and carted us out of the jungle.

17The elephants are rivaled by the spectacular scenery in which they live.
DCIM102GOPROOn our next day, we headed to Bou Sra Falls. It is the tallest waterfall in Cambodia, and to our frustration, also the busiest.

So what did we do? Search for our own, secret waterfall.

19Here we are, preparing to cross the top of the waterfall, then hike down the other side to the second tier of the falls, which is rumored to be even more beautiful than the popular tier. We just had to figure out how to cross the river. Notice how close some of those people are to the edge of the falls…

DCIM102GOPROAnd our waterfall hunt was a success. When we got to the lower tier of the falls, we were the only people there.

21It was absolutely stunning. The waterfall was absolutely giant, and we had it all to ourselves.

The day we had to leave, we packed up our car and headed down out of the hills back into the flood plains of the Mekong.

Until… we had car troubles.

As Sean was driving, the engine just stopped being responsive. Our car slowly and silently decelerated, and we drifted over to the side of the road.

Turns out, our timing belt broke.

200 miles outside of Phnom Penh. In the middle of nowhere.

So, we did what any sensible Cambodian would do.

Found a branch, flagged down a bus, and towed our 1999 CRV back to Phnom Penh.

22It was unlike anything I’ve ever done before. By the time we got back to the city, eight hours had passed, we were now being pulled by a Toyota Camry, the Camry had overheated five times, the stick broke twice, we replaced the stick once, and we celebrated our return with pizza and a hot shower.

23But in terms of an experience, the weekend was unbeatable.

 

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Iceberg of Siem Reap

Siem Reap has more hidden surprises than just her temples. She is a region of quirks—and I don’t mean the sunburnt expats with a pretty lady on their shoulder. At first glance, it seems possible to “do” Angkor Wat in a day, and then be done with Siem Reap. Which is precisely the itinerary that shapes the majority of visitors.

Upon closer inspection, if Siem Reap were an iceberg, the main temple of Angkor Wat would be the tip.

Do I sound pretentious? Probably. But a blog is less interesting without superlatives.

First off, there’s the hidden ruins of Kbal Spean.

IMG_9247

About an hour’s drive out of Siem Reap, you enter the region of Phnom Kulen. You park your car in a forested area, as food vendors compete for your attention. As you walk through the jungle, ropes dangle in your pathway, begging to be climbed.

IMG_9317

It’s a forty-five minute hike up to Kbal Spean, the “river of a thousand lingas”.

IMG_9253

When you arrive, you find a woman sunning herself on a rock. She’s a bit old, but has a great complexion.

IMG_9263

Then you begin to see the lingas. (In case you forgot, a linga is a phallic Hindu symbol for the god Shiva. As these were submerged in a river since the 11th century, you’ll have to use your imagination to get the full linga effect.)

IMG_9264

The river was seen as holy since it flowed into the Tonle Sap lake, passing through the temples of Angkor on its way.  (Note the more clear lingas on the vertical rock nearest the photo.)

IMG_9268

They were carved by hermits who lived in the area. Have you ever read a cooler sentence? They were carved by hermits who lived in the area.

IMG_9269

For the careful—and patient—eye, Siem Reap has much to offer.

IMG_9271While the carvings are the main facet of Kbal Spean, we were drawn to the waterfall.

IMG_9294

And then I went swimming, as one normally does on a warm winter day in December.

1544288_10152199455062938_218911228_n

And it felt good. (Photo courtesy of Abby Franks.)

After Kbal Spean, we visited Banteay Srei. 16 miles outside of the main temple complex, it is often overlooked in the main loop.

IMG_9342

They are carved out of red sandstone, which gives them a beautiful color, unique to Banteay Srei.

IMG_9346

Banteay Srei is Khmer for “Citadel of Women”, because it is thought that women did the carvings. People speculate that they are too delicate to have been the hand of a man.
IMG_9370

This was one of Sean’s favorite temples—if not his favorite. What can I say? He is interested in exquisite beauty.

What else did we do in Siem Reap, you ask? What comprises the rest of the iceberg?

1. Fish foot massages.


IMG_9487

Kyle is thinking of installing one in his house back in Kuwait.

IMG_9479Abby isn’t so sure.

2. Pub Street

IMG_9493

3. Real elephants.

IMG_9500

4. Pseudo elephants.

IMG_9610

5. Headless statues.

IMG_9513

6. Eating crickets.

IMG_9517

7. Hidden places of serenity.

IMG_9552

8. Counting Apsara dancers.

IMG_9589

9. Meeting Apsara dancers.

IMG_9677

10. Warrior stances.

IMG_9633

11. Angkor beer at Angkor Wat.

IMG_9655

12. Road trips and street food.

IMG_9690

As I am a keeper of promises, this concludes our trip to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat.

Will I go back? Absolutely. Will  it be the same? Never.

That’s why I have to build a school on the banks of Kbal Spean and promote Abby and Kyle to executive directors.

UP NEXT: Ten103 Treehouse on Koh Ta Kiev….

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas At Angkor Wat

Normally people dream of escaping to exotic, distant locations for their winter holidays. Palm trees swaying overhead, an iced drink in their hand, and pathways of foreign land to explore.

We dreamt it. And we didn’t have to board a plane to do it. We played host this year to friends and family who came to visit. We saved Angkor Wat until we had company—it’d be awesome to visit twice, but it’s one of those non-negotiables when you have family passing through, so we figured we’ll be up there more than once.

Our friends Kyle and Abby flew out from Kuwait, where we worked with them last year. Abby taught middle school with me last year, and Kyle teaches in the high school. My dad and sister flew out after the new year, and stayed for January. But that’s too many stories for one blog.

When Abby and Kyle arrived we headed straight up to Siem Reap. I promised Sean three days of temple-touring, and I promised Abby and Kyle an exotic vacation with ample beer, tank tops, and swimming pools. It wasn’t hard to satisfy everyone.

IMG_8886

Our first stop in Siem Reap was Phare, the Cambodian circus. It was amazing! Based out of Battambang, Phare helps kids from poor homes enroll in a fine arts school that teaches them art, dance, music, and the like. If they decide they want to be professional, then they join Phare in Siem Reap, and could even travel to other parts of Cambodia after that. It was like Cirque Du Soleil combined with a great music and storytelling.

IMG_9058

The next morning we headed straight for the temples. It was overcast the three days we were there, but we finally managed a hint of blue sky for a photo in front of Angkor Wat.

IMG_8939

The storytelling walls surrounding the main temple complex. A jumble of arms, legs, and spears. IMG_8961

A baby monkey asks permission to play with his friends. His mother’s stern reply disheartens his eager plans.

IMG_8966

Baby monkey receives consolation from aunt and uncle monkey. He can play with his friends when he gets a little bit older. For now, just entertain the tourists, little guy.

IMG_9015

We climbed all over these temples! This is still in Angkor Wat, the main temple complex.

IMG_9036

Sean imagines he is the great Angkorian king, looking out over his kingdom.

IMG_9047

Kyle doesn’t have to work hard to imagine he is king, he receives worship from the Angkorian goddesses, Abby and Kim. Sean is reduced from Angkorian king to photographer.


IMG_9061

After our game of make-believe, we took a break for lunch. Abby claims these were the best fried noodles she had in Cambodia, and she ate a lot of fried noodles! In the parking lot of Angkor Wat. It was tough to decide which vendor to pick, but we went with the one who said, “I give you half-off on anything on the menu.” You can’t go wrong with a competitive salesperson.

IMG_9065

After Angkor Wat, we drove out to Angkor Thom, which is pretty much the headquarters of the ancient empire. It is a huge complex that stretches nine square kilometers. You can drive your car between towering trees, stop anywhere you like, and climb around ruins.

IMG_9098

Bayon was a temple full of mystique—how many smiling faces can you spot? (Hint: There’s more than you think!)

IMG_9119

After Bayon, we played hopscotch around some temples scattered in a field. Abby’s hopscotch techniques had great form. Maybe I should start ‘temple hopscotch’ as an after-school activity… We’d get to take lots of field trips.

IMG_9123As the sun sunk lower in the sky, the views got more and more beautiful. (Note to self: Always travel with photogenic friends.)

IMG_9149

We are ready to make our next album. We’ve got the picture for the cover right here.

IMG_9169

Angkor Wat is yet another place outside of America that you can literally climb over all of the ruins pretty much undisturbed.

IMG_9186

Sean and Kyle were feeling a bit like our tour guides at this point. Now if only I could get them to talk in cool accents.

IMG_9189

We find a modern-day shrine, and Abby sits pretty. (Did you know it’s sacrilegious to be photographed with your back facing the Buddha? I tried to tell her, but she is a natural-born rebel… Can’t you see it in her eyes?)

IMG_9196

And then we found elephants. And pensive mahouts.

At this point, the sun was setting on our first day, so we headed back into town for dinner and a night out. The next day we got up early and began out next adventure…

IMG_9209

Early morning at East Mebon temple.

IMG_9224

Abby and I playing inside East Mebon. I wonder who used to pass through that doorway…

These pictures all speak for themselves, don’t they? If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these have to be multiplied by the thousands of years and stories they contain.

I’ve got one more post about Siem Reap and Angkor Wat for you, and then we headed down to the Cambodian coast. I think I could start a business, “Tours By Kim”. I need a catchier name, though. I think I’ll just stick to friends, family, and my husband. They keep my hands pretty full as it is.

Check back soon for more on Angkor Wat!

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.