Siem Reap: Bicycles and back alleys.

SiemReap.BackAlley

And now, picking up from where we left off in our travels… Cambodia.  Siem Reap, to be precise.

When people have asked about our most memorable moments from our recent SE Asia journeys, this would definitely be one of them.

SiemReap.Street

A highlight from our time in Cambodia that will be forever etched in our memory unfolded one evening as we were riding bicycles through a back alleyway in Siem Reap. It was an experience which is hard to put into words, as it was one of those qualitative experiences which surpasses our words’ ability to capture it.

Bicyclesaglow

It was dusk, and the light was hazy pastel peach.  We had rented some bicycles earlier in the day from The White Bicycles, and were headed across the city to a restaurant we had picked out for dinner.

BackAlleyway2

We rounded a bend and all of a sudden found ourselves surrounded by a flood of children who, evidently, had just been let out of school for the day.  Children on bikes and children on foot, all of them smiling and full of life.

Bicyclesinbackalleys2

As we continued to ride down the street, next to and amongst this bustling community of friends and families, living their regular life, we saw it as a bizarre and wonderful existence.

BrendonridesSiemReap

Busyness and bustle, of the usual, with the two of us Canadian adventurers being the most foreign thing in the picture.

BicyclesinSiemReap

The most priceless moments were ones where smiles were shared.  It was such a surreal experience to be journeying down the road next to all these beautiful Cambodian children.

BicyclesinBackalleys3

The experience could have been perceived as chaotic, but it really wasn’t.  Even though there were people going every which way, there was a genuine sense that people embraced the fact that they are not alone on the road, and were more or less looking out for each other.  A sense of rush was absent, and people were just riding, or driving, as if a single biotic organism. Moving and reacting to one another, each sharing the responsibility of the chaos.

MelridesSiemReap

Though we had moments of fear because of not being trained in this environment, the experience of riding bicycles through the back alleyways of Siem Reap painted for us a truly beautiful picture of community.

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Feet in Edmonton.

Edmonton

“Adventure, yeah. I guess that’s what you call it when everybody comes back alive.”
― Mercedes Lackey, Spirits White as Lightning

B&M.Edmonton

After 14 weeks of travel, 23 different cities, and 41 different beds, our feet are happy to finally be grounded in Edmonton.

Studious.

Brendon has cracked the books again and is making progress with his thesis from home, or from the library at Concordia when he feels like a change of workspace.

Orange Blueberry Macaron Cake, Duchess Bakeshop

I am thankful to announce that a part-time job offer has come (hooray) from the Duchess Bake Shop here in Edmonton. Of course, this means that our season of being professional travelers has come to an end, although I think we are both ready for a bit of routine (and income.)

On Canadian soil

As for the hunt for a teaching job, all school districts have been applied to, and for now, it’s a bit of a waiting game as far as whether or not a teaching job will come for September. With the teaching situation not looking overly promising here in Edmonton, the thought has crossed my mind to explore other fields. I do feel a strong calling to stay within the field of education, however, and am really looking forward to applying my knowledge and experience gained in New Zealand back in the Alberta school system. It just might mean a bit of a wait in the meantime… and require a bit of persistence and optimism. (Does anyone know if you can get these in pill form?…)  For now, I am excited to delve into the sweet world of meringues and macarons… while the rest of our life sorts itself out.

Another view of Edmonton

Many kind offers have come from generous friends and family who have been willing to let us stay at their place. For the month of August, we have taken one friend up on his offer to let us stay at his inspiring downtown apartment.  Edmonton is looking pretty good from up here!

124 St., Edmonton

It’s been fun returning to our city, getting to know some new neighbourhoods, and exploring pockets of Edmonton that we hadn’t previously known very well.

IMG_9150

We have to say, the river valley is looking quite majestic this time of year- a feature of Edmonton we didn’t take advantage of enough in the past.

The Cairnses

A special shout-out to some dear friends who have gone out of their way to make us feel at home and welcome back in our fair city, and make the transition easier on us in some pretty significant ways.

Edmonton YEG

We truly couldn’t make it through this transitory (and at many times disconcerting) time in our lives without the unwavering support of friends and family. Thank you, thank you, thank you- to everyone who has provided a place for us to lie our heads or provided support in various forms along the way.

m & b June 2013

While we are still in a mostly unsettled state, we recognize that we have so much to be thankful for. Our travels through SE Asia confirmed for us that we are SO blessed to call Canada home.  Merely being born here gives us more opportunities and privileges that most of the world could hardly dream of.

So while we wait for things like a teaching job, a vehicle, and a more permanent abode to fall into their respective places, recollected images of street food vendors, working from sun-up til sundown to meet their family’s basic needs, bring us to a position of thankfulness.

FeetinEdmonton1

Siem Reap: Temples of Angkor.

Temples

We were told the temples of Angkor are not to be missed- ever- on a trip to Siem Reap.

Poly

So we hired a tuktuk driver named Poly, recommended to us by our friends. At 4:45am, Poly arrived to collect us from our hotel, and whisked us off in the darkness to catch the sunrise over Angkor Wat.

Detailed carvings, Angkor Wat

*Note to all photographers: When staying in an air conditioned room during the hot season, the change in temperature and humidity from indoors to outdoors is significant enough to cause severe condensation to collect on the lens as soon as you remove your camera from its case. Should you want to use your camera to photograph a once-in-a-lifetime event, such as a sunrise over an ancient temple, it is best to “warm up” your camera by bringing it to room temperature at least an hour before you will be needing it. The best way to let your camera reach room temperature is to put your camera in a large ziploc bag, along with a paper towel or some sort of cloth to absorb the moisture.

Angkor Sunrise

Angkor Wat Sunrise

Now I did not have all of this information beforehand, and learned the hard way that my DSLR would take over an hour to reach room temperature. Hence, the photos I snapped of the initial phase of the sunrise are a bit foggy… to my absolute dismay at the time.

Monks Angkor Wat

The condensation had disappeared from my lens and all was right with the world again, just in time to photograph these monks leaving from a time of meditation on the side of Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the largest temple within Angkor. Built in the 12th Century, this ancient city is both the largest and best preserved temple on site.

Angkor Wat

In recent years, Angkor Wat has become a symbol of Cambodia, and is the prime attraction for tourists.

Angkor Wat

We were blown away by both the immensity and the intricacy of this temple.

Intricacy

The sheer size as well as the fine detailing on these massive structures is insane.

Intracacy

Diaspara

We couldn’t fathom how many man hours it would have taken to create such builidngs, especially back in the day when technology likely entailed a hammer and chizzel, and perhaps the use of a pulley.

Angkor Wat resorations

While a significant amount of work has been done to repair, preserve and maintain Angkor Wat (a point of controversy), this is not the case with all temples in the Angkor area.

Ta Phrom

Ta Phrom

One temple that has been left much in the same condition it was found is Ta Phrom. Built in the late 12th and early 13th centuries (and originally called Rajavihara,) Ta Phrom was abandoned and neglected for centuries, following the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 17th century.

Ta Prohm

Having gained popularity as the setting of the movie, Tombraider, Ta Phrom now stands as a striking image of archetecture vs. nature.

Ta Prohm

The trees growing out of Ta Prohm have apparently prompted more descriptive writing than any other temple within Angkor.

Architecture vs. Nature, Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

After just these few images, probably no more words are needed in order to grasp why Ta Prohm is just so astonishing.

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom

The last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire is Angkor Thom. It was established in the late twelfth century by King Jayavarman VII.

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom includes within its 9 km² area a number of temples. We took a solid 2-3 hours to explore them.

Bayon

Our favorite of Angkor Thom’s temples was probably Bayon, whose most distinctive feature is the tranquil, massive stone faces carved into the 23m towers.

Bayon

Bayon

The faces gave a humanness to the architecture that made it easier to connect with.

Bayon

Whose faces are they? Some say they may represent the king himself, guardians of the empire’s cardinal points, or some combination of these.

Exploring Ancient cities

Exploring Ancient cities.

After 11 hours of “templing,” we decided to call it a day. One can only take in so much ancientness in 40 degree heat. It would have been neat to see more of Angkor’s temples, but at the same time, we felt that the ones visited definitely gave us an unforgettable experience of Khmer architecture and the rich history that lies within the outskirts of Siem Reap. Never had we touched places so ancient before… it was hard to know what to make of it all, except to say that it has confirmed for us yet again how little we know about the world. Such limited perspectives we have on all that has unfolded before our time, and even on the happenings of the present. One can only seek to understand.