Everyone likes seeing a friendly face while traveling. Our Instagram followers definitely understand that. This week, this beautiful picture from Cambodia was your favorite of the bunch. The Bayon Temples are the marquee attraction of this region once populated by the Khmer people. Built during the 12th and 13th century by King Jayavaram VII, this temple served as the center of Angkor Thom, the capital city of Khmer. Built nearly 100 years after Angkor Wat, it shows a century's worth of evolution in artistic styles within the Buddhist faith. While Buddhism was the main motivator for construction of the temple, a variety of local deities can be found evidenced in the temples carvings and bas reliefs.
Koh Rong, Cambodia
After decades of isolation the 60 plus islands surrounding the southern coast of Cambodia remain largely untouched. Koh Rong is the biggest Cambodia island off the coast of Sihanoukville. The majority of the island is undeveloped, though there are plans to develop it into a luxury resort destination. Right now, travelers can visit for a day trip, or stay in one of the few small beach resorts. There is around 27 miles of beaches, one of the most beautiful being Long Set beach. There are seven bays on the island, all offering great snorkeling and diving. There are also several nearby islands, easily accessible by boat. Other activities include swimming, hiking and fishing. From the mainland, it takes a little over 2 hours to reach Koh Rong, but it is well worth the journey to experience this tropical paradise. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this incredible island before it becomes a tourist hot spot!
Bantayan Island, Philippines
Visit Bantayan Island, located northwest of Cebu, where life is slower and you can enjoy the peace and tranquility of the beautiful beaches. Until recently, foreigners did not frequent Bantanyan. Though the tourism industry is growing on the island it still retains a secluded feel. There are no large shopping malls, major hotel chains, movie theaters, etc. There are a handful of restaurants and bars in Santa Fe, though Bantanyan is definitely not the place to go if you’re looking for nightlife. Bantayan is a place for travelers looking for a tranquil getaway and hoping to spend most of their days lounging on the beach. The warmth and friendliness of the locals allows travelers to learn about day-to-day life on Bantayan, where locals farm and live simply in bamboo houses. The island is just 7 by 10 miles, and has crystal clear waters. Renting a scooter is a great way to explore the Bantayan.
Danielle is an international peace advocate and Co-founder of the nonprofit Kids for Peace who recently graduated from Harvard with degrees in Religion and Sociology. From summer 2011-2012, Danielle will spend nearly a year traveling in Asia and Africa. Her blog documents her experiences as she seeks out new adventures, learns about other ways of life, and studies issues related to vulnerable children and conflict resolution.
After four years of hard work completing my undergraduate degrees, I decided to treat myself to a trip I had dreamed about since my youth. Southeast Asia beckoned me with images of orange clad monks, golden Buddha statues, and seemingly endless rice paddies. With the highest proportion of practicing Buddhists on the planet, I went to experience peace: to meditate in temples, contemplate beauty from the peaks of Laotian mountains, learn and connect.
One month of travel took me to the magnificent temples of Siem Reap, Cambodia, rural villages of Northern Laos, and tranquil beaches of Koh Samui, Thailand. As part of my personal mandate to experience the fullness of life, I sought not only experiences that foster peace and joy, but those that could teach me about human suffering—the key component of the Four Nobel Truths that form the basis of religious practice and culture for much of the region. I designed a trip that would go beyond touring the temples and art I admired and delve into the depths of the human experience, embracing too the suffering true of our existence.
We are excited to have a guest blog post from one of our travelers, Vaychan. Vaychan just returned from an amazing trip with her husband to Vietnam and Cambodia. Thanks Vaychan for sharing your travel experience with us!
When we were deciding on the countries for our next international trip, I figured it was time for me to make it to Asia. Other than work trips to the Philippines & Japan, Asia was an unexplored continent to me. It wouldn’t be that odd other than the fact that I’ve spent a great part of the last decade backpacking through other parts of the world and second, I was born in Thailand to Chinese parents. We left when I was three- many stories passed on and a few pictures but no memories. Probably, the biggest hesitation with going to Asia was that I prided myself in being a traveler who plans her own itinerary and finding her own way around. But with Asia, I knew I was going to need some help planning and executing, if we were going to spend more time doing things rather than being in transit to somewhere.
Two weeks, two countries - we picked Vietnam as our first country since my friend was born there (our husbands were game for whatever we decided on). For our second country, it was a toss up between Thailand and Cambodia, since China was too vast. My birth country or my parents’ birth country-Thailand seemed more fun with its beautiful beaches, but I was curious of how much of my upbringing was influenced by the Cambodian culture. My parents had been one of lucky ones who had escaped Cambodia to Thailand when Khmer Rouge took over in 1975 and made it to the States in 1979. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure I was ready to face that history since this was supposed to be a vacation, but curiosity won this one...
After an awesome week of hiking, kayaking, learning how to cook and sightseeing in Vietnam, we flew to Siem Reap, the city where Angkor Wat is located. Siem Reap has one of the quaintest airports in the world, with its slanted temple roofs visible from the tarmac.
As mentioned in my previous blog on Tanzania Cultural Norms, knowing some facts about the country you are planning on traveling to can be extremely useful and demonstrates your respect for the culture.
Cambodia is sometimes described as a less developed country in South East Asia. Despite the rough and the tough lifestyle they have gone through, including brutal wars and everyday hardships, Cambodians are extremely warm welcoming people and go out of their way for people visiting their country. Around 95% of Cambodians are Buddhist, which is reflected a lot in their daily lives. Cambodia is a collective culture that emphasizes a hierarchy within society. They live with a common hierarchy where you are taught to respect your elders and almost everything is based on your age. Common hierarchy guidelines are that the parents are superior to children, managers to assistants, and teachers to students. Monks will even walk in rank order, with the oldest in front and most junior at the end. As a foreigner you will notice that certain people will ask you more personal questions to identify your “rank” in their hierarchy. They may change the way they converse with you depending on what they think your status is.