Cambodia: Chong Kneas Floating Village in Siem Reap

The Tonle Sap Lake is home to several floating villages in Cambodia. It is the largest freshwater lake in the Southeast Asia. During the dry season, the surface area of the lake is about 2,700 square km; however, during the rainy season, it swells to about 16,000 square km. Since the Mekong River and the Tonles Sap are connected, during the monsoon season, the river receives a considerable amount of rain which causes it to push its way into the Tonle Sap Lake.

Chong Kneas floating village

The Tonle Sap Lake meets the Mekong River

So, while we were in Siem Reap, we planned a trip to the floating village of Chong Kneas and we thought that it was a good break from visiting temples, in spite of the bad reviews that we’ve read. From our hotel, it took us about 20 minutes by tuktuk to the Tonle Sap Lake, where we could catch a boat to the floating village of Chong Kneas. There, we hired a boat for two for $30 for about 1.5 hour.

at the Chong Kneas floating village

Chong Kneas floating village

During our visit, we saw and learn many things. The Chong Kneas floating village literally consists of floating homes and boats, housing about 5,000 inhabitants of the poorest Cambodians and Vietnamese refugees. During the dry season, some of these homes rest on the banks of the lake while during the wet season the village grow in size as more and more homes become afloat.  Many residents move their floating homes several times throughout the year since the water level fluctuates extremely. Furthermore, most villagers’ main livelihood is fishing.

a boat shop

Chong Kneas floating village

This boat is moving a floating house

I found it interesting that Chong Kneas floating village is quite functional – there’s a school, a church, several shops, a police station, a basketball court, a pool hall, a crocodile farm, and a restaurant. The residents use car batteries so they could get some electricity, but even with electricity, life’s still not easy here.

floating Korean Restaurant

the floating police station

While exploring the village, we stopped at the crocodile farm. I saw many able children panhandling and spending the whole day begging for money instead of attending school. There were also some able mothers who brought their babies and just simply asked for money. It’s really so unfortunate and so sad. The view at the top of the crocodile farm was very nice and breathtaking, though.

at the crocodile farm

the souvenir shop

so slimy

some tourists giving candies to the kids

From the crocodile farm, we dropped at the shops where they sells different goods – food, school supplies, kitchen wares, etc. We bought a sack of rice. Then we went to the school and gave the rice to the schoolchildren. The children looked very happy and grateful when we gave them the rice. When we arrived at the school, the children were well behaved while learning Vietnamese. We’d got the chance to see the chapel as well.

kids learning Vietnamese

Even though the situation of the people there broke my heart, we got a better understanding of the struggles some of the poorest Cambodians have to go through in their daily life.

 

 

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Cambodia: Horseback Riding in Siem Reap

It was our 4th time to travel to Siem Reap and we planned to do a 1.5 hour horseback riding adventure with Happy Valley Ranch. In this ranch, all levels of riders are welcome, which means you can ride at your level; and you can choose how long you want to ride for.

Loved seeing Siem Reap on a horseback 🙂

This was so fun!

We went to the ranch at around 3.30pm. I was happy to arrive at a green and beautiful facility; moreover the horses were properly looked after. When everything was ready, we got to saddle up by around 4pm. Our horses were Diamond, a white horse and Star, a brown horse. They were well behaved throughout the journey. We were able to walk, trot, and canter. It seems that trotting is quite painful when you don’t know the technique. My butt just kept on slamming against the saddle, but eventually I learned to brace myself by using my thighs.

Happy Valley Ranch

Get out to the fields

Overall, we had the pleasure of going on a 1.5 hour trail ride with our excellent guide. We got a glimpse of the Cambodian countryside and their farmlands. We’d got the chance to watch the sunset and I did get some amazing photographs of the countryside.

Beautiful sunset

Through the fields

Little Lilly travel tip:

  • If you wish to do horseback riding in Siem Reap, book directly with Happy Valley Ranch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cambodia: Beautiful Banteay Srei Temple

The alluring temple of Banteay Srei is nearly everyone’s favorite site because of its superb decoration, excellent preservation and small size. It was built in 967AD.

This photo was taken on June 2014.

We visited this tenth century temple of Bantey Srei twice in 2014. The name Banteay Srei means “The Citadel of Women” probably because of the details and intricate decoration carved in red sandstone that covers the walls like tapestry. The workmanship for this temple is quite different when compared to the other Angkor temples. The sandstone used is very unique because it gives off a pinkish colour. It is tiny in size: the tallest tower is perhaps 10 meters and you can walk around the entire area in 5 minutes yet it continues to surprise visitors because it clearly exhibits the magnificence of Khmer Art. It displays an overwhelming amount of elaborate decorative carvings covering the surfaces of the building walls such as floral designs, scaled-down Buddhas, and demon heads everywhere – all these are so well preserved. Even though the buildings in the central section are now roped off, but you can still get close enough to admire the architecture and carvings from a few meters away. To me, it is like a fairy place built in the heart of an immense and mysterious Cambodian forest.

We gave a tour of Cambodia to my little sissy on December 2014.

This exquisite miniature is located about 30 kilometers north-east of Angkor. It is a bit out of the way, but certainly worth a visit. When we went there, it was tranquil, surreal, there was no throngs of tourists, just enough to create an atmosphere. Even though it is not convenient to get there, but the ride through the countryside offers a good glimpse of life in rural Cambodia when passing through rice paddies and tiny villages.

That’s my little sister on a cute small door.

The site is in a complex which is very tourist friendly. It has a restaurant, rest rooms, souvenir shops and also a bird watching facility. The temple has a nice lotus pond on each side of the path to the temple, which has beautiful pink water lilies.

If you visit Siem Reap, don’t skip the temple of Banteay Srei!

Bayon Temple: The Temple of Faces

The Bayon Temple is my most favorite temple besides Angkor Wat in the Angkor Archeological Park even though each temple has a special something. It is one of the most enigmatic and ambiguously strong religious constructions. Today, the temple is best known for the gigantic stone face sculptures.

Bayon Temple

with my sister in Bayon Temple

This was taken during my first visit in Angkor Thom in October 2010.

The Bayon Temple is located at the centre of Angkor Thom. It was built during the late 12th century and early 13th century, about 100 years after they built Angkor Wat, during the reign of the famous King Jayavarman VII. It is considered as the second most important temple in Cambodia after Angkor Wat because it is a Buddhist temple consecrated to the Buddhist cult.

Bayon Temple

My sister in Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple

As part of the Angkor Archaeological Park, Bayon Temple has been famous for its amazing collection of Buddha large, serene, smiling stone faces found on each towers. I have learned that there are about 54 towers which represent the Khmer provinces in the Great Khmer Empire period. I have also learned that there are about 200 faces which symbolize different Buddha smiling faces such as beautiful smile, glad smile, sad smile and charming smile. And, these different stone faces in the walls surely amaze each tourist.

l6-1

 

Visiting Bayon Temple with my sister

Bayon Temple

When we visited the Bayon Temple, I could feel the splendor and the magic from the people living during those ancient times who were able to construct all these amazing temples in the Angkor Kingdom. I loved the many smiling Buddhas in this temple. It was so peaceful and quiet. We climbed to the top of the tier of the Bayon Temple and we found great views of the tree canopy and some bird spotting. We captured a lot of beautiful pictures in there. We saw some workers who were restoring this beautiful architecture.

Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple

I would say that this place is an exceptional architectural heritage. The details that went into carving the faces from stones are spectacular. It was a unique experience and a pleasure to photograph. To me, the architecture plan is one of the greatest in the world.

It was my sister’s first time visit in Angkor Thom

Bayon Temple

Have you found the most smiling face?

Amazing Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Angkor Wat was the first temple that we visited together. It is really incredibly stunning. The temple`s size and architecture is very impressive and mind blowing. When we entered the Angkor Wat we had a mixture of feelings. It was a mixture of peace, spirituality, vastness and awe. How they built this temple in those days without any electric machinery or even iron tools really beats me. To me, it is truly amazing.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Taken from the top level of Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is one of the most magnificent sights in Asia. It is very well preserved and it is considered to be the largest religious monument in the world. It is the most famous tourist destinations in Cambodia which receives around two millions of visitors each year. Today, Angkor Wat is a national pride and the symbol of Cambodia. It also became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, which means “City of the Temple”, is one of the most magnificent examples of what early 12th century Cambodian architects could do. During those times, the Khmer kings believed that the gods would bestow great blessings on them and their kingdom if they build temples in honor to their gods. The kings also thought that the bigger the temple, the bigger the blessings they would. So, each generation of king surpassed his predecessor by building a bigger temple.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

It was King Suryavarman II of the Khmer Empire who built the Angkor Wat at the high of classical Khmer architecture. Initially, he dedicated Angkor Wat to a supreme Hindu god, Vishnu. But the 14th century leaders switched from Hinduism to Buddhism because they thought that Hinduism was not working for them and Angkor Wat was converted then into a Buddhist shrine.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

My sister at the top level of the Angkor Wat

Most tourists thought that Angkor Wat is the name of the entire complex. Well, no! It is actually the main temple in the Angkor complex.

Have you been to Angkor Wat? What did you like best there?