A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Posts from — March 2009

ADIP: Angkor Wat

A Day in Pictures
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia


The Temples of Angkor Wat are Cambodia’s must see site.

The temples were built around 1100 by King Suryavarman II, a powerful Khmer king, who extended their civilization and empire to northern Thailand, Burma and the northern tip of Malaysia.




King Suryavarman II built Angkor Wat to serve as a holy capital city and eventually as his funerary temple.


Angkor Wat is actually a series of temples spread over a very large area.  Each temple has its own unique character and purpose.  In many places, the jungle is reclaiming parts of the temples.


Angelina Jolie fans may recognize some of the temples from the Lara Croft Tomb Raider movie.


We’ve posted more pictures from Angkor Wat here.

March 30, 2009   4 Comments

The Face of Evil


One week before we arrived in Phnom Penh, a trial that many Cambodians had been waiting three decades for finally began.

Kaing Guek Eav, a 66-year-old former math teacher, supervised the brutal torture of 17,000 men, women and children at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21.

There he would extract “confessions” from prisoners before sending them to the nearby Choeung Ek Killing Fields for execution.

In 1975, Khmer Rouge “Brother Number 1” Pol Pot turned the former Toul Svay Prey High School into the Khmer Rouge’s main detention center. Today, Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields are the most visited sites in Phnom Pehn.


At Tuol Sleng, school classrooms were turned into torture chambers.  As you walk through the buildings, many of the instruments of torture are still in place – and the faces of those killed stare out at you.


From Tuol Sleng, it is a thirty-minute drive to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields, where the prisoners were executed.

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March 27, 2009   5 Comments

The Piracy Channel


On our travels we’ve seen plenty of vendors selling pirated DVDs. But in Cambodia they take piracy to a whole new level – they’ve got a cable TV station showing pirated movies!

I know it can’t make Hollywood happy, but at least we got to see Slumdog Millionaire.

March 25, 2009   2 Comments

City of Contradictions


What can you say about a place where the top two tourist attractions are a torture museum and a genocide memorial?

From early the 1970s through the mid-1990s, the people of Phnom Penh (and all of Cambodia) were brutalized, starved and murdered by their own government while the rest of the world largely looked the other way.

Given the city’s sad recent history, we did not know what to expect – especially since we had to spend five days in Phnom Penh while we waited for our Chinese visas to be processed.



In the 1950s and 60s Phnom Penh was one of Indochina’s most cosmopolitan cities. Some influences from its days as a French colony remain: Wide boulevards, lively restaurants and buzzing nightlife.  If you look closely, you can imagine the city it once must have been.

Today the most striking thing about Phnom Penh is the incredible resilience and optimism of its people. During our stay, we met two ordinary people who taught us something about the extraordinary spirit of the Khmer people.

The first we met by chance.

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March 23, 2009   9 Comments

Our Time in Indonesia (Bali)


Many people consider Bali to be paradise.  We found the place to be more complex, with many things to love – and an equal number to drive you crazy.  Our report on Bali is posted here.

March 20, 2009   1 Comment

Channeling Lynryd Skynrd


On our last night in Bali we had dinner on the beach in the town of Jimbaran – and were treated to a sunset seranede. Seems like Kid Rock’s not the only one channeling Lynryd Skynrd these days.

This is one of those weird, out-of-context musical moments, and surely the last thing I expected to hear on the beach in Bali.

And when the song was done, we enjoyed dinner on the beach and one of the sunsets for which Bali is rightfully famous.



Be sure to check out the Beach Band’s encore performance of “Let It Be.”

March 18, 2009   3 Comments

Sacred Monkey Forest


They sell bananas for you to feed the monkeys in Ubud’s Scared Monkey Forest, but truth be told, if you are carrying food you don’t make it too far from the front entrance before the monkeys have you surrounded.

The monkeys know what’s what.  If you are carrying yellow, better give it up.  Quickly. Or they will take it from you.



Signs warn visitors not to tease the monkeys, and to protect their belongings.  Turns out the monkeys are accomplished pickpockets.

And cute too.  After an hour of observing the these little thieves, we marveled at their human qualities.




March 16, 2009   1 Comment

Getting Sold in Bali


We arrived in Bali, Indonesia without much of a plan.

We hoped to find a nice (cheap) place with workable wifi where we could settle in for a week and continue to make progress on the kids’ schoolwork.  Which is the short version of how we found ourselves at the Swastika Bungalows in Sanur.

No, we had not wandered in to a Neo-Nazi cell in Indonesia.


Turns out, the swastika has existed as an ornament and symbol since the Neolithic period.  It remains widely used in eastern religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

In Sanskrit, swastika refers to 1) any lucky or auspicious object, and 2) a mark made on a person or things to denote good luck.

Regardless of the original meaning, in Western societies the rise of Hitler and World War II forever stigmatized and effectively ended the use of the symbol.

So it was a bit disconcerting checking into the Swastika Bungalows, regardless of how comfortable and affordable they were.  Particularly with snatches of German and other Eastern European languages being spoken around the pool.

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March 13, 2009   2 Comments

ADIP: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A Day In Pictures
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


When we left home, “KL” was not on the itinerary. But because it is a primary hub for Air Asia, the region’s premier low cost airline, it became an important transit point for us.


Malaysia is a multicultural society, 64% native Malay, 28% of Chinese descent and 8% of Indian descent. It is also the first Muslim country we visited — approximately 60% of the population practices Islam.

In the streets and markets, you are as likely to see a young male breakdancer as a woman in a full burka. It can make for a series of jarring contrasts.


The Petronas Twin Towers, once the world’s tallest buildings, are KL’s most famous landmark.


Nearby, the Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC) is a match for any mall in America. Here you find familiar global brands, from Starbucks to California Pizza Kitchen, Polo Ralph Lauren to Nike.



Most of all, we relaxed in KL, burning some of our Starwood Points to enjoy a free stay at Le Meridien Hotel, a real treat.

More pictures from Kuala Lumpur are posted here.

March 11, 2009   1 Comment

Our Time in Thailand


Our country report on Thailand – along with our recommendations – is posted here.

March 9, 2009   5 Comments

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