The final stage of our trip back in April (Yes April, we’ve been busy and have not posted lately, more on that to come) included a quick 24 hours in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia. We spent an incredibly hot day touring some of the major city sites including the beautiful Petronas Twin Towers.
Following our excursion in Beijing we journeyed south to the small yet beautiful country of Singapore. We stayed in the heart of the capital, Singapore, and enjoy two days of R&R. Highlights of the trip included a stay at the famous Marina Bay Sands and a swim in the rooftop infinity pool looking out over the city.
Our first excursion, with our out of town guests, on our capital city tour of Asia was to visit Beijing 北京. For the third time this year we ventured north to see both the Great Wall and the capital of China 中国. We departed from Shanghai 上海 early in the morning landed in Peking just before noon. We hired a driver to take straight from the airport out to the Mutianyu portion of the wall. The skies opened up, the temperature increased and it was a gorgeous day to hike on the wall.
After venturing down the Great Wall we headed to central Beijing. We took the night to explore noodles in the city and walk some streets. The next day we visited the world famous Forbidden City and Tiananen Square. We also stopped at the Temple of Heaven before boarding our return flight to Shanghai.
With family in town again, Bs Dad and Godfather, we took to the streets in Shanghai once more. In between our excursions in our home city we visited Beijing, Singapore and Malaysia (those posts to come). For now enjoy the pictures of our time in 上海.
The trip began with a rainy evening on the Bund.
We visited an old friend on food street to sample a variety of breakfast options.
We also took some time to visit the world famous skyline in Luijiazui 陆家嘴.
We also spent one night downtown in Puxi.
The Brianja family has completed a roster move. With the receipt of their recent LOA they have completed a player transaction to acquire the adorable and lovable free agent T. Jerseys are already being printed with his nickname on the back, though he has yet to select a number. His contract stipulates that he must complete a physical and an abundance of paperwork prior to joining his new team. There has been a lot of speculation about when he will join the team but the latest reports indicate that T is expected to join the active Brianja roster this summer. The Brianja team highly anticipates T’s arrival. They are anxious to bolster their roster with his highly touted skills. T has a knack for stealing hearts, captivating fans and drawing loud cheers. Asked about his arrival, team co-captain A said, “We love him so much already. We can’t wait for him to be with us.” B, the other co-captain, had this to say, “We need his spark, the added noise, and of course good looks to round out our roster, add depth and increase talent.” The team looks forward to having T join them in Shanghai and travel with them to the United States. A spokesman for Brianja said that once T has adjusted to his new surroundings in Shanghai he will be available for photo ops, play, hugs and kisses.
The Khmer Rouge came into power in 1975. Led by Pol Pot they immediately began to restructure society. Pol Pot believed that Cambodia should be a rural, classless and agrarian society. As a result, within just a few days of the Khmer Rouge coming to power, families were separated, jobs taken away and the entire population of Phnom Penh was forced to march into the countryside and work as slaves for up to 15 hours a day. Anyone who tried to disobey was immediately killed.
The Khmer Rouge declared it Year Zero, stopped the postal service, closed its borders and abolished currency, schooling, private property, foreign clothing and traditional Khmer culture.
Senior members of the former government and their families were executed. Pol Pot believed that all the various factions of the Khmer Rouge needed to be cleansed. This lead to an unknown number of people being killed, outside and within the Khmer Rouge party. The Khmer Rouge were finally toppled by the Vietnamese in 1978. While no one knows the exact numbers, during these 3 years and 8 months it is estimated that 1 in 5 Cambodians were killed, perhaps more than a million people. They were killed in executions, in killing fields, and by being starved and worked to death. We learned that one saying of the Khmer Rouge went something like this: Better to kill ten innocent people than let one enemy escape. With this motto, entire families, from newborns to the elderly were executed. During this time the world was clueless. The Khmer Rouge had completely closed Cambodia’s borders. They only invited those sympathetic to their cause, and took them on staged tours of their country.
While in Phnom Penh, we were able to drive a half hour to visit one of the many killing fields. It is estimated that about 17,000 men, women, children and infants were killed at the Killing Field of Choeung Ek. Bullets were expensive, so they were often bludgeoned to death. Previous to becoming a killing field, this land was a Chinese burial ground, where those who passed were honored and respected.
There are killing fields, such as this one, all over Cambodia, many surrounded by land mines or hidden in jungles. At Choeung Ek, when it rains, pieces of human bones and cloth rise to the surface. Below is a picture of the memorial at Choeung Ek. It is home to skulls and other bones from many, but not all, of the victims at this field. Many of the mass graves in this field have been left untouched, the Cambodian’s preferring to let the victims of the Khmer Rouge rest in peace.
During the Khmer Rouge rule all schools were closed. Anyone with an education became an enemy of the state. The Tuol Sleng Museum was once a high school. In 1975 the Khmer Rouge took it over and turned it into a prison, giving it the code name S-21 (Security Prison 21). Those killed at the Choeung Ek Killing Field were first tortured here. Similar to the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge kept detailed records and today you can visit and look at the photographs of those who perished and the few who survived. Eventually, the Khmer party turned on itself and began torturing the killing their own.
Due to the closed borders and a few Westerners’ lobbying on their behalf, the Khmer Rouge continued to be given a seat in the United Nations. In fact, from 1979 to 1990, the masterminds behind this genocide, were recognized as the only legitimate representative of Cambodia (at that time the country was called by another name).
The Cambodians, also known as the Khmer people, are recovering from a genocide and civil war that didn’t end until 1997. Those that we met were kind, helpful and proud of their cultural heritage, a heritage that was almost lost.
You can read more at these websites:
For our second day at the temples we decided to get up early to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat (the most famous temple). We heard it was gorgeous, but also crowded. So we found ourselves biking at at 4:45am in the dark to see the sunrise. The sun rose slowly, between 5:30 and 7:30am, providing opportunities to take many pictures. Here are a few of our best.
We took a break from watching the sunrise to explore the inside of the temple, while most people were still outside.
It wasn’t long before we headed back to the front of the temple to catch more of the sunrise.
At this point it was around 7:15am. So we decided to go ahead, take our bikes and see what else we could find. We headed straight to Bayon, the temple of many faces.
We explored a few more temples and then went back to town, thoroughly exhausted and ready for a nap by the pool.
The temples at Angkor were abandoned for centuries, allowing the jungle to overtake them. The temples are what is left over from a 600 year period between AD 802-1432. During this time the Khmer Empire was one of the greatest in southeast Asia. The city of Angkor had a population of one million, when London was still a small town of 50,000. At that time houses were built of wood and therefore no longer exist. The temples however, were an entirely different matter. Angkor is the earthly representation of Mt. Meru, the place where the gods lived. One king after another tried to out build each other in the 400 square kilometers that make up the area. According to Wikipedia over one thousand temples remain, ranging in size from just a few bricks to the lofty Angkor Wat.
On our first day out we hired a tuk tuk driver and had him take us to the temples of Preah Khan, Preah Neak Poan, Ta Som, Pre Rup, Banteay Kdei and Ta Prohm. Sadly, except for the biggest named ones we lost track of which temples were which. However, some of the smaller temples were the most amazing. So without further ado, here are pictures from our first day.
Over Chinese New Year we decided it was time to explore Cambodia. Arriving late on Friday night, we started our trip in the capital, Phnom Penh. We awoke the next morning, excited to see the city by day and begin our exploring. Phnom Penh, is a city full of charming cafes, fantastic food with a lovely river walk.
On Saturday we decided to start our day before it got too hot. The Royal Palace was reminiscent of the one in Bangkok, however a little less ornate. It is still the official residence of the king, so parts of it is off limit to tourists.
The city itself reminded us a little of HCMC and Hanoi. Motorbikes were everywhere, electric wires were a tangled mess and you could see the French influence in the architecture.
We decided to take a sunset cruise on the Mekong River.
Phnom Penh has many monuments.
Overall, we enjoyed the city. It was a great introduction to Cambodia, Cambodians and their delicious food!
In the days to come we will share many photos from our CNY trip to Cambodia. However, we will tell the story of just one picture. While observing the grounds of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and taking various photographs A and I decided that we would stop to take a picture together (before it got too hot). We took a quick look around and found two people nearby, so we asked if they would take our picture. One kind gentlemen obliged and I handed him my phone. He snapped a quick shot and then the three of us began to discuss common traveler topics like where are you from etc. Eventually, we were discussing selfie sticks and how we had forgot ours at the hotel (thus the need for someone to take our picture). He acknowledge that he was familiar with selfie sticks. We continued to chat for a brief moment and then each of us went our separate ways to continue exploring the Royal Palace. As we walked away another man approached us and asked, “Do you know him?” We shared that we did not and that he was just a stranger we asked to take our photo. The man then told us that we had just been photographed by Gary Latham, but we were not familiar with the name. The man talking with us was touring with Gary Latham and a few other people on a photography tour. It turns out Gary Latham is a renowned photographer who has taken photos for National Geographic, Lonely Planet and more. The lone picture below is Gary Latham’s quick snapshot of us. You can be the judge as to where it ranks among his best work. For comparison here are some samples of his previous work. Afterwards we looked into these trips and learned that they are multi-week excursions throughout Asia where those traveling with him refine their own photography skills. Just think, we chose to discuss selfie sticks with him and how they eliminate the need for asking someone to take your picture.