A Travellerspoint blog

Angkor (Capital City/Holy City)

Land of ancient temple ruins

This is my second visit to Siem Reap. Maz has arranged with About Asia Travel Company to take care of us in Siem Reap. When we arrived at Siem Reap airport from Phnom Penh, See Lai, the tour guide was waiting for us. Because today was a cloudy day there was no possibility to see colourful sunset in the evening when cruising Angkor Thom mote. We understood..Relaxing_c..Mote_150613.jpgOther_tour.._cruise_too.jpg So we requested to go straight for the mote cruise, to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the surrounding area. It seems June, July, August are low season because of the rain and few tourists come. True enough, it was drizzling when we got on the rowing boat but it was relaxing and calming, preparing us for the hectic Angkor tours for 4 days. The mote also becomes a source of livelihood for people living in the surrounding area.
Using_own_..in_the_mote.jpgThey catch fish and made their own float from discarded foam.
We checked in Mulberry Boutique Hotel.
Mulberry_B..eption_area.jpgThe hotel is small and sandwiched between houses but when we were inside we felt comfortable. Unfortunately the nearest neighbours have dogs and the barking in the morning was quite irritating. Maz booked us a family suite with 2 bathrooms. I took the lower level and she was on the upper level. The room was really comfortable for the price she paid.
The next day was a full day tour of temples ruins in Angkor.Huge_root_..t_Ta_Promph.jpgTa_Prohm_-..the_temple_.jpgTa_Prohm.jpg It was exciting seeing Ta Prohm again with its massive fig tree roots choking the ruins. It was intentionally left as part of a natural jungle but because of huge number of tourists, it has lost its jungle charm as plank walkways are built around it. Anyway it was unbelievable to see tall trees with huge roots above ground winding around the stones of the temple. It's not the temple that keeps me in awe but the powerful gigantic roots.
According the guide there are about 290 ancient temples in Siem Reap. Some are restored with the help of foreign governments like China, France, Japan, India etc. It's quite confusing to remember the names of these temples without a guide book as they look almost similar. The Angkor Archaeological Park is a World Heritage site and they are well preserved. Now Siem Reap has become a major tourists attraction in Cambodia. My second visit here sees much difference in the Park Management especially in controlling huge numbers of visitors.Entry_ticket_Angkor.jpg The entry tickets are checked and scrutinized at every entry point. A photo of your face is there at the ticket and it cannot be sold or given to somebody else if you don't use it. In certain part of the park big 40-seater buses were not allowed in and there are park officers everywhere to make sure no unwanted activities are carried out. They are quite efficient and the park is clean, so are the toilets and they use water too.
Since ours was a private tour, we were taken to temples that not many tourists would go.
Ta_Nei_or_Jungle_Temple_.jpgMassive_tr.._Nei_Temple.jpgOne such temple ruin we went to was Ta Nei Temple or Jungle Temple. It was hidden behind shaded trees. Only cars and vans are allowed in. This was a Budhist Temple but was destroyed by the Hindus. There was no restoration done yet as a research is being carried out to find out the effect of weather to the stones. This temple is left as it is. Huge trees with massive roots can be found here too but unlike Ta Promh, the trees are outside the temple.
Ta_Keo_Tem..inese_govt_.jpgAnother quiet temple we went which was Hindu, was Ta Keo Temple or the Mountain with Golden Peaks, constructed wholly with sandstones. As many multi-levels temples in Angkor, it has steep, narrow stone steps. This temple is still under restoration funded by the government of Republic of China.
One of the most attractively carved temple ruins we visited was Banteay Srei or Citadel of a Woman. The carving on pink sandstone was beautiful, intricate and delicate like a lady. It's Hindu and built on ground level only, about 38 km from Siem Reap town. Not many tourist groups go there because of the distance. Another_be..anteay_Srei.jpgBanteay_Srei__2_.jpgMaz_at_a_d..anteay_Srei.jpgBanteay_Srei.jpgcarvings were so delicate that it seemed like they were done by women. Time and weather have taken a toll on some of the stones which have lost the pink colouring.
It was quite a tiring visit and by the afternoon we were back at the hotel to rest. On the way back, we stopped at a palm sugar stall and at a silver shop to buy something to bring home. In the evening we were able to explore on our own a little bit of Siem Reap town and to trace cafe Blue Pumpkin where I celebrated my birthday the first time I was there.
Zamrah_at_her_shop_no_82.jpgThe_Kokoon.jpgAt the Old Market. we met Zamrah, a Muslim shop owner who sells Cambodian silk, clothes etc. and spoke fluent Malay. We chatted a while and she promised to help us if we need to visit and donate school supplies to the Islamic schools in Siem Reap near her house. She can be reached at tel. no. 092307720. Her shop is on the same road as the Blue Pumpkin Cafe and the Kokoon ( The local craft products shop). We needed to rest to prepare for a more hectic tour the next day.

At_Seam_Reap_town.jpgFoot_massage_anyone.jpgMaz_in_Sea..ght_Market_.jpgRelaxing_at_Blue_Pumpkin.jpg

Posted by zuraidaharahman 08:46 Comments (0)

The Heart of Human cruelty

Killing Fields and Toul Sleng

I accompanied my daughter, Maz, to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap for her visiting program though still tired from driving to Sg. Lembing a day earlier. Her friend was not able to come with her due to emergency situation. So I was the replacement and I didn't want her to go alone. All arrangements and payments have been made.
The_Nation..enh__150613.jpgArriving at Phnom Penh by Malaysia Airlines at 10.20 am on 14 June 2013, the tour guide was waiting to take us for city tour, the National Museum was first, at our request.
_The_view_.._neighbour_.jpgcozy_atmos.._Spa_150613.jpgAfter a short guided tour, we left for our accommodation at Plantation Urban Resort and Spa. The resort is snuggled in between houses which are too near for comfort. When I opened the curtain of my room window, I was treated to a window and wall of the neighbour's, so close. So we have to draw the curtain all the time for privacy. Maz's room was just as bad but lucky we stayed for one night only. The compact ground is green and pleasant but I don't think I would go there again.
YB_Set_Moh.._her_sister.jpg Set_Mohamm.._and_Family.jpgIn the evening, Maz made a contact, a young member of parliament, Set (Mr) Mohammadsis, to come to the hotel. Maz and her friends have some program to help the poor Islamic schools by bringing a big box of school supplies. He took us to his house to meet his family. We were informed that In Phnom Penh, there were quite a large number of Muslims who live mainly in KM7- KM 10 where we could get halal food easily.
The_shack-..n_PhnomPenh.jpgThe_office..Penh_140613.jpg The school we visited accommodates 468 students, age ranging from 7 to 15 years old. All Islamic schools here do not get funding from the government, so the people have to find their own funds and mostly the schools are in poor condition. We asked Set Mohammadsis what else the schools need that we could help. Beside school supplies like books, pens, pencils, art materials, etc he also requested for surah Yassin, mukaddam, Quran, Telekung, head covers, kopiah etc. So if any readers of this blog would like to donate these things, please get in touch through this blog. Unfortunately in the evening, it rained heavily when we left the school and we had to cancel our dinner plan with Set Mohammad's family. We hope we would meet them again some day. The rain caused floods and traffic was horrendous in town.
The next day, 15 June 2013 we flew out of Phnom Penh to Siem Reap by domestic flight in the afternoon. In the morning, Sukon, the guide took us to Killing Fields. The road to this famous tourist attraction was so bad, it was unbelievable. Malaysians should be proud and be grateful that our government built good roads throughout the country, no matter how bad they think the government is. These ungrateful people should leave the country for good. It took almost an hour to reach our destination compared to 15 minutes in Malaysia.
Killing_Fields.jpgKilling Fields is a sad history of mass torture and murder of innocent people, mostly educated ones by the Khmer Rouge regime where 7 people survived to tell the gruesome killings. The_skulls..he_complex_.jpg First_stop..ing_Fields_.jpgHundreds of victims' skulls are kept in a glass tower, at our first stop of audio tourr of the comlex. The_story_..ling_Fields.jpgIt was so depressing. This is how The Germans perscuted the Jews during second World War, The Serbs Killed Bosnian Muslims during their war, and the Israelis mass killed the Palestinians. Where did they put humanity in their hearts? Unfortunately during the killing spree by PolPot, the western powers kept quiet, in fact Khmer Rouge regime representative was accepted in United Nations. It's clearly a double standard practiced by the big powers. I couldn't stomach the narration of the audio about the killings especially about a grave where buried naked women and children were found.
At_the_tre..lds__150613.jpgThere was a tree nearby where the demon executors bashed the heads of children in front of their parents. What cruelty!! Unfortunately most of the torturers died peacefully at home of heart attack.
Toul_Sleng.jpgSimple_but.._Museum__2_.jpgMaz and I debated whether we wanted to visit Toul Sleng, the Genocide museum. It was in our itinerary. After much thought we decided to go in but chose to see the ground level only.
The_prison..Museum__11_.jpgIt was too much seeing a school turned into prison and torture chambers and the sight made our stomachs turned. We cut short our visit to go and see the Royal Palace.
With_Maz_a..enh__150613.jpgThe_Royal_..Penh_150613.jpgThe_Silver..Phnom_Penh_.jpg Beautifull..Phnom_Penh_.jpgThe King's Palace is beautiful. showcasing Cambodian's intricate design and craft. The present King, a bachelor and a former ballet dancer, lives there in a palace away from tourists.
We left Phnom Penh for Siem Reap. Fortunately we got back my walking stick cum chair which we forgot to take when a we arrived at the airport. No. I will not visit Killing Fields and Toul Sleng ever again.

Posted by zuraidaharahman 03:22 Comments (0)

Sungai Lembing

Ghost Town No More!

Usually wherever I travel in the country, I avoid traveling during school holidays or public holidays. So Najidah and I decided to drive to Sg. Lembing after the school holidays from 9 - 11 June 2013. True enough, the crowd of holiday makers including school children have left the town leaving it quiet and peaceful, almost ghostly. We were delighted but our delight was short lived when Mr. Lee, a local guide told us that he couldn't take only 2 ladies to the Rainbow Waterfall as the trek is far and lonely. He advised us to come again during weekends when there are people in small groups trekking the river up to the colourful waterfall. We were disappointed.
Pretty_Sg_..CCL__lived_.jpgBut Mr. Lee was kind enough to take us around the area of Sg. Lembing without any charge and we learned a lot more about the real history of this former tin mining town than from a book or from the museum. He is a local guy who was raised there and experienced the glorious time of tin mining boom. When the mine closed he moved to Kuching and married a Bidayuh and now settled with his transport business and guiding during weekends in Sg. Lembing. The story and landmarks he showed us would not be in any guide book or in many guides' leads. A humorous guy, he joked and poked fun at us at our ignorance.
Dry_river_..Lee_s_house.jpgHe kindly took us to his house which is perched on top of a hill where we were shown the sand deposited by the mines where no trees or shrubs could grow. It's a pity it was not accessible and he had to squeeze himself through the fence to take some photos for us.
At_Jabatan..g__Lembing_.jpgNewly_upda..e_tin_mine_.jpgKalong_pah..the_miners_.jpgMr__Lee__t..nd_tin_ore_.jpgThe_neglec..bing_river_.jpgI wondered what Kolong Pahat means in Malay. I have never heard of it. So Mr. Lee explained that Kolong is a tunnel in the mine that had been opened by the miners by knocking the side of the hill to find tin using a pahat, a slow tedious process. Thus the name Kalong Pahat was given to the village, the hanging bridge and the tunnel nearby. The tunnel where Mr. Lee and I stood was a good example what Kolong Pahat is. According to him, there was a railway track which he used to get a ride, a privilege to the miners' family only but there was no trace of a railway track now. The train was used to transport tin from the mines to the processing area. What a pity. It has to make way for a narrow road. The hanging bridge provided a quick way for the miners from the village to go to work through the 2 tunnels which are overgrown with bushes now as short cuts (near Taman Desa Jiwa Murni).
The_abando..socialized_.jpgThe_Assist..ger_s_house.jpgHe also pointed out the old Club House where the whites socialized and get drunk. Locals were prohibited. The green clubhouse is in ramshackle condition now. The lonely banglow house on the hill was occupied by the PCCL Assistant Manager but is left vacant now.
The old office of the tin mine Assistant Manager. The pointed roof is British.

The old office of the tin mine Assistant Manager. The pointed roof is British.

Mr. Lee pointed out a few houses with sharp pointed roof. Humorously he explained that the Mat Saleh thought Sg. Lembing had snow, so pointed roof made it easy for the snow to slide down. Najidah and I wouldn't notice this if he didn't point it to us.
The tin processing area is overgrown with bushes. I hope the authority will keep it clear and maintains as history is made here. There are heaps of black sand-soil which looked fertile but of no use for plants.
At_Sg__Lem..ance_090613.jpgNajidah_wa..ing_Museum_.jpgThe museum is awesome and informative. It was formerly the house of PCCL General Manager where he had a room for the Pahang Sultan when he came to visit. The name Sg. Lembing was derived from a story that a group of hunters used 'lembing' a weapon used for hunting to spear a deer. The deer with the lembing still on his body disappeared in the river and never found. So the Malays named the town Sungai Lembing. Anyway, the authority should charge a minimum entry fee to help upkeep the museum.
At_the_tun..g_tin_mine_.jpgNajidah_an..nes__100613.jpgAnother awesome sight is the mining tunnel which was opened in 2005 and we paid entrance fee of RM15.00 for adult. We took a short train ride inside, then a guided walk through deep tunnels.
This_is_wh..the_tunnel_.jpgWe learned also how the miners mined tin illegally and endangered lives and the stability of the tunnels.
This tin mines are said to be the longest and the deepest in the world. Presently, people are not allowed to trek the hills as there are many deep mine holes hidden there.
Mr. Lee reminded us if we want to go to to Rainbow Waterfall to call him first 016 9238639 and inquired whether it is viable to trek or not - in case the day is cloudy. Be prepared for the following:
1. Do Not bring food which is heavy to carry. The guide will provide simple snack to avoid hunger. Carry a small bottle of water.
2. The trek takes 6 hours. For ladies, wear knee length pants or long tights.
3. Trek shoes are good for walking on the road but climbing the rocks will need thick rubber slippers which will be provided by the guide.
4. Going there at 5.00 am by 4 wheel drive.
5. Bring a small towel as we will be crossing a chest deep river. So ladies, wear dark T-shirts or dark clothes.
6. Do not wear jewellry. Water proof watches are good or keep watches away from water.

Sg__Lembin..g_visitors_.jpgNajidah_at..in__Russia_.jpgTiara_Atsa..d_I_stayed_.jpgWe stayed at Tiara Atsari Guesthouse just a few meters away from the welcomed arch to Sg. Lembing. Soaking_in..enau_100613.jpgIt's comfortable enough but unfortunately there was no water supply on the second day, lucky we went to Pasir Kubur picnic area and soaked ourselves in the shallow cool river for more than 2 hours in the evening. It was blissful!!
Driving there from KL, take the Kuantan highway and exit at Bandar Sri Mahkota. After paying toll, there is asignage to Sg. Lembing about 19 km away. The road is good and not busy.
Pokok Palsu according to Mr. Lee., a tree which has been choked by parasite plants - in the middle of Sg. Lembing  town. 110613

Pokok Palsu according to Mr. Lee., a tree which has been choked by parasite plants - in the middle of Sg. Lembing town. 110613


The_rounda..embing_town.jpgBlack_sand..or_growing_.jpgOld_tin_pr..s_of_water_.jpg

Posted by zuraidaharahman 19:30 Comments (0)

City of Romance and High Fashion - Paris

Second time is enough

The excitement of visiting Paris again fell flat. Though Paris is a world attraction and many dream of visiting it, I didn't share that feeling. My second visit confirmed my first reaction to this great city - busy and congested with people and tourists, traffic jams and narrow streets. My friends were in seventh heaven when they saw exclusive Louis Vuitton store and made a beeline for it. You are not allowed to take photos even if your friend are buying an item or two. Comparatively, the goods sold here are cheaper than in KL and they are more up-to-date. I wasn't interested.
Gallery Lafayette, Paris 240413

Gallery Lafayette, Paris 240413

Exclusive Louis Vuitton Store at Champs Elsee Street, Paris 250413

Exclusive Louis Vuitton Store at Champs Elsee Street, Paris 250413

Gallery Lafayette, another huge store for branded goods, is another attraction. It's beautifully laid out, crowded with tourists as most stores were offering sales. I did a short look around inside, bored and walked back to the hotel on my own. Akmar, Shima, Fuziah and Miza were busy shopping. Staying at Holiday Villa Lafayette made it easy to look around the Lafayette area.
Arch de Triumph, Paris 250413

Arch de Triumph, Paris 250413

Eiffel Tower from the ground. 250413

Eiffel Tower from the ground. 250413

From second floor of Eiffel Tower, 250413

From second floor of Eiffel Tower, 250413

The steel structure of Eiffel Tower from the bottom. 250413

The steel structure of Eiffel Tower from the bottom. 250413

With Shima on second floor of Eiffel Tower, Paris. 250413

With Shima on second floor of Eiffel Tower, Paris. 250413

View of Paris from second floor of Eifell Tower. 250413

View of Paris from second floor of Eifell Tower. 250413

Young girls pretending to be deaf and dumb asking passers - by to sign a petition and demand money, in Paris . 250413

Young girls pretending to be deaf and dumb asking passers - by to sign a petition and demand money, in Paris . 250413

Beside shopping activities, I looked forward to revisit the usual tourist attractions. Eiffel Tower was madness with mile long Q. I missed going to the top of the tower on my first visit and wanted to do it this time. Unfortunately the waiting for the elevator from second floor took about 45 minutes with long Q again. I aborted the idea.
250413. The Egyptian Obelisk which signified the reign of Phraoh Rameses the second, presented to the French Govt in 19 century.

250413. The Egyptian Obelisk which signified the reign of Phraoh Rameses the second, presented to the French Govt in 19 century.

After visiting Luxor, Egypt and saw the Obelisk, now I understood when I was told that one Obelisk was still in France after being presented to the French Government in 19th century. It was lucky that the French returned one obelisk to Luxor to enable the Egyptians to have back their legacy.
On 26 April we took Eurostar train to London, an experience I was looking forward to. It was quite a hassle bringing big bags up and down the train. The English Channel tunnel ride took about 20 minutes and was dark and nothing to see for 50.45 km. The deepest point below sea level is 195 meters and the record-breaking top speed of Eurostar reached in July 2003 was 208mph. We disembark at London St. Pancras International Station where a guide and a bus were waiting for us to transport us to Holiday Villa Hotel in Bayswater. London was cold with chilly winds. As as result I got cold and running nose, the same problem I suffered when I was in Tunisia in February 2013.
At Trafalgar Square London - no more pigeons. 270413

At Trafalgar Square London - no more pigeons. 270413

Chilly weather at River Thames, London. 270413

Chilly weather at River Thames, London. 270413

Crossing the London Bridge, 270413

Crossing the London Bridge, 270413

Crowds waiting for Changing of the uards at Buckingham Palace, London 270413

Crowds waiting for Changing of the uards at Buckingham Palace, London 270413

Though I have been to London several times, I still cannot fall in love with this city. Like Paris, it's congested with people and tourists all the year round. At Oxford Street, I saw crowded feet when I looked down. I fell tired by just looking at the number of people around.
Fuziah with daughter, Miza and me at Bicester outlet Village. 280413

Fuziah with daughter, Miza and me at Bicester outlet Village. 280413

Bus to Bicester outlet Village for brands shopping.

Bus to Bicester outlet Village for brands shopping.

But I was glad to go to Bycester shopping Village because I have never been there before. It was cold and I felt miserable. By 5 pm I was happy to escape the busy stores to go back to the hotel.
Flying through Heathrow airport London was a nightmare. The security was tight and there was such big hassle to claim VAT, particularly the diamonds rings the two of us bought in Amsterdam. The VAT could be claimed only after security and custom check whereas VAT for other things was claimed before we checked our luggage. We weren't aware of this and had to run around asking countless airport staff - some were nice and helpful but some were so grumpy. By the time I boarded the plain I was dead tired and fell asleep immediately.
It was a good trip and I had a good time inspite of some cliches. Thank you Akmar and Shima for taking good care of me and for being so caring. I was thankful that I brought my portable chair this time which I could share with Mai who has knee trouble.

Posted by zuraidaharahman 19:27 Comments (0)

Windmills of Zaanse Schans in Amsterdam

Quint Dutch traditional village.

Zaanse Schans, Amsterdam 230413 (1)

Zaanse Schans, Amsterdam 230413 (1)

Attractive bridge crossing the canal at Zaanse Schanse village, Amsterdam 220413

Attractive bridge crossing the canal at Zaanse Schanse village, Amsterdam 220413

Attractive Dutch houses at Zaanse Schans village. 220413

Attractive Dutch houses at Zaanse Schans village. 220413

When we arrived Amsterdam, we were transported by bus to Zaanse Schans. Though tired by flying 7 hours and 30 minutes, the sight of this quint, beautiful village kept our interest alive. Indeed it's beautiful but I always think that Holland is a very beautiful country even on my visit years ago.This is a village where we could learn about Dutch traditional crafts in a nutshell. There were 6 windmills to visit, a clog-making workshop and cheese-making demonstrations.
Dutch wooden clogs aglore at souvenir shop in Zaanse Schans village, Amsterdam. 220413

Dutch wooden clogs aglore at souvenir shop in Zaanse Schans village, Amsterdam. 220413

P1020446

P1020446

Norlia, me and Akmar holding hard cheese in our hands at Zaanse Schans cheese-making shop. 2204413

Norlia, me and Akmar holding hard cheese in our hands at Zaanse Schans cheese-making shop. 2204413

left- Shima, me, Norlia, Akmar and Liza at Zaanse Schans. 220413

left- Shima, me, Norlia, Akmar and Liza at Zaanse Schans. 220413

Trees are still bare of leaves at Zaanse Schans village. 220413

Trees are still bare of leaves at Zaanse Schans village. 220413

With room-mate Shima at Zaanse Schans village 220413

With room-mate Shima at Zaanse Schans village 220413

P1020302

P1020302

Part of the group members at Zaanse Schans village, 220413

Part of the group members at Zaanse Schans village, 220413

I was impressed with the layout of the village with canals, cute houses, windmills and open fields. The traditional hand-making wooden shoes has been replaced by modern machinery. Thousands of souvenirs are sold and we could get lost in making decisions of what to buy to bring home. The variety of cheese presented was mind-boggling - some are as hard as rocks. We were not able to buy and carry the cheese home as we have many more days and cities to visit before we return to our country but the knowledge is valuable.
What strike me most about Zaanse Schans is the serenity of the place, attractive, clean and uncluttered. I was taken with the design of the Dutch houses, small, compact and cute. The cold weather was not really very welcoming but we braved the cold to walk around and to take as many photos as possible.
This is another place I would love to visit again in a more pleasant weather. Maybe some day!
At entrance of Zaanse Schans village, Amstewrdam. 220413

At entrance of Zaanse Schans village, Amstewrdam. 220413

At Zaans Schans, Amsterdam 220413

At Zaans Schans, Amsterdam 220413

Windmills at Zaanse Schans village, Amsterdam. 220413

Windmills at Zaanse Schans village, Amsterdam. 220413

Windmills

Windmills

Posted by zuraidaharahman 02:18 Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 28) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 5 6 »