Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Genocide museum and killing fields of Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia reminded us of Bengaluru. Crowded, heavy traffic, dusty, bad roads (except for important places) gave us the feeling of Bengaluru. Having visited Siem Reap and Battambang, Phnom Penh was a bit of shocker to us. We expected a calmer capital!! Nevertheless, we were there just for a day before flying back to India. 

At genocide museum

While Angkor wat represents the glorious past of Cambodia, Phnom Penh holds some of the bloodiest recent past. Between 1975-1979 Cambodia saw one of the worst genocide of last century where 2 - 3 million Cambodians were massacred wiping out 25% of the population. While we had a glimpse of the past at the killing caves of Battambang, the sites of Phnom Penh explain it deeper.

The cells inside the room at genocide museum

We visited genocide museum of Tuol Seng. The former high school had turned into a security prison during Khmer rogue regime where 20,000 people were executed. There were only 7 survivors in this prison. Today, it is converted into museum but the building structure has been maintained in its old form. It is not for sensitive people as the museum explains the torture and killings of people in this place. It is unbelievable that so many deaths took place while the whole world watched without bothering. After sometime, it was too much for Chaya and Tanu to handle; they decided to spend their time in the park.

Memorial at Killing fields

Having visited the genocide museum, we went to the killing fields of Choeung Ek village at the outskirts of Phnom Penh. This time Chaya and Tanu decided not to enter and stay outside as they felt very disturbed by these sights. Only I decided to visit the place. Choeung Ek is now a memorial with a Buddhist stupa. The stupa has some 5,000 human skulls being displayed.

A mass grave in killing fields
There is a audio guide available and one need to walk at the memorial listening to the way people were brought to the place, executed and buried. Even children and infant were not spared. It is a very heart breaking scene to see the clothes of young ones being displayed at the mass graves. Human bones are still present at the site.

Both places are not pleasant to visit. But it is important for every visitor to understand the recent history of Cambodia. It is peaceful today and had a golden age long back but the recent history was anything but bloody. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Battambang, Cambodia

Our destination after Siem Reap in Cambodia was Battambang that was about 3 hours drive. It was raining heavily all though this journey. But to our respite, rains subsided as we entered Battambang town. The first impression of the town indicated that it was far less touristy when compared to Siem Reap. The bus loads of people seen in Siem Reap  were all gone. 

View from our hotel
After check-in at the hotel, we walked to the town centre where we had our lunch at vegetarian restaurant. A tuk tuk was hired to visit the nearby places. A couple from Australia also joined us.

Shortly we realised that the tuk tuk driver had lot of knowledge about the place who also added up as a guide!! First he took us to the Governor’s residence. The French influence on this town was clearly manifested in this building. The interiors of the building was closed but the exterior look was impressive.

We made a short stop at Dombang statue at the centre of a circle. 

Our next destination was bamboo train. It is nothing but a bamboo platform mounted on train axles with a small engine which is used as a tourist attraction. Very cool!! It was a 30 minute journey to the other end where some souvenir shops are located. A completely new experience for us!!

What happens if another trains comes from opposite direction? The one that has lesser number of people will be lifted to give way for the other!! 

There are plans to upgrade this track for Poipet (Thailand border) to Phnom Penh. Once this happens bamboo train will be history.

Completely satisfied with Bamboo train experience we went to Phnom Sampeu, a hill on the outskirts of Battambang. It took about 45 minutes to reach this place. For some strange reasons, tuk tuks were not allowed to the top. We either had to walk up or take a taxi. Walking was not a option as we had less time and also were not in a mood to sweat out. So we hired a taxi.

The taxi was hired by different groups. Since the places to see were spread across the hill, while one group was busy visiting one place, the taxi driver did multiple trip to take other groups. Must say that he did a good job in that!! 

This hill is a confusing place as there are no proper indications about the places. But thanks to our tuk tuk driver, we had nothing to worry. There were some temples and buddhist statues on the top but important place was the killing caves. Cambodia saw one of the worst genocide in second half of 1970’s where  2-3 million innocent people were massacred by Pol Pot, communist ruler of Cambodia. This was one of the place where people were killed and dumped into the cave. Some of the skulls are not kept for display in the cave. It was very difficult experience for us. Our tuk tuk driver also broke down while explaining about the incidents. Considering that 25% of the population was wiped out, every family in Cambodia was impacted by this.

There are some impressive views from the top. 

It was almost dark when we came down to the base of the hill. Here we witnessed one of the most amazing phenomenon. From a cave on the hill, bats were coming out in huge numbers. This happens between 6 - 7PM where bats go out for food. It is said that there are about a million bats in the cave. It would take about 45 minutes for all the bats to go out. They come back before sunrise. A must visit for any person coming to Battambang.

We thought about going out to town centre for dinner but later decided to try out the restaurant in the hotel we were staying. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Other temples of Angkor wat

Angkor wat area is filled with many temples. Temple like Angkor wat and Bayon are the most important ones but there are other several interesting temples in the area. We spent about 2 days in Angkor wat just concentrating on these temples. In previous posts, I mentioned about Angkor wat and Bayon. The rest of the temples we visited is briefly mentioned below.  

These temples can be visited by Tuk Tuk (Similar to auto rickshaw) or rental bike/bicycle. But note that it will be a long ride by bicycle in humid weather!!

Banteay Kdei
This was the first temple we visited after lunch on the first day. The first half of the day was earlier spent at Angkor wat temple. Meaning “Citadel of chambers” this temple was built during the reign of Jayavarman VII. The architecture of this temple is similar to Bayon but much smaller in size. 

Ta prohm
This is one of the most visited temple in Angkot wat. The ruins mixed with jungle surroundings has attracts a tourist a lot. The tress growing out of ruins is the highlight of this temple. Archaeological survey of India is working on the restoration of this temple.

Ta Keo
Ta Keo is in the form of temple mountain with five sanitary towers arranged in a quincunx. This gives a gigantic effect to the temple. It is said that the work was stopped in between and hence the lack of decorations in the temple. 

Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda
These are considered as twin temples opposite to each other at Angkor Thom’s east gate. Considered as small temples according to Angkor standards, these are dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu.

Located near Bayon temple, it is a three tier temple mountain. Tanu was not allowed to enter inside as the steps leading to the top of the temple was steep. The temple provides a nice view of the surroundings.

A small temple near Baphoun, it is in the shape of three tier pyramid. It was also known as Palace temple.

Elephant terrace
The terrace was used as viewing stand for public ceremonies. It is named so because of the statue of the elephants.

Leper King terrace
Little further from Elephant terrance is leper king terrace that depicts Yama, god of death.

Preah Khan
Little away from Angkor them complex lies a group of temples, Preach Khan being first among them. Very little restoration is done for this temple. The clouds opened up as we started looking at the temple.

Neak Pean
This temple is situated in an island. While the temple itself is very small and simple, the walk along the lake makes this temple significant. The walk would have been uneventful but for a bee that decided to follow us. It did not bite but create panic for Chaya and Tanu. 

Ta Som
East of Neak Pean is Ta Som, built by Jayavarman VII dedicated to his father. 

East Mebon
A 10th century temple, it has to enclosing walls and three tiers. From the upper level of the temple, the vast expanse of water could be seen.

Pre Roup

This looks like a replica of East Mebon.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Bondla wildlife sanctuary

One of the wildlife sanctuaries in Goa. At about 20 km from Ponda, it is known for birds than animals. For general public there is a zoo and garden inside the sanctuary.

Garden at Bondla

We had an evening to spend and we decided to visit Bondla. For my daughter, the zoo was the primary attraction. At the entrance of the sanctuary we paid the necessary fees. The road after the gate passes through the forest with few hairpin bends. The road ends at the zoo.

The zoo has animals like Wild boar, tiger, leopard, deer, sloth bear, blackbucks, jungle cat  and few birds and reptiles.

Leopard in the zoo
The authorities also maintain a small garden. It was a nice place to spend some time. Overall, it is a place to spend about couple of hours if you are passing near Ponda or Mollem.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Mahadev temple at Tamdisurla

We were just in time before closing of the temple. At the base of the western ghats was the Mahadev temple at Tamdisurla, 13th century temple dedicated to lord Shiva. Ignoring the vendors selling puja items, we proceeded towards temple. A nice path lead to the temple well preserved by ASI.

Side view of Mahadev temple

The architectural features of the temple reflects later Chalukyan and Hoysala styles. The temple stands on a simple plinth. The carvings are not so intrinsic but there are some nice stuff.

Path leading to temple

Carvings in the temple
A statue of nandi that is damaged for some reason. 

A stream flows next to the temple. There is also a waterfall that requires a walk of about 90 minutes. We did not had time for it.

Back view of the temple

Where is Tambdisurla?

The temple is about 15 km from Mollem which is situated on Panaji Belagavi highway. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Talade waterfalls, Goa

It would have been a difficult task to locate this waterfall. We were driving inside Bhagwan Mahavir wildlife sanctuary and there were no sign boards and no people to help us. Luckily we met another group who were going to the same place. They also had a guide!!

We parked our car at Talade village and started walking along the narrow path. It was an easy walk but my daughter complained that “it was harder than she thought” as she had imagined to walk on the tar road!! Nevertheless, she could walk easily. 

After walking for about 20-25 minutes, we reached the falls. It was a small falls that made a lovely pool at the base. While we decided to play in the water, the guide mentioned about another falls with bigger pool upstream. After spending some time, we climbed up further to reach another small waterfall. A beautiful place to spend time in water. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Harvelam waterfalls, Goa

Goa is normally associated with beaches. But many people are not aware of hilly side of Goa. So much so that my family was not ready to accept that our trip to Goa has only hills and waterfalls (I did add a beach later!!) in the itinerary. One such place is Harvelam waterfalls. It is easily approachable and provides opportunity to play in water.

As we passed through the mine lorry infested roads of Goa, I had my own apprehensions about the waterfall. There was no signboards about the waterfall and I believed in the map that was taking us to the falls. A km before the falls, a dull board indicated the presence of the falls. At the place where the road ends we parked the vehicle and walked down on the neatly constructed steps amidst the village.

The steps led us to a temple and the stream flowing next to it. We climbed few steps and the waterfall made its appearance. 

The pool formed by the falls
The base of the falls had a very large pool. We also got down into the stream to get the front view of the falls. It was also a good place to play in the water.

Where is this falls?

Harvelam falls is near Sanquelim. Roads are in a good condition through the place after Ponda is surrounded by mines with hundreds of lorries plying.