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Cambodia, Destinations, Landscape Architecture, Musings

Preah Khan: Architecture Education Rising from Ruins

March 12, 2013

For the past nearly quarter of a century on the flip side of the planet from my Pacific Northwest nest, the World Monument Fund has been helping bring modern day workforce training opportunities to would-be architects, engineers, archaeologists, and artisans in the midst of a still-recovering country tangled in layers of civil war and jungle-eaten ruins. This is the story of the Preah Khan Project at Cambodia’s Angkor Temples.

I grew up in a land of peace and plentiful resources.

When landscape architecture wormed its way into my curious mind at age 14, I’d already squirreled away countless years of urban planning and city management experience (ahem, they’re releasing a new version of SimCity this year, by the way…). But seriously, when I chose to pursue landscape architecture in university, my world was rife with opportunities to study, to travel, and to gain practical experience in modern-day design, construction, and management.

In other regions, access to higher education and workforce training is not so simple; in other regions, entire generations of skilled artisans and professionals have been lost to war.

Countries like Cambodia, filled with natural and cultural landscapes in need of preservation and protection, riddled with histories of instability, are all too often left to wither alone or to be plundered by foreign governments, unscrupulous business ventures, and outside interest groups.

Happily, I share an encouraging story today. One of foreigners banding together to partner with Cambodian citizens to increase education, skills, and ultimately care for the Cambodian people’s cultural heritage. Continue Reading…

Cambodia, Destinations, Landscape Architecture

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – Scenes from Angkor Thom, Bayon, and Ta Prohm

February 27, 2013

Frozen Portraits at The Bayon

Don’t laugh. I have an admission to make: we followed Angelina Jolie to Cambodia. She beat us to Angkor by a dozen years, filming scenes for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 2000 among the picturesque ruins of the Khmer Empire, and as round the world travelers with a stop in Siem Reap, it was too hard to resist the cheesiness of a little star-stalking during our visit to the ruins.

The Lara Croft: Tomb Raider route includes a visit to the many-faced Bayon Temple within the bounds of the ancient city of Angkor Thom and a trip through the tree-entwined bones of the similarly aged 12th and 13th century Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university of Ta Prohm. Continue Reading…

Cambodia, Destinations, Landscape Architecture

Six Hundred Years After Sunrise, or, Angkor in a Day

February 20, 2013

Angkor is perhaps the greatest of Man’s essays in rectangular architecture that has yet been brought to life.
– Arnold Joseph Toynbee, East to West

Exhibit A: Sunrise at Angkor Wat – The Clichéd (and Beautiful) Pilgrimage Point of Cambodia

A spread of ruins; archaeological remnants of an ancient civilization.

A bit bewildering; there for the seeing, for the picture-taking, with secrets lost from time.

Take several days, they said. We took one, and filled it as full as we could. Continue Reading…

Cambodia, Destinations, Featured Partners, Food, Intrepid

Frogs and Eels and Pig Heads

January 16, 2013

We’d been in Siem Reap for just one night and wandered through the buzzing downtown market stalls: woven scarves and metal jewelry, tourist T-shirts and carved trinkets. Colorful, and fun to gawk at while eating ice cream from Blue Pumpkin, certainly.

But what fun to get up the next morning, hop in a remork, and ride in the opposite direction of the crowds toward a real taste of the vivid, smelly, real-deal village markets supported by the Cambodian families of Tonlé Sap.

Twenty minutes through the countryside, a turn down a few smaller roads, and we arrived at the outskirts of the morning bustle, where space is first-come-first-serve and people set up in the wee hours to claim the best spot. Continue Reading…

Cambodia, Destinations, Featured Partners, Intrepid, Landscape Architecture, Musings

Tonlé Sap Tour: Visiting the Floating Villages of Cambodia

January 9, 2013

An odd juxtaposition: being in a hurry, surrounded by a slow and ancient way of life.

We sped toward Siem Reap, Cambodia on a six-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh. The dinner hour pit-stop barely gave us time to catch our breaths, and we were off again, aimed for few nights’ stay near the temples of Angkor Wat. I watched the sun set out the bus window, glazing everything from rice paddies to rustic roads with warm light, causing me to consider the farmers working the land to grow a living with each passing day.

When we arrived in Siem Reap, we knew our time was limited. Though we planned to join people from around the world in flocking to see the ancient Hindu temple complex ruins of Angkor, we also wished for a chance to experience something a little farther from the crowds, something a little more insightful about present day life in rural Cambodia. Enter: a visit to the remote floating villages of Tonlé Sap.

Floating Village of Kampong Phluk: Tonlé Sap Tour

Tonlé Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, a UNESCO Biosphere welling up to 15,000 square kilometers in the rainy season, draining to the Mekong River, and shrinking to 2,700 square kilometers during the dry season. North America’s Great Salt Lake is 5,483 square kilometers, by comparison.

One and a half million Cambodians live in 127 communities around and on the water. Lake dwellers live in bamboo floating houses and stilted structures, fishing for a living and navigating the waterways as they’ve done for centuries, though motors and foreigners and outside developers are changing the tides. Continue Reading…

Cambodia, Destinations, Social Work

A Psalm for Cambodia

December 18, 2012

A Psalm can take many forms, one of which is a heartfelt cry of misery followed by an exclamation of hope. This is the story of autogenocide, justice and joy in Cambodia. Warning, this post contains accounts from our travels which some people may find disturbing.  

We braced for entry into Cambodia, in part because we knew we’d come face-to-face with its brutal and recent history of war, torture, and terror.

Continue Reading…

Cambodia, Destinations, Musings, Travel Plans

Weekend Update: Death of a King in Cambodia

October 21, 2012

Hello, friends!

A little real-time note for you on this October Sunday.

This past week in Phnom Penh: Cambodians mourning the death of Former-King Sihanouk

Ted and I are in the middle of our five week circuit in Southeast Asia, and I’ve been fumbling around behind the scenes with the tail end of South Africa posts and the next stretch of updates from Zanzibar, Thailand, Laos, and now Cambodia. Continue Reading…