Speaking of Angkor Wat…

Angkor WatSlim Paley photo

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Mentioning Angkor Wat in yesterday’s post reminded me that it was exactly this time last year that I made my first, but hopefully not my last visit to Cambodia.  The trip was organized by my friend Penelope Tree, who is passionately involved in Lotus Outreach International, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the education, health and safety of vulnerable women and children in the developing world.

The world needs to grow many more Penelope Trees!

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Angkor WatSlim Paley Photo

Some of the real highlights of our trip included visits to schools and homes that were providing education and shelter to these lovely young women.   Our first stop was Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city in the country. We stayed at the beautiful old Colonial Raffles Hotel Le Royal.  That vaguely familiar smell of musty, ever so slightly moldy humidity greeted me like an old friend. If smells have a colour, this is a verdant green. I love it!  Give me intense moist heat, a ceiling fan, a Gin & Tonic and a lizard crawling up the wall and, well, actually, you had me at Gin & Tonic.

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Raffles Hotel, Phnom Penh Slim Paley Photo

Raffles  Phnom Penh

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.Raffles Hotel, Cambodia

Slim Photo


Cambodia

Slim photo

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Phnom Penh is quite a beautiful city (It was known as The Pearl of Asia in the 1920′s) with an abundance of Khmer and French Colonial inspired architecture.  Unfortunately I don’t think it will ever emerge completely from the shadow of it’s ghastly history.  As painful as it is to visit Tuol Sleng prison, it somehow felt very wrong not to.

  The gentleman in the photo below was one of only a handful of prisoners to survive Tuol Sleng.  He lost his entire family there but was spared death himself only because he was a machinist and the guards needed his expertise.  When the Pol Pot regime fell he vowed he would come back to the prison every single day for the rest of his life until at least one of those responsible for his family’s murders was brought to trial.  A little less than two weeks after I returned home that finally happened!  I love knowing that he no longer needs to make his daily trek there, to sit ever patient vigil amongst the ghosts.

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Tuol Sleng, CambodiaSlim Photo…………………………

Tuol Sleng courtyard

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The second leg of our journey brought us to Battambang, where we stayed at a very charming French Colonial Bed & Breakfast most memorable for the moment when I told the waitress that my drink tasted reeeeeally terrible (like ditch water, though I didn’t say that) and she insisted on drinking some herself, then taking it back to the bartender who proceeded to partake  as well before deciding that yes, I did still have to pay for it.  Hilar.

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Cambodian bar

The Stinky Drink Hotel

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hotels CambodiaSlim Paley Photo

The Stinky Drink hotel room.

Not bad actually…I told you I’m a push over for old fans and mosquito netting.

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Cambodia

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Lotus Outreach CambodiaSlim photo

The beautiful young ladies sponsored by Lotus Outreach

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CambodiaSlim Paley Photo

Rush hour Battambang

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Slim Paley photo

Casual Friday in Battambang

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River life, CambodiaSlim Paley photo

Life on the river

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net fishing, CambodiaSlim Paley photo

Enormous fishing nets

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Slim Paley Photo………………….

Oh dear- whose suitcase could that possibly be??!!

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.Slim Paley, Cambodia

There are a lot of stairs in Cambodia!

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Our third, final and by far best destination after our glorious day-long journey down the river was Siem Reap.  This is a place you should see in your lifetime.  Let me clarify that- if you are willing to get up a couple of hours  before the crack of dawn in order to see some of the most incredible sites you’ll ever see, then you should visit Siem Reap.  We stayed at The Amansara Resort so trust me when I say that dragging myself out of  bed at ungodly hours was not an easy feat.

That being said, The Bayon at daybreak when there isn’t another soul around is a profoundly moving experience.

Coming back to the hotel for Chai tea, yoga and a massage…priceless.

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The Bayon, CambodiaSlim Paley photo

The Bayon  before sunrise

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Moon over the Bayon, CambodiaSlim Paley photo

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Amansara, Siem Reip

The Amansara guest lounge

Enjoying a cocktail, wearing my omnipresent green fatigue pants and trusty Uggs, when who should float by but Anne Bass in, oh I don’t know, Oscar De La Renta Resort 09? and custom made ballet flats, toes pointing out. When I walked by her table I too tried to walk with my toes and hips out, dancer style (why?  Vod. & Ton. perhaps?) but I think I only succeeded in looking like something wet had fallen into my Ugg.

Oh well…I’ll never see her again.


My room at the Amansara, which was sleek, sexy and smelled divine.

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Our Lotus folding class at the Amansara

folding lotus flowersSlim Paley photo

Alright, so these aren’t ours, but we did take a lesson, laughed a lot and mangled some poor lotuses into deformed bellybuttons.

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Angkor WatSlim Paley photo

Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat, CambodiaSlim Paley photo

One of largest and most well preserved religious monuments in the world, dating back to the 12th century

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Angkor Wat, CambodiaSlim Paley photos.

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Siem Reap

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Motor biking through the jungle

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The River of a Thousand Lingas, Cambodia

Taking tea at the river of a Thousand Lingas

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Cambodia

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Monk in Siem ReapSlim Paley photo

And now for some Monk Music. This was playing in my hotel room when I first arrived and I can’t listen to it now without feeling very emotional.


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Sunset in CambodiaAll photos taken by Slim Paley

……………………….Sunset over the infamous fields of Cambodia taken from a little bamboo train

click here for Amansara Resort

PLEASE

Click here for info on Lotus Outreach International

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Books

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10 thoughts on “Speaking of Angkor Wat…

  1. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful, amazing photos. Also thank you for the link to Lotus Outreach International.

  2. You seriously need to consider photography publishing! You have a book in waiting. Love the Slim Paley as your ‘anon’ label. Reminds me of a cross between Slim Keith and Babe Paley who are both legends of style, substance and soul. Thank you for this beautiful post.

  3. Gorgeous, loving the blog…..the only thing I would suggest if you head to Angkor again is to stay after the early morning sunrise and walk and climb then….no others around you can ‘hear’ in your mind’s eye the world that came before…that does add to the visit of one of the most magical places on earth.

  4. Hey, that’s my suitcase!

    Thanks for incredible photos and the Lotus Outreach International link.
    I’ll be dreaming of Amansara tonight.

  5. casual friday – too funny. love it. i so want to go there. that is on my list of things to do before i die. that list is easier than my 2010 resolutions.

  6. Love these photos! They made my heart beat faster with memories of our visit to Angkor. We climbed to the top of Angkor Wat (yeah, ouch all the steps!) and lingered until we were among the last few to leave at sunset. But we didn’t want to leave. It was so peaceful at that time of day.

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