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Angkor Wat

March 19, 2014
After forty years of marriage Mrs. Chatterbox continues to surprise me. While planning our trip to Thailand she informed me she wanted to make an excursion to Cambodia. I had no idea she wanted to cross Angkor Wat off her bucket list.


We flew from Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Siem Reap in the Kingdom of Cambodia. I didn’t know what to expect, and it dawned on me that we might not be well received since the US bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, but travel is the best way to correct misconceptions. In spite of its troubled past (Pol Pot murdered three million people in the late 70’s trying to turn the country into a communist farm) we discovered a land filled with warmth and fascinating scenery.


We were picked up at the small Siem Reap airport by our guide Kong. (He claimed his real name was unpronounceable to westerners.) Later, we would learn an unsettling fact about Kong, but once again I’m getting ahead of my story. Our hotel was comfortable, except for the presence of live Siamese crocodiles in the lobby. We settled in and the next morning ventured out to see the largest religious complex ever created— the only manmade structure currently featured on a national flag.


My familiarity with these buildings derived solely from Indiana Jones and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movies. Building began here in the 10th century. It seemed important to Kong that we understand that this was built by the Khmer people before the creation of Notre Dame in Paris. The history of the complex is…complex, but at its peak the site boasted a population of over a million, larger than London or Paris at the time.


Angkor Wat, like India’s Taj Mahal, is a recreation of paradise, but instead of an Islamic version we’re presented with one that’s Hindu. According to tradition, the Hindu gods lived on mountain tops, but Cambodia doesn’t have mountains so it was necessary to create them. The impressive towers represent the peaks of the distant Himalayans. The vast moat surrounding the complex symbolizes the ocean.




Mrs. Chatterbox at Angkor Wat







Prasat Bayon is the region’s only Buddhist temple. The 216 gigantic faces are thought to be a merging of Buddha’s features with those of King Jayavarman VII, who ordered the temple’s construction in the late 12th or early 13th century.







Preah Khan, the epitome of an abandoned jungle temple, has captured the imagination of people everywhere. It was initially reclaimed from the jungle between 1927-1932. Cambodia isn’t known for earthquakes and all the damage you see in these pictures was done solely by the uncontrolled growth of wild fig trees.









Each day in Cambodia reached over a hundred degrees and summer had yet to arrive. We climbed over temples and drank copious bottles of water provided by Kong—ten bottles a day without peeing. Fortunately, our hotel had a wonderful swimming pool, which I plunged into every evening after checking the lobby to be certain the crocodiles were still in their pen.




Yikes another couple hundred years that'll just be a pile of rocks among fig trees.
By: PT Dilloway on March 19, 2014
You two live the stuff of dreams. Y'all are inspiring to the rest of us to get out of our own little words and explore~
By: on March 19, 2014
I have always been interested in Camodia and Angkor Wat is a place I long to visit. Great photos of Mother Natures work on man's construction. And once again you and your lovely wife are just adorable. Thank you for sharing this leg of your adventure. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on March 19, 2014
I've seen pics of this place and it's SO COOL!! Mrs. C does it again - taking you to a world famous wonder. What would you do without her? (Probably fall in the croc cage.) Thanks for these travelogues. They're so much fun! :)
By: Lexa Cain on March 19, 2014
the structures and buddhas are great, but those fig trees! wow!
By: TexWisGirl on March 19, 2014
That tree reminds me of the one in Spielberg's Poltergeist film.
By: Bryan Jones on March 19, 2014
As spectacular as the buildings are, I am more impressed by what nature can do...amazing Fig Tree!
By: CRanky on March 19, 2014
It is so wonderful that you both enjoyed travelling together to places you've dreamed about.
By: Daniel LaFrance on March 19, 2014
Fascinating, and a reminder to never underestimate what people can do when they are determined. No one should look down on the stunning accomplishments of those who came before us.
By: mimi on March 19, 2014
Beautiful! Amazing how much our Western-influenced history never paid much attention to Asian, Mesoamerican, and African civilizations which, in many ways, outpaced those of Europe.
By: Al Penwasser on March 19, 2014
Did I miss something in the story? Why did the million residents scatter?
By: Scott Park on March 19, 2014
Lovely photos, Stephen, and a great read as always. Thank you for sharing this. I'm pleased Mrs C and you had such a wonderful holiday :)
By: Sharon Bradshaw on March 19, 2014
Fascinating! I'm surprised the wild fig trees were not stopped. It's a bit eerie to see this "melding" of nature and man's great architecture.
By: Tom Cochrun on March 19, 2014
That is fascinating. I am surprised that the Cambodians don't do something to kill the growth of the fig trees that are compromising the structure. OR maybe there is no way to stop fig trees. (me not being a fig tree expert and all) You two are certainly brave travelers. You made mention of an "unsettling fact" about Kong..Are you going to tell us more about him? My curiosity is peaked. 100 degrees and it's not even summer. I am shocked this is such a tourist destination.
By: Cheryl P. on March 19, 2014
Wow! Amazing photos and what an experience. Also, I love seeing the photos of Mrs. C and her consort.
By: Mitchell is Moving on March 19, 2014
wowee- I think Mrs C is an amazing Travel guide and those fig trees are stupendous- thanks for sharing your travels with us!
By: kathe w on March 19, 2014
That's an amazing story. Too often the west is blinded by their own history to consider that other developments went on before ours. Amazing fig trees. I'm glad Mrs C wanted to go to Cambodia.
By: red on March 19, 2014
So when you plunged into the pool at the end of each day having not peed all day, were you tempted? :D
By: LL Cool Joe on March 19, 2014
We've been trying to grow a fig tree in our backyard. I wonder if we should kill it now, while it's still little... Nice to see your and Mrs. C's photos in front of such amazing structures. And yes, I hope you quickly tell us "the rest of the story" regarding your tour guide Kong!
By: Pixel Peeper on March 19, 2014
thank you for that informative post. i didn't know that the mountains were represented by the building like that. sounds like you had a great trip despite the crocodiles in the lobby. i love the pic of mrs c in front of that amazing structure. such interesting photos of the fig trees. lovely stuff
By: Fran on March 19, 2014
Dang! That's some fig tree! I only know of this place from seeing it on The Amazing Race. But my son yelled, "Angkor Wat!" the minute I called him in and showed him the third picture. He's a history buff. Me, not so much.
By: Val on March 19, 2014
Wow, I'm getting an education, second hand. Stupid question, I know, but are these big ugly trees where we get figs from?
By: tom sightings on March 19, 2014
thank you for that informative post. i didn't know that the mountains were represented by the building like that. sounds like you had a great trip despite the crocodiles in the lobby. i love the pic of mrs c in front of that amazing structure. such interesting photos of the fig trees. lovely stuff
By: Fran on March 19, 2014
What a fascinating post, I really enjoy reading about your travels.
By: John on March 20, 2014
The architecture and art style are so alien - they seem to have no connection with anything we have here, like a completely separate evolution of reference points. Love it.
By: Katy Anders on March 20, 2014
What an amazing place. I can see why Mrs. C. was keen on seeing it. I hadn't ever even heard of it but now I've seen wonderful photos thanks to you and Mrs. C. Those fig trees are just .. intimidating.
By: Hilary on March 20, 2014
Another wonderful adventure...and those photos are divine. Such a great place to go to. Are you ever going to go somewhere just for the nature? Like Tasmania?
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on March 21, 2014
By: The Bug on March 26, 2014

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