Dokodemo Door!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Journey to Cambodia #2

Getting to Siem Reap was over five hours by bus; it was an uneventful trip through the countryside.

When we arrived, we got a tuk-tuk to our (surprisingly comfortable) hotel. The next day, we hired a guide to Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat!

The area north of Siem Reap is a syncretic Hindu-Buddhist complex of temple complexes, built-up over several centuries before being mostly abandoned in the 16th century. But, then again, you probably already knew that.

The main draw, Angkor Wat, is something I can't describe better than the pictures can, so here's the link to my gallery of photos. They cover: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and a few lesser temples such as Pre Rup, Ta Prohm and Ta Som.

Coming-up: Finishing Angkor Wat and our last day in Siem Reap.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Journey to Cambodia #1

CamTESOL was a highly-recommended gathering, or so a variety of past attendees told me. (And, yeah, the conference was well-organized. I would consider going again.)

The city of Phnom Penh wasn't as endowed with sights as I'd hoped it would be. On the other hand, it did possess a surprisingly large contingent of foreigners. In addition to the run-of-the-mill backpackers you'd expect to see, there were plenty of retired Australians in evidence.

So what can you see in Phnom Penh? The Royal Palace, some Buddhist temples and the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. Getting around was a cinch thanks to the sheer number of tuk-tuks driving around.

After the conference, we took a 5-hour bus trip up to Siem Reap in the northwest. What could be easier?

Coming-up: Siem Reap and Angkor Wat.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Journey to Cambodia via the Korean DMZ

The primary purpose of my trip was to attend the annual CamTESOL conference in Phnom Penh and  head-out to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat. On the way there, I was determined to make the most of my stop-over in Seoul so I gave myself about 2 days there.

For good reasons, February is not the most popular time to visit Seoul; the temperature hovered between 0 and -5 degrees. The upshot was that I'd (finally) be able to visit Panmunjeom.

I took this video on board the bus to Imjin-gak Park, which is the northernmost public park in South Korea. The Imjin River originates up in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and flows southward over the border. There have been past instances in which the river was used as an infiltration route by spies and commandos from the north, so you'll notice the barbed wire fences and camouflaged blockhouses in the foreground. Also, the mountains in the distance are in North Korean territory; they've been completely deforested.

Part of Imjin-gak Park abuts the southern edge of the Demilitarized Zone. It's still a few kilometers from the Military Demarcation Line (DML) which forms the division between the two countries. When the wind is blowing north, at least one South Korean organization uses the park to launch helium balloons loaded with propaganda leaflets and various humanitarian gifts.

The Joint Security Area at Panmunjeom is a compact complex of several buildings which is under UN jurisdiction (the administrators are Swedish, Swiss and Polish). Civilians must access the JSA as a guest of the UN.

To get in, you have to apply beforehand with a licensed tour operator. There is a dress code for the compound and you must wear a green 'GUEST' badge on your lapel to show you're a civilian. There are plenty of other rules: no pointing, no obscene gestures, etc. This is really not a good place to go if you have problems following directions.

The Military Demarcation Line passes straight through the JSA; the blue structures straddle it. In the next photo, the microphones on the table mark where the border cuts across. It is possible for you to stand with one foot in each of the two Koreas.

There was only one DPRK guard on duty that day.

Other landmarks inside the JSA include the marker of the 1976 axe murder incident and the bridge of no return.

Coming-up: Journey to Cambodia #1.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Journey to Denmark and Sweden, #5

I thought Stockholm was a pretty impressive city. In some ways, I think that it was the high-point of the trip.

The first place we went was the Vasa Museum, which is built around the restored wreckage of a 15th century warship.

The interior of the museum was way too dark for good shots of the Vasa, so you'll have to make do with this model.

We also managed to get a tour of Stockholm City Hall, which is where the Nobel Prize dinners are held. (We didn't get a chance to see the building where the prizes are actually awarded, however.)

I would've liked to have spent more time in Stockholm. Overall, I consider this trip to have been a very successful journey, one which exceeded expectations. Our hosts were to thank for that. Mari and I definitely agree, in principle, that we should head back to visit again some time.