Monday, May 31, 2010

Silk Factory and Floating Villages

Siem Reap, Cambodia:

The highlight of the silk factory was eating a silk worm. As 80% of the worms are killed in the process of getting their cocoon for the silk, there are a few number left over for eating, thus feeding the workers and others. Actually not too bad, tasted like a potato and didn't have a bad aftertaste. Had a couple and all were good. Probably not something I'd eat on a regular basis, but wouldn't turn down again.

The worms eat mulberry leaves, then weave a cocoon and the workers take the cocoon and get tons of silk out of it which they can dye, weave and work with. that's my condensed version of making silk. It's definitely a process and the women do the same thing every day which seems very monotonous and bad for the hands. At the Indonesian cigar factory, the women switch jobs every day so they keep it interesting and use the hands in different ways.

We also checked out some floating villages, accesible by a very shallow river going out to the lake. Since it was the dry season, there was only 1 meter of water and boats kept getting stuck on the way out to see the floating homes. Very cool out there, full villages with schools, stores, churches and even a floating basketball court. Normal lives, based around fishing, take place on the lake, everyone with boats, most that they have to bail out at the start. Looked rough to us, but they've been doing it for years.

Temple City

Siem Reap, Cambodia has over 200 temples around the city, with Angkor Wat being the superstar of them all. Trinity and I had 3 days to explore as many temples as possible. Hopping on a Tuktuk, a couple of seats with a top pulled by a motorbike, we would head north to the temples, validating our 3 day ticket on the way (which helps fund the temple restoration). Most of the temples were being worked on, restoring them to gandeur which they used to have over 800 years ago.

Angkor Wat is the largest religious temples in the world, or something like that. It's the grandaddy of Cambodian temples and is on the flag, although it's not the oldest. It's got a moat that puts all European castles to shame. It takes about 5 minutes to walk across the walkway to get to teh outer wall and then another 5 minutes to get to the entrance of the temple itself. Intricate carvings are all over and there are some super cool bas reliefs on all sides. Many levels and great views all over, truly an impressive time.

My favorite temples of Preah Kahn, where Tomb Raider was filmed. All jungle like with trees taking over all the walls. Very cool looking and packed full of tourists. Others had Buddha faces all over the place, some had the Buddha faces removed when a new king came in and changed the religion.

There were lots of struggles between the demons and the gods, often pulling a long serpent around a stick stuck into the ground to "churn the milk" and release immortality. Got to learn more about Buddhism and Hinduism, and got a fair amount of photos taken with my main man Buddha.

All in all, a very cool place to visit, amazing architecture everywhere, although much of it run down. For example a 70m long reclining Buddha looks only like that in diagrams, as the real life is a work in progress putting it back together. Other sculptures are worn down or have heads missing. Lots have been ruined by pollution and are all black. But often the size and meaning is still there, causing people to stand back and just appreciate the Cambdodian temples.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


My sister Trinity met me in Jakarta and we set off to the island in Indonesia that used to be called Borneo, now Kalimantan. Pretty much the main reason the toursists go there is to check out the orangutans.

Along with friends Kelly, and Curtis, who live in Jakarta, we boarded a boat for a 3 day 2 night trip along a small river up into monkey territory. The first night we saw long tailed maccau monkeys swinging in the trees. Super cool start, to go along with the feast of food that we got at each meal. Great Indonesian food done up by our chef, who alng with 3 crew and 1 guide made up the rest of the boat.

We slept under mosquito nets on the deck, nice and quiet with no one around. Awaking early for breakfast, we then went to the first feeding of the day. Twas a big success with about 10 orangutans coming out to see us and the food. Big Papa, the dominant male, came down the path and scared the others up in the trees and the tourists down the path. Made for some excitement, but was all safe. Pretty relaxed monkeys, semi-tame they say, but still a wild monkey in their territory.

The second feeding after lunch had orangutans chilling more in the trees, swinging around and showing off their size. Little babys exploring on the vines and doing things that probably warrant wearing a helment. Very cool, despite the fact that there were a lot more tourists there taking photos.

All in all, an amazing trip, with great photos that can be viewed here:

Friday, May 7, 2010

Volcano photos

Active Indoensian volcanoes

3729 meters high, that's the height of the summit on Mt Rinjani, the volcano in the Indonesian island of Lombok that I just climbed.

Starting at 1100m, we hiked up to 2500m over 5 hours to our camp, watching the sunset through the clouds and eating a feast cooked up by our porters. We had one guide and 2 porters who carried our food, water, tents and sleeping bags. Part of the hike package, which everyone has to do, so we got to live like kings hiking with great meals and a tent already set up for us when we got to the top.

The hike up was through grasslands, and fields and then through lava fields and up through trees high up with mist everywhere, past the clouds and up the crater rim. The temperature dropped often and was pretty cold at night, but nothing compared to the summit at 5:30am watching the sunrise.

We awoke at 2:30am for a quick breaky and then hiked for almost 3 hours up to the top, on a trail made of scree, meaning for every step we went up, we slid down a little. Not the easiest hike, especially in the dark and cold. Luckily the moon was pretty bright and we did it without lights. Sar our guide knew the trail well and we kept a steady pace.

I was the first one to the top, all alone for over 5 minutes before the next person came. So amazing to be alone on top of the mountain, watching the sunrise and freezing my tail off. 5 degrees Celsius, and my hands were freezing, as I'd forgotten I'd packed my gloves in my bag.

From the top we had a good view of the volcano below erupting twice while climbing and once on the way down. Huge clouds of ash shooting out and one time we could both hear and feel the eruption. So amazing. Fun just to watch the volcano in action. It's been growing a lot lately, so will most likely be much bigger in the coming years.

Coming down sucked, the knees hurt, the body was tired and I decided to go back to Gili Trawangan, my island paradise, to chill and rest, rather than keep exploring Bali over the next few days. SO I'm here, relaxing on the beach, drinking freshly made juices and reading, taking it easy. Quite a nice option after the huge hike.