Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Boat People, My Friend Don, and His Mom's Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

Boat People, My Friend Don, and His Mom's Pho Bo 1
Thirty-three years ago today, the Fall of Saigon ended the Vietnam War. A new regime is in place. America has returned. More than 3 million overseas Vietnamese are scattered around the world. While many Vietnamese have moved on -- built lives in new countries, learned new languages, started families -- vestiges of the war still remain for a few hundred Vietnamese in the Philippines. These stateless refugees, the last of the "boat people," have been in limbo for more than a decade. From my Little Saigon post,
"About half a million Vietnamese fled Vietnam in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Vietnamese boat people had to escape communist authorities and raise money to buy passage on rickety boats where they dealt with starvation, Thai pirates who raped, robbed and killed, and hostile locals when they flooded other Southeast Asian countries. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, in 1981 in Thai waters alone, there were 1,149 attacks on 352 boats; 571 people were killed, 243 abducted, and 599 raped by pirates. Read about their experiences. The refugees were placed in camps and processed to determine whether they were actually fleeing persecution or were economic migrants. Not all the refugees came to America, other popular countries included Australia, Canada, and France. But Vietnamese were scattered everywhere with some ending up in Israel, Finland, and Argentina. Read about the "forgotten ones" who weren't eligible for resettlement."
After more than a decade of dealing with waves upon waves of Vietnamese boat people still fleeing their country, the Steering Committee of the International Conference of Indo-Chinese Refugees formed the Comprehensive Plan of Action in June 1989 in order to resolve the crisis. From then on, the boat people were considered asylum seekers, proving you deserved refugee status became much more difficult. Those who determined not to be refugees, and thus unable to go to another country and unwilling to return to Vietnam, ended up in limbo for years. The CPA program ended in 1996, and Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines began shutting down the refugee camps and forcibly repatriating the refugees back to Vietnam. Some camps tear-gassed, beat, and chained the refugees in order to get them to comply. Some refugees committed self-immolation or suicide in protest, rather than return to Vietnam. Protests were held in Vietnamese communities around the world, most notably in Little Saigon. The refugee camps were shut down anyway. The Philippine government sent one planeload of refugees back to Vietnam but stopped because of protests and concerns that repatriation was not humanitarian. Instead, with $1 million USD in donations from overseas Vietnamese and with the help of the Catholic Church-based Center for Assistance to Displaced Persons, 13 hectares were set aside in Puerto Princesa on the island of Palawan to build a "Viet Village" for about 2,500 Vietnamese. While the Vietnamese were allowed to remain in the Philippines, they were not allowed citizenship or employment. They scraped by a meager existence working low-end jobs and selling trinkets on the streets. You can view some pictures their stateless existence online at "The Forgotten Ones" and the rest of the images in Brian Doan's book. Bolinao 52, a documentary by Duc Nguyen, is about one boat that started out in May 1988 with 110 people. The engine died, ignored by passing ships, and refused help by a US Navy ship, they resorted to cannibalism to survive. After 37 days at sea, 52 survived. Visit the Bolinao 52 blog to read about his next documentary, "Stateless." In 2005, thanks to seven years of lobbying by Vietnamese-Australian lawyer Hoi Trinh, America, Australia, and Canada agreed to resettle these last refugees of the Vietnam War. You can read more about Trinh's story at the end of the chapter on Viet Kieu in "Vietnam Now: A Reporter Returns," by David Lamb. The book was published in 2002, the section concerning Trinh is brief but important in understanding his role in resettling the last of the boat people. An Australian documentary by Dai Le called "In Limbo," also has more information on Trinh and his efforts. He gave up a promising career in Australia for a bare-bones subsistence in the Philippines. His efforts were aided by other volunteers in Australia and America. He managed to settle one or a handful of refugees at a time. Until finally in 2005, Trinh's earnest doggedness paid off and the U.S. decided to revisit the issue. Trinh was one of the founders of VOICE (Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment), an organization that works to combat trafficking of women and children, and to resettle the last of the refugees. There are now about 160 refugees left. Which brings me to my friend Don. I've mentioned him before when he stopped by on New Year's Day for a dumplings and noodles lunch at Tasty in San Gabriel, or when he stopped by for some Meyer lemon bars, or when he stopped by for a venison fest. Since February, Don has been in the Philippines, volunteering with VOICE to resettle these last refugees. You can read about his experience on Don's blog. Don was born in America. His parents left in 1975 so they weren't boat people. But this issue affects so many Vietnamese, that as a kid, he volunteered with his mom in walk-a-thons to raise the funds needed in 1996 to create the Viet Village in the Philippines. Needless to say, I am just so very proud of my friend. Before he left, Don invited me and a few of his high school and college friends to his house for dinner. I got a little tour of his parents' garden before we ate. It was pitch-dark so I just pointed my camera at random. I'm not sure what kind of tree this was, but it was reminiscent of the plum blossoms that are popular during Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year).
Boat People, My Friend Don, and His Mom's Pho Bo 2
Miniature orange tree? Tangerines?
Boat People, My Friend Don, and His Mom's Pho Bo 3
Buddha's fingers, or the hand of Buddha. It's a citrus fruit that's more rind and pith than anything else. I've seen it infused in vodka, but beyond that, thought it was merely decorative. Don says his grandmother uses it to flavor soup.
Boat People, My Friend Don, and His Mom's Pho Bo 4
Boat People, My Friend Don, and His Mom's Pho Bo 5
Dinner was the most fabulous pho bo (Vietnamese beef noodle soup). Don's mom made a huge vat with a broth that she had simmered for 14 hours. Now, I know there are cookbooks that say you only need to cook the broth for three hours because all the flavor that's going to be extracted from the bones is done by then. Well, those cookbooks are just plain wrong. Don't believe me? It's simple enough to check for yourself. Next time you make pho bo, ladle out a bowlful after the three-hour mark. Do it again at the 14 hour mark. Taste the difference in each bowl for yourself.
Boat People, My Friend Don, and His Mom's Pho Bo 6
I was in heaven. I ate a huge bowl. For once, I wished I had a bigger stomach so I could eat a second bowl. Don's mom even offered to send me home with some. I shouldn't have been polite and said, "Yes!" :P
Boat People, My Friend Don, and His Mom's Pho Bo 7
I didn't want my story to detract from Don's story or that of the refugees in the Philippines. But really, there are so very many of us. My family escaped during the Chinese exodus of Vietnam. I'm a 79-er by way of Hong Kong. Four nights and three days at sea. Eleven months in the refugee camp. Dear readers, were any of you boat people too? If you've ever wondered about the significance of numbers in pho restaurants, this is one reason why. The other popular number, 54, is because when Vietnam was divided in 1954, 1 million Vietnamese fled from North to South. ***** 1 year ago today, after a cold frost, everything's growing again in my garden -- Lady Fairbanks roses blooming over a trellis, strawberries ripening in the side herb garden, and wildflowers popping up at random.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


My brother stopped by after a visit to the Farmers' Market - Alhambra with a bag of what he said was an "unknown" Asian fruit. They're loquats, I said, surprised that he hadn't had one before.
Loquat 1
Especially because our oldest uncle's neighbor has this magnificent loquat tree. Alas, the neighbor trims his tree so thoroughly that no branches lean over the fence for us to pick. :(
Loquat 2
Loquats originated in southeastern China and made their way to Hawaii by Chinese immigrants. By the 1870s, they were a common sight in California. Loquats ripen in SoCal in April, and in NorCal in May. Though they share similarities in name to kumquats, they are not botanically related. If you ever do manage to find any loquats, they're lovely. Rather reminiscent of apricots. Just peel the lightly fuzzy outside before eating. ***** 1 year ago today, ginormous strawberry-stuffed doughnuts at The Donut Man in Glendora.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Goi Du Du Kho Bo (Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad with Beef Jerky)

Goi Du Du Kho Bo 1

Are you sort of figuring out how my brain works now? I show you pictures of papaya trees with green papaya, then I present a recipe for Goi Du Du Kho Bo (Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad with Beef Jerky). Although, the salad actually came before the papaya. This salad was made back in January.

Green papaya is not sweet, so it's more like a vegetable than a fruit. Very Atkins, low-carb, South Beach Diet-friendly. If that's your thing. There are actually two types of Vietnamese green papaya salad. The kind you see pictured here with beef jerky, and a shrimp and pork version that's a little bit more similar to Thai papaya salad.

You can find kho bo (Vietnamese beef jerky) at most Asian grocery stores, or substitute with a good quality fresh beef jerky. I'm using the jerky I bought from Vua Kho Bo (New Jerky Mfg. Inc.) - San Gabriel. Another option is to serve this with fried liver slices, but that's never quite appealed to me.

You can peel and julienne green papaya for this dish. Or cheat, like I did, and buy some pre-shredded at most Asian grocery stores. :P If you are using fresh papaya, make sure you soak the shredded papaya in salty water for about 15 minutes to remove any lingering waxiness. Drain into a colander and squeeze out excess water before using. You don't need to do this if you buy the pre-shredded papaya as it is already soaking in water. Pre-shredded papaya spoils quickly so make this salad within a day of purchasing it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Papaya Trees

My oldest uncle's papaya trees. Pretty cool huh?
Papaya Trees 1
Papaya Trees 2
Papaya Trees 3
My aunt saw me snapping photos and asked if I wanted to cut one down. I said it's OK, they weren't ripe yet. A few days later, I got a little baggy of ripe papaya. She said they weren't very sweet but they tasted perfect to me. Of course, I can easily eat a whole papaya by myself (and have!). :P
Papaya Trees 4
You can use ripe papaya in my sweet, sour, salty, spicy tropical fruit salad. And green papaya, of course, goes in Goi Du Du Kho Bo (Vietnamese Papaya Salad with Beef Jerky). You can see what else my uncles grow in Garden Updates. ***** 1 year ago today, leftover citrus baked chicken became chicken and dumplings.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Can You Identify My Rose?

That lifeless cane? Turned into a gorgeous velvety red rose. Do you know what it's called? It was here when I moved in so I don't know its name like I do my other roses.
Identify My Rose 1
I liked this angle with the other bud in the background.
Identify My Rose 2
Two days later, it bloomed.
Identify My Rose 3
Update May 12, 2008: Thanks to Nikki Polani, I think this rose might be a Papa Meilland. It certainly looks similar to all the Papa Meilland roses on Google images. Very veiny. Black-red velvety petals. So this is what I shall call it, unless someone tells me different? Other garden updates. ***** 1 year ago today, lil' sis made insalata caprese (Italian Capri tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad), I made citrus roast chicken and roasted golden beets.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Celery, Bleu/Blue Cheese, and Walnut Salad

Celery, Bleu Cheese, and Walnut Salad 1

Since we're on the subject of bleu/blue cheese, another simple salad that's been sitting in my queue is this celery, bleu cheese, and walnut salad.

I was initially inspired by a recipe by Russ Parsons in the Los Angeles Times, except his recipe required 1 bunch of celery, 1 cup bleu cheese, and 3/4 cups walnuts with a shallot vinaigrette. I'd link to the original recipe except the Times has a habit of moving links.

Anyway, I wasn't cooking for anyone except me so the portions in that recipe were way too much. Also, if you're not a fan of celery, bleu cheese, or walnuts, this salad won't be for you. Each of the three components comes through strongly but complement each other rather well. The original recipe called for toasted walnuts but I found that increased the oiliness of the salad and I didn't much care for that.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Iceberg Wedge Salad with Bleu/Blue Cheese Dressing

So you know I made a simple Salad of Iceberg Lettuce, Radishes and a Carrot, but what did I do with the other half of the head of iceberg?

Another American classic - the wedge salad.

Wedge Salad 1

Now, you can be lazy and use store-bought dressing for this, but why would you do that when you can make the best bleu cheese dressing ever? (Hmm. Which spelling do you prefer? Bleu cheese? Or blue cheese?) I found a lovely wedge of blue cheese on sale for only $2. It was probably because it was close to the expiration date but blue cheese is already moldy so how bad can it be? This dressing is so great, you can even use it as a dip with my Sriracha Buffalo wings. Or save a bit for my upcoming recipe of Stuffed Potato Skins.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Iceberg Lettuce, Radish, and Carrot Salad

Food blogging is great. So many foods to try. So many flavors. But really, I don't always eat like that. Sometimes, what I eat isn't really that blog-able. Or is it? I was recently reminded of how much I liked very simple salads when I stopped off at Super-A Foods. I usually try to get my fruits and vegetables at the Farmers' Market - Alhambra to support the independent farmers, but every once in a while I need to hit a chain store for something. I had forgotten how cheap Super-A produce can be. Two heads of iceberg lettuce for $1. Five bunches of radishes for $1. Carrots, I don't remember how much but they're almost always cheap.
Iceberg Lettuce, Radish, and Carrot Salad 1
So after chopping up half of a head of lettuce (25 cents), slicing 3 radishes (6 cents), and shaving slices off 1 carrot (pennies really), added a few drizzles of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing and I had enough salad for three meals. That's less than 10 cents a meal! Who can beat that for cheap eats?
Iceberg Lettuce, Radish, and Carrot Salad 2
What are your some of your favorite simple salads? If this is too bland for you, some of my other salad recipes: Cobb Salad Coleslaw Cucumber Salad Croutons with Garlic and Seasoning Fava and Garbanzo Bean Salad Four Color Carrot Salad Goi Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Salad) Goi Xoai Xanh (Vietnamese Green Mango Salad) Heirloom Tomato Salad Hibiscus Leaf and Pomegranate Mixed Greens Salad Insalata Caprese (Italian Capri Salad - Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella) Waldorf Salad ***** 1 year ago today, old-fashioned mochi (Japanese rice cakes) pounded by hand at Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop, the oldest business in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo and possibly the inventor of the Chinese fortune cookie.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

The first leaves of my jungle red hibiscus came out earlier this month.

Jamaica/Hibiscus Tea 1

Remember the jungle red hibiscus blossoms last November?

I made both a hot and cold hibiscus tea. I think most people are familiar with jamaica (hibiscus tea) when dining at Mexican restaurants, but did you know the Chinese also have a hibiscus drink? Just look at the lovely color of my hibiscus iced tea at Tea Station - Alhambra.

Monday, April 21, 2008

WC's Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry) by Mary Ruth

Who knew my Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry) recipe would be so popular? Have you made it yet? Because yet another reader has. She did a great job too.
Ca Ri Ga by MaryRuth 1
The second submission for Readers Cook WC Recipes comes from MaryRuth of Where's the Bubbler?
"As you requested, here is some feedback on one of your recipes. I made Ca Ri Ga. This was delicious! I even had the leftovers for lunch today, and I think the flavor even improved. This is a pretty straightforward recipe, I followed it to the letter, except for the quantities. I used 6 thighs, 3 large-cut potatoes, 1 small-cut potato and 4 carrots. I ended up using 1.5 cans of coco milk/water. That was mostly because I wanted to make sure that all the food was submerged. Next time I will stick to 1 can and just make sure the meat is covered...the other veggies can steam to cook on top of the meat. I used 2 Tbsp Penzey's Madras curry. This particular curry is a little hot, so I didn't want to go overboard, but next time I would add another tbsp. Fish sauce...I put in 4 good "shakes", but that too could be increased. I served it with brown rice, but the baguette option looks pretty good too. I noticed in your photo and the other posters photo you serve it with a lot of the you end up using a spoon to get it all? I just added enough to my bowl to get everything moistened pretty well, but still used a fork to eat it.
Ca Ri Ga by MaryRuth 2
My house smelled so good while it was cooking! Four forks! I will definitely make this again. My photos turned out kinda crappy, but here they are anyway, You definitely don't have to post them or even use this feedback--I just wanted to let you know that yes, people DO use your recipes! =) Thanks for a great recipe!"
Wanna hijack my blog? Check out Readers Cook WC Recipes for guidelines on how you too can participate. ***** 1 year ago today, my oldest uncle's wife's banh xeo (Vietnamese sizzling crepes).

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Yong Tau/Tow Foo (Chinese Stuffed Tofu)

Yong Tau Foo 1

Don't see any tofu you say? Well, yong tau foo (Chinese stuffed tofu) was created in the 1960s in Chew Kuan restaurant as a dish of only stuffed tofu, and now can mean any of a variety of stuffed vegetables. It is a popular dish in Malaysia and Singapore. The stuffed tofu and vegetables may also be served with a clear soup and noodles.

I had frozen the cha ca (Vietnamese fish paste) my youngest aunt had given me a few months back. For the recent death anniversary dinner of my ba noi (paternal grandmother), I decided to defrost the cha ca and stuff it. But instead of making my usual Dau Hu Nhoi Cha Tom voi Sot Chao Ot (Vietnamese Shrimp Paste-Stuffed Tofu with Fermented Bean Curd Chili Sauce), I remembered Rasa Malaysia had stuffed okra and chili peppers. It was so gorgeous that I decided to prepare it that way as well, but substituting the chili peppers with sweet baby bell peppers. I also had some Brussels sprouts sitting around, so I halved those and stuffed them as well.

I haven't made cha ca since I was 12 years old, so you'll have to wait for that recipe. Or maybe that's just as well because I remember adding baking soda to fluff up the fish paste. Then I got clever and added more baking soda because that would make the fish paste even fluffier right? Well, it did, but it also made the fish paste incredibly bitter. So for now, you can either buy from the store, or use my recipe for shrimp paste. You can find fish paste at most Asian grocery stores either in the fresh seafood counter or frozen. Depending on the variety of fish, the paste may be either pink, pale gray, or gray.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Chao/Doufu Ru (Fermented Bean Curd)

Fermented bean curd, called chao in Vietnamese and doufu ru in Chinese, is a type of pickled tofu. It is sometimes called "Chinese cheese" because of its similarities in smell, texture, and taste to softened bleu cheese. The dried fermented tofu may be pickled with salt, rice wine, or vinegar. Red fermented bean curd has chili peppers. The fermented bean curd is sold cubed with brine, in jars or clay pots.

Chao (Fermented Bean Curd)

It is popular in Vietnamese and Chinese cooking. Fermented bean curd is very strong in flavor so a little bit goes a long way.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dau Hu Chien (Vietnamese Fried Tofu)

Dau Hu Chien 1

This is a quick and easy recipe that you can eat as a side dish. The tofu is also a great base for my upcoming recipes: Dau Hu Nhoi Cha Tom (Vietnamese Shrimp-Paste Stuffed Tofu) and Yong Tau Foo (Chinese Stuffed Tofu).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How to Chop and Prepare Sugarcane

For Blondee47, who asked for directions after a many-many-months-long search to find sugarcane in Canada just so she can make my recipe for Chao Tom (Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp Paste Wrapped Around Sugarcane). And also because she always leaves such nice comments after she tries one of my recipes. :)

Sugarcane 1

OK, so go into your backyard and cut down some sugarcane. What? You don't grow sugarcane in your backyard you say? You mean everyone doesn't do that?! If you don't grow your own sugarcane, I've seen them sold at the Farmers' Market - Alhambra, and in some Asian and Latino grocery stores.

My ba noi (paternal grandmother) planted this patch of sugarcane on a 1-foot wide strip behind my second-youngest uncle's house about 20 years ago.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pomegranate Blossoms

The very first pomegranate blossom on my tree. I can't wait until I can taste these incredibly sweet pomegranates again.
Pomegranate Blossoms 1
Pomegranate Blossoms 2
Pomegranate Blossoms 3
For your viewing pleasure, Garden Updates are now all cataloged and sorted with a list of what flower, fruit, or vegetable pictures can be found in each post. Enjoy! ***** 1 year ago today, a discussion on "authenticity" during lunch at Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen - Orange.

Monday, April 14, 2008

World's Smallest Mangoes?

I was at my second-youngest uncle's house recently when his wife gave me some mangoes to take home. I think they may quite possibly be the world's smallest mangoes? Ignore my fat fingers for a minute, but aren't the mangoes so very cute? I think they're champagne mangoes.
World's Smallest Mangoes 1
World's Smallest Mangoes 2
World's Smallest Mangoes 3
Look at the skinny seed! My aunt kept giggling every time she ate one and got to the center with the oh-so-thin seed.
World's Smallest Mangoes 4
She bought a whole case of them. Second-youngest uncle said they were more work, but I guess he just doesn't appreciate the absurdity like we did. :) ***** 1 year ago today, my oldest uncle's wife's nem nuong (Vietnamese grilled pork patties). And mine too!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Peanut Butter and White Chocolate DrizzleCorn

Last Thanksgiving, my brother brought me a bag of peanut butter and white chocolate drizzled popcorn from Dale and Thomas. I had completely forgotten about it until now.
Peanut Butter and White Chocolate DrizzleCorn 1
It doesn't look like much...
Peanut Butter and White Chocolate DrizzleCorn 2
...until you look closer. See the drizzles of peanut butter and white chocolate? Mmm.
Peanut Butter and White Chocolate DrizzleCorn 3
They were a little stale after having sat around for six months, but my brother says that's how they normally taste. I think my brother said he bought it from Whole Foods. I'm not a huge popcorn fan so I've always been satisfied with a $1 bag of freshly popped kettle corn from the farmers' market in Alhambra. After typing up this post, I now have such a craving for Garrett's buttery caramel popcorn. I hope my Chicago readers will eat some for me! ***** 1 year ago today, my second-youngest uncle's wife's bun rieu (Vietnamese shrimp and crab noodle soup), packed to go.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Southern Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes with Cream Gravy Redux

"Who just wakes up and decides to make homemade fried chicken?" asked my cousin's cousin's daughter who was over that day. Evidently, I do.
Mashed Potatoes and Southern Fried Chicken
Later on when their mom came to pick them up, my cousin's cousin's son said, "Mom, she even makes her own gravy." They sounded so perplexed. This time I took step-by-step photos and much better pictures. So if you haven't already, go check out my original recipe for Southern fried chicken and mashed potatoes with cream gravy. ***** 1 year ago today, chicken fingers for when I don't feel like making a whole meal of Southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Calbee Seaweed and Salt Potato Chips

They look like sour cream and onion potato chips, but they're not.
Calbee Seaweed and Salt Potato Chips 1
Seaweed and salt potato chips from Calbee, the same company that brought you shrimp-flavored chips. If you like eating strips of toasted seaweed, then you'll like these. Yes, there were bigger chips in the bag, but *burp* I ate them all before I remembered to take photos. :P The "new BBQ" flavor actually tasted like Chicken in a Bisket, remember those? Not bad but at $1.89 for a 2.8-oz bag, once for the novelty factor was enough.
Calbee Seaweed and Salt Potato Chips 2
Care to see other wacky "fun food"? It's now all categorized! San Gabriel Superstore 1635 San Gabriel Blvd. San Gabriel, CA 91776 626-280-9998 ***** 1 year ago today, oh how the mighty have fallen. One of my favorite dim sum restaurants is now lackluster at best - NBC Seafood Restaurant in Monterey Park.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ta Prohm - Cambodia

This was my favorite. Here's a map to Angkor Archeological Park again so you can get an idea of where Ta Prohm is in relation to other buildings. Ta Prohm (ancestor Brahma) was built by King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. Previously called Rajavihara (royal temple), Ta Prohm was built in 1186 as the first in a series of public works constructions when the king ascended the throne. The French decided to leave the trees alone in order to retain the romantic feel of Ta Prohm when they began conserving the temples of Angkor at the beginning of the 20th century. The two trees are the silk cotton and strangler fig. I think the pictures speak for themselves.
Ta Prohm 1
Ta Prohm 2
Ta Prohm 3
Ta Prohm 4
Ta Prohm 5
Ta Prohm 6
Ta Prohm 7
After visiting Ta Prohm, we ate lunch in one of the eateries across from Angkor Wat. Then it was back to the hotel for an afternoon nap during the daily rain shower. Our tour guide suggested some other temples, especially for viewing at sunset. But again, rainy season meant murky sunsets. After the lackluster sunrise, we opted to just leave it at that for the day. Seriously, I saw Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom: Victory Gate, Bayon Temple, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the Elephants, Prasats Suor Prat, and Phimeanakas in one day. After a while, no matter how majestic, it does begin to seem like yet another pile of stones or yet another wall carving. We decided to end the visit to Angkor with Ta Prohm, so that the impact of the temples wouldn't be diminished. Other things to do in Siem Reap? I stayed in and took a longer nap while my friends went CD and DVD shopping with our tour guide. He also took them to a cafe where there was dancing. I can't remember what we did that night. I think we slept because it had been a long day and we were planning a visit to a floating village the next morning. These travel posts take entirely way too long to write. So I'll take a bit of a break before I finish up with the floating village. I suggest reading my Cambodia series in this order: Dith Pran and the Killing Fields Memorial in Siem Reap - Cambodia Khmer Classical Dance at Koulen Restaurant - Siem Reap - Cambodia Angkor Wat Angkor Thom: Victory Gate, Bayon Temple, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the Elephants, Prasats Suor Prat, and Phimeanakas Ta Prohm Chong Kneas Floating Village - Tonle Sap (Great Lake) - Cambodia For a related post on Cambodian food: Battambang Seafood Restaurant - San Gabriel ***** 1 year ago today, a super-healthy dinner of kinpira (Japanese sauteed gobo root (burdock) and carrot matchsticks) and roasted gobo root.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Angkor Thom: Victory Gate, Bayon Temple, Prasats Suor Prat, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the Elephants, and Phimeanakas - Cambodia

So after our very early morning exploring Angkor Wat, we went back to the hotel for breakfast and a nap. Then it was onto to Angkor Thom (great city). Here's a map to Angkor Archeological Park so you can get an idea of where buildings are in relation to each other. And this is a close-up map of Angkor Thom grounds. Again according to Wikipedia, Angkor Thom was the last and most enduring Khmer capital. It was built in the 12th century by king Jayavarman VII. Former state temples Baphuon and Phimeanakas, built centuries earlier on the site, were incorporated into the Royal Palace. Statues on the bridge to the Victory Gate entrance into Angkor Thom.
Angkor Thom 1
The statues appear to be engaged in a tug of war, perhaps a recreation of the Churning of the Sea of Milk? If you notice, the statue in front appears well-preserved. Too well-preserved. Throughout the years, many of the original heads have been stolen and sold on the black market.
Angkor Thom 2
Close-up of Victory Gate.
Angkor Thom 3
Backside of Victory Gate.
Angkor Thom 4
Bayon temple was built in the late 12th or early 13th century. It doesn't look like much from afar.
Angkor Thom 5
Until you catch a glimpse of the faces.
Angkor Thom 6
There are an estimated 200 faces. I first thought they were images of Buddha, but they look to me like an exact replica of the statue of king Jayavarman VII that is on display at the Musee Guimet in Paris. Or do you think the faces are of Lokesvara?
Angkor Thom 7
Close-ups from the upper terrace. Bayon once had 49 towers, only 37 remain.
Angkor Thom 8
Angkor Thom 9
Angkor Thom 10
Angkor Thom 11
Angkor 12
On the grounds inside Angkor Thom.
Angkor Thom 13
Angkor Thom 14
Another butterfly.
Angkor Thom 15
The butterflies were found somewhere around the area of the Terrace of the Leper King and the Terrace of the Elephants. I was simply too tired and reaching ruin-overload so I was remiss in snapping photos. But luckily, Kirk of Mmm-yoso has lots of photos and a very detailed description of his visit. Prasats Suor Prat (towers of the tight-rope dancers). No one is quite sure what these 12 towers built in the late 12th century were used for. If you believe the name, a high wire stretched between each tower for acrobats to perform during festivals. Or were they used to resolve disputes with contestants sitting on the tower, while his relatives remained at the base, until the person showed their guilt by coming down with ulcers or other maladies after several days?
Angkor Thom 16
I think this building is Phimeanakas (celestial temple). Built at the end of the 10th century as a Hindu temple. It was later rebuilt as a pyramid with a tower on top. Legend has it that the king must spend the first watch of each night on top of the tower with a Naga girl. I'm not sure if the legend refers to Naga as the Hindu and Buddhist definition of a race of supernatural beings with snake-like attributes or as a revered ancestor of the Cambodians, but either way, if the king did not show up, his land was doomed. Can you see the guy in the window? That tiny splash of color is why I like this shot. It was hot and humid and after climbing Angkor Wat and Bayon, and walking around inside Angkor Thom, my friends and I were too tired to climb Phimeanakas.
Angkor Thom 17
On Royal Palace grounds, still inside Angkor Thom. If you refer back to the map of the inside of Angkor Thom, I think this is one of those large pools near Phimeanakas.
Angkor Thom 18
One of my favorite shots. I loved the contrast of the monks' saffron robes against the grayish-green background.
Angkor Thom 19
Another favorite shot. I liked the center focus on the stone head. My tour guide said when they try to reconstruct temples, they first lay them all out like this so they can figure out what goes where.
Angkor Thom 20
I suggest reading my Cambodia series in this order: Dith Pran and the Killing Fields Memorial in Siem Reap - Cambodia Khmer Classical Dance at Koulen Restaurant - Siem Reap - Cambodia Angkor Wat Angkor Thom: Victory Gate, Bayon Temple, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the Elephants, Prasats Suor Prat, and Phimeanakas Ta Prohm Chong Kneas Floating Village - Tonle Sap (Great Lake) - Cambodia For a related post on Cambodian food: Battambang Seafood Restaurant - San Gabriel In other news: Wow! This is my 500th post! I've got some backdated posts that still need to be updated so I'm only counting the posts in which I hit "publish post." 500!!! ***** 1 year ago today, Japanese gobo root (burdock) fries.