Cambodia: Photos of Angkor, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh

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I’ve been in Bangkok, Thailand for 36 hours. As my best friend Colin says, “It’s kind of funny when Thailand becomes your benchmark for modernity and you’ve grown up outside New York City.” But for the first time in 7 weeks I have hot water, air conditioning, and a washer and dryer. There are cars, highways, and skyscrapers. And I would be lying if I said my time in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia depleted my American, consumer-driven ways.

Today I wandered around Siam Square’s luxurious malls. I went into Jimmy Choo’s and held a pair of shoes that cost more than my budget for the last 2 months. I think it was obvious because the girl at the counter looked me up and down with snooty disapproval. I guess my grungy sweats weren’t up to par? But I shrugged it off, found an equally snooty French cafe and ate my weight in birthday cake. Then, I went back to my hostel, got in the shower, turned the knob to scalding lava hot, and stood there for 30 minutes until my skin was bright red. (To all you eco-conscious folk: Trust me, I’ve conserved enough water by not showering in the last 2 months to merit a frivolous 30 minute shower. And, it’s my birthday, so deal.)

Tomorrow I’m catching a 6am flight to Bali, Indonesia!!! So starting now, I’m taking a week long hiatus from the blog and women’s issues to celebrate my birthday in Ubud. I’ll be embracing my inner hippie, doing yoga every day and letting a senile medicine man tell me how I can improve my spiritual well-being (And I’m going to try really hard to tone down the cynicism while he does it).

These photos document my time in Cambodia, sort of. I didn’t take that many photos in Phnom Penh. I spent 5 days in Siem Reap at the beginning of August. Siem Reap is a tourist destination, known for the famous Angkor Wat temples. Many people are starting to criticize the way tourism and development are affecting the city and its residents. I tried to balance out my photos to show you the incredible temples but also give you some insight into the lives of Cambodian women. I’ve also linked some interesting articles about women’s issues that I read and thought I would pass along…

Rwandan Rebels Rape at Least 179 Women in Congo, New York Times

Notes from a Young American in Congo: Rape Continues, Nicholas Kristof Blog

Schoolgirls and teachers sick from poison gas in Afghanistan, CNN News

The Female Factor: Fighting for Safe Passage on Indian Streets, New York Times

Afghan Women’s Invisible Struggle for Rights, BBC News

Brazil’s Sex Tourism Boom, BBC News

Rwanda Uses Phones to Tackle Maternal Mortality, The Independent

My gorgeous Cambodian friend, Prosper. Saying goodbye to him was really sad and difficult, but that's part of traveling and life! Hopefully, he'll make it to the States one day and meet all of you 🙂

I'm not sure what's going on here...

All my lovely friends at the Boddhi Tree del Gusto surprised me with a little cake and singing on my birthday! Andddd....I got a bouquet of roses, too :). Queen treatment.

The Boddhi Tree crew (minus Prosper and Gail). From left to right (I'm going to butcher the spelling...) Noi, Tea, Nari, Me, and Jantha. )

Many of you have heard me talk about Gail, but for those of you who don't know who this fabulous woman is...Gail is an Aussie who is volunteering with Friends International in Phnom Penh for 4 months. She arrived at our guesthouse a week before I did. We became very good friends and had dinner together at our "sanctuary" every night. Gail, you were a mentor, comfort and wonderful friend to me during the last 4 weeks. Thank you for all the laughs and life advice! I will miss you so much.


Angkor Wat temple. Photo taken during sunrise, which means I got my butt out of bed at 4am!

Angkor Wat sunrise.

A woman sitting inside a window of one of the many temples in the Angkor complex.

Muslim girl sitting in the Siem Reap Old Market.

When I went on my field visit with ADDA, this woman sat away from the group of women. I think she was just observing because she only stayed 5 minutes. Doesn't she just look like she would be the friendliest grandma in the world?

The beautiful fruit in the Old Market.

These women captivated me - the serenity of the woman in the forefront and the intensity of the girl's posture in the background.

So many bags of rice... Also, it's incredible how graceful the Cambodian women are even when they're doing mundane, day-to-day chores.

An interesting and uncomfortable way to get your afternoon nap.

Khmer woman cooking dumplings in Old Market.

Fried spiders, yum.

Trees have overtaken the temples, an interesting combination of man-made architecture and nature.

Carvings of goddesses.

Legends of the Hidden Temple anyone?

Click here to view more photos from Siem Reap.

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11 comments on “Cambodia: Photos of Angkor, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh

  1. Michael Bates says:

    It’s almost impossible for me to believe that you look so good and healthy after so long without the conveniences of modernity. Please tell me that you did NOT eat any of the friggin’ fried spiders!!

  2. gail says:

    Hi Lauren,

    I know you wont read this for a while because of your remoteness but I must tell you that Prosper dropped into the Boddhi Tree and Yumi is very busy; he looked exhausted! he says hello, as do us all!! Enjoy the inner hippy and Ubud (a perfect match). Safe travels my friend…..

    …….for the first time in 7 weeks I have hot water, air conditioning, and a washer and dryer.
    >>hmmm, makes you wonder how much we really need them once we realise how well we can do without them?!?

    • batesla says:

      Gail!!!! I’m sitting at the little cafe behind the yoga barn in Ubud :). It’s sooo rainy here, but I’m loving it. I do miss my little room at del Gusto though. I hope some interesting people move into it! Clearly I made it through Cambodia’s customs without a problem (phewwwww), so those videos will be back up! And you’re right, 2 days in bangkok was enough, who needs those things when you have bali?!? A big kiss and hug! And just a hug to all my BT boys, don’t want to cause an uproar ;).

  3. Eileen Scofield says:

    Happy Birthday Lauren! I bet that shower was better than any gift you have ever received. Your blog is just great. Love, Aunt Eileen

    • batesla says:

      Aunt Eileen!!! Thank youuu! I miss you all, and I’m a little jealous you’re getting to see mom right now. Send me an email with updates when you have time. I’ll be heading to Houston for a few weeks before xmas, so ill borrow a car and come to lake charles for a few days. xoxox

  4. Aunt Liz says:

    Now how can you ever top this Birthday?? And you have plenty more to go!!
    Enjoy every minute of your time in Thailand.
    Your Photo’s and Friends are Beautiful.
    ****Thank you to GAIL, Prosper and the Gang for the kindness & friendship you share with Lauren! It brings us comfort here at home !!

    Lauren that Long Hot shower was well deserved……..Love Liz

  5. Mary says:

    Lauren: you look so happy in your pictures and your words are so descriptive and telling of the adventures/experiences you are having. It seems your trip is all you hoped and imagined! I look forward to your entries (& am enjoying living vicariously through your journey MUCH more than i enjoyed reading EAT.PRAY.LOVE!!!!!!!). Continue to keep your eyes wide open and your fingers on the keyboard: sharing what you are seeing and experiencing with the many folks left behind who miss you and wish you safe travels ~ mary

    • batesla says:

      Mary, it’s so great to hear from you! I hope your summer was relaxing :). And I am SO HAPPY! As we suspected, this has been the best decision I’ve made in my life. I’m learning so much about myself and meeting so many interesting people. I wake up every morning with a smile and I’m thrilled to be where I am. I cannot thank you enough for helping me get here. I will be making a trip to Nashville after I return, and a Frothy Monkey date is a must. 🙂
      A giant hug and kiss! Lauren

  6. dxo says:

    Hi,
    Very nice blog. I seemed to have stumbled in here from somewhere and was looking for a contact thing or info, but didn’t see any.

    I would really love to blog the woman sitting in the temple image. That’s a great shot! I’d link it back here or wherever you want and give proper credit, etc…

    Thanks for the great look into that part of the world with your great pictures! 🙂

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