Angkor Wat Adventure, Day 2

We started our day at sunrise again after sunrise-sunset exploring the day before, so needless to say we were pretty exhausted. But we powered through and saw some pretty awesome things during our second day.


Sunrise, Angkor Wat

Easily one of the coolest experiences of the trip was walking through the main Angkor Wat temple at sunrise with literally no one around.

Thanks to a friend who had been there before, we knew that while everyone was out front waiting to see the sun rise over the lake, the entire main temple complex would be nearly empty. So we took our flashlights (essential! it was pitch black!) and creeped through the ancient corridors, completely alone.

It was amazing.

We hung out toward the back of the temple when the sun came up, getting a great view of the countryside in the calm morning air. I can’t stress enough how cool that was.

Then, once it was actually light enough to explore inside properly, we took our time following the incredibly detailed bas relief carvings that circle the temple, depicting various battles between gods and demons.

Then, out of nowhere, we ran into another ETA from Korea who was also travelling in Cambodia at the time with some ETAs from Taiwan. We ended up walking around a bit together, chatting, and got a long lunch so we could keep talking about the differences and similarities between our programs and teaching English in Korea vs. Taiwan. 

Then it was off to more temples!


Midday, Bayon

We screwed our schedule up a bit by hanging out with the other ETAs for so long, so we ended up at Bayon right in the middle of the hottest part of the day. If you can help it, don’t do this - it was sweltering and there’s not nearly enough shade to mitigate the problem.

Despite this, Bayon was awesome. From afar it doesn’t look like much, another cool temple complex, but if you look close you can see the famous face carvings all over the temple’s towers. This is another place that you can end up exploring for a while (although with the heat we did end up rushing through it a bit.)


Afternoon, various temples

Around Bayon are a handful of various temples that you can easily walk to (although again, avoid doing this in the heat of the day). Some, like the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King, sounded a lot cooler on paper than they ended up being in real life, but they’re worth a brief look if you have the time.

The highlights in this area were the few temples hidden down wooded paths which were often quite run down but beautiful.

This temple above is Baphuon, which only recently reopened after years of renovation work. Apparently the original archaeologists who were restoring the temple in the 1960s had taken some of it apart when the Khmer Rouge came to power and destroyed the records of where each piece was supposed to go. So it took years to rebuild and no one is quite sure if this is exactly what the temple looked like originally.

And that was the end of our Angkor tour. We were so exhausted that we decided to head back early, skipping the second day’s sunset in favor of going back to bed.

Overall I’d say that Angkor Wat is definitely doable in two days if you don’t mind being exhausted, or three if you want to take your time. Any more and things will get pretty repetitive. 

I will also say that those two days were a highlight of our trip, and it would be incredibly foolish to miss out on Angkor during a trip around Southeast Asia.



I’m never really a fan drawing an “East-West” dichotomy, especially in education, but the idea of praising hard work instead of inherent intelligence is an idea I can get behind. The author also covers that this as a generalization with plenty of counter-examples on either side.

However, claiming encouragement of effort and struggle as one of the tenets of much-lauded Asian education systems is a little more nuanced than the article makes it out to be, or at least according to my experience in Korea. Language surrounding work does pay lip service to the importance of hard work with sayings like “Work hard!” and “You worked hard!” functioning as perfectly good, polite, encouraging or even complimentary phrases in Korean. The article is correct in saying that people from Asian cultures accept that hard work is necessary for achievement, so hard work is expected and assumed if someone succeeds, not natural ability. Yet it’s the results that are truly prized. Hard work is important, but it only really counts if it gets you what you want. Korea is just as guilty of being motivated by the product of hard work rather than the process. While it’s nice to hear that these students in an elementary school were challenged and supported in a classroom environment, there’s much more emphasis on rote memorization at the higher levels. Hard work looks different at a high school study desk covered in test-prep books than it does at an elementary school blackboard with chalk in hand.

On a side-note this link piqued my interest because even though I’m an English teacher, I’ve always wondered why students in Asian excel at math. It’s not about an overtired “Asians are good at math” stereotype. I mean that when I look at the level of math that students in Korea, even students who are majoring in literature or the humanities, are expected to know, it floors me. I’ve wanted to learn how Korean teachers teach math - what does their curriculum look like? Is it really the hagwon system and learning outside of the regular classroom that gets the students to such a high level? Or is it something that teachers do inside a public school classroom? Is the dreaded “drill-and-kill” method really more effective than we squeamish Westerners are willing to admit?


In 1979, when Jim Stigler was still a graduate student at the University of Michigan, he went to Japan to research teaching methods and found himself sitting in the back row of a crowded fourth grade math class.

“The teacher was trying to teach the class how to draw three-dimensional cubes…

I found this original article very interesting, as well as morrowtale’s addition (caveat?) to it. It reminds me a lot of Outliers, the Malcolm Gladwell book I read in college that addresses a bit of this dichotomy as well.

To paraphrase, he points out the difference in how Asian countries farm versus the farming practices in the West, the States in particular. In East Asia, rice is a staple, and the best way to grow rice is to carefully attend to the paddies and cautiously take certain steps at certain times to ensure a high yield. In the States, however, the approach is to plant as much corn and wheat as possible in large swaths, because the more you plant the more you will have at harvest. Gladwell argues that this translates into the work ethic of the two cultures as well, meaning  that Asian countries tend to value focus and perseverance more than we do in the States.

Now, even if you buy into this theory (I know a lot of people have quite mixed feelings on Gladwell and his books) I don’t think this is the only factor of course - a huge part of it has to be the fact that Korean secondary education is all about the 수능, the college entrance exam, and therefore students spend a lot of time memorizing and memorizing math equations and numbers which will surely lead to a higher math level in general. 

One more theory of Gladwell’s - he points out that numbers in East Asian languages are just plain easier to remember than they are in English or romance languages. For example, in the Chinese number system in Korean, which they use for math, all numbers 1-10 are one syllable. Which means it takes a fraction of a second less for them to be said, read or understood. Gladwell argues that this adds up, making it marginally easier to do math in Chinese, Japanese or Korean. In addition, like many languages except English, the number system is more orderly, meaning that “thirty” is “three-ten” and “thirty one” is “three-ten-one.” Which supposedly makes it easier to learn those numbers and even use them in higher math.

Again, Gladwell and his theories have their critics - mostly that he oversimplifies complex situations, which could definitely be the case here - but it’s something interesting to think about anyway.

(via samesamssaem)


First of all, learn the language as much as you can, and learn about the history, the background, the current issues. Nobody comes to the ground fully prepared, but you try as much as you can.

Whenever it’s possible, never do parachute journalism. People are based on the ground for years to cultivate sources. In some cases, yes, you are doing parachute journalism, for example, for huge earthquake, or political disasters… But as much as possible, you should know the ground beforehand.”


— Journalist Mei Fong, talking about what western reporters should do to prepare before going to Asia. This is basically the thrust of my senior thesis, which I wrote about Africa.


This article would be more accurately described as “Award-winning journalist Mei Fong offers tips for reporting on China,” but there are a few gems that can and should be applied to journalism in the rest of the region (and around the world, actually).

"In short, our commitment to Korea, Northeast Asia and the rest of Asia is long-standing and it is strong. And it is permanent. The United States is, has always been, and will always be, a Pacific power."

— Sung Y. Kim, U.S. Ambassador to Korea


In recent years, the narrative surrounding the U.S. and its dealings with this part of the world has been gloomy — Washington is a humbled, distracted power, caught up in quagmires and gradually getting out-thought and out-maneuvered by rising global hegemon, China. That’s starting to change.”