Ten Of The Most Corrupt Countries In The World

Ten Of The Most Corrupt Countries In The World

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. “Friedrich Nietzsche  

Transparency International, an anticorruption agency monitors the relationship between politics and money around the world. Measuring corruption is difficult and subjective, but  the group compiled a Corruption Perceptions Index. The lowest ranked nations were all plagued by “conflict and war, poor governance, weak public institutions like police and the judiciary and a lack of independence in the media.”

Fair  and just government rule is an important  step in pulling a country out of the cycle of poverty. When the government is corrupt, natural resources are destroyed. The death toll rises when people have to bribe for inadequate health care,clean water or food.  The first step to putting an end to poverty is putting an end to government corruption.

Unfortunately, there are way more than ten countries – many being in Africa. I compiled the ten from a few different lists. 

1.Somalia in Eastern Africa heads almost all the lists as the world’s most corrupt country. It has been there for the last ten years. Corruption in Somalia takes the form of mass murder.  Three decades of war and droughts forced half of the population to be dependent on foreign food aid shipments which are controlled by the local warlords. Desperation turns ordinary citizens into pirates on the many Somalian pirate ships to feed their families. Bribery, voter intimidation and no way of keeping track of the number of voters, makes change in government difficult.

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2. Corruption in North Korea is a widespread and  a growing problem. It is hard to get the facts because it is the most totalitarian Communist regime left in the world.  North Koreans assume that any official in a position to take bribes will. Corruption is part of the fabric of daily life. Strict rules and serious punishments imposed by the regime, for example, against accessing foreign media  are commonly evaded by offering bribes to the police.

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3. Afghanistan is always in the top four as one of the most corrupt countries. The casual disregard of legality is noticeable. Most of the money from international aid never filters down to the people who need it. There is no punishment for corruption.  The interior minister was also made a drug czar which was too much for the international community to handle. Britain pulled their funding. Drug trafficking and vote rigging  are  very visible.

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4. Sudan is one of the worst nation’s in the world for human rights violations. Corruption exists in every section of the economy and every level of government. There is no freedom of the media so it is hard for the average person to get any information. Bribery is necessary for any  public services and in dealing with police. The UN is ineffective  in this country because of government intervention.

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5. Corruption is at the root of the power struggle in South Sudan causing the continued violence. Government officials have built personal fortunes while their country suffers and starves. Both sides have been blamed for mass rape, massacres, denial of aid, sexual slavery, burning of food supplies and villages, killing civilians and the use of child soldiers.  Both sides, have been looting the country’s natural resources and using international aid to fund their militias to fight each other.  There is no accountability for the atrocities and looting of state resources, or for the famine that has resulted.South Sudan is the world’s newest country (2011) and the hope they had five years ago is dwindling.

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6. Angola is a country rich in diamonds, oil and serious corruption. The president is a billionaire. Government workers are rich. Villagers live without health care, education and adequate food. Angola has the  highest child mortality rate in the world which is mostly preventable.   Corruption kills. The US and western oIl companies have a great relationship with Angola. If we do not condemn it, then we have a part in it.

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7. Not much has changed since the revolution in Libya in terms of corruption and financial mismanagement. The systemic corruption is not limited to a few institutions but becoming normal in people’s lives. The bribe culture still flourishes. The oil based economy is a huge source of corruption with  very little filtering down to the people who need it.

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8.In post war Iraq a corrupt political class has pillaged the country’s money, forcing corruption at every level. The senior political leaders have taken most of it. Organized corruption syndicates run the country and militia. Plunging oil prices and the War against the Islamic State are putting Iraq’s dwindling finances in major jeopardy. Corruption exists because it is allowed to exist. Having being governed by a dictator for so long, the people don’t understand self governance.

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9. The Myanmar government has acknowledged the problem of widespread corruption. it will take time to have an impact on all the private sector and government corruption. Land ownership and the jade business are still run by military.  Multiple exchange rates and corruption are serious barriers to trade and investment in Myanmar. Nepotism, personal connections and bribery are more important than qualifications.  Myanmar is one of four major producers for opium and heroin. Money intended to help the  public is more often used for personal gain.

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10. Corruption seems to go hand and hand with human rights violations and Venezuela is no exception. Government funds meant to serve the people are mismanaged, stolen or spent. Medicine and food meant for the poor are sold to other countries.Venezuela is an oil rich country and the fact that so many live in poverty without government aid is shameful. There is so much corruption and mismanagement from the government to the private sector that food and medicine are rotting in warehouses instead of being distributed. Journalists who try to report anything are jailed.

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Other very highly corrupt countries are Haiti, Guinea Bissau,  Eritrea. Syria, Turkmenistan, Yemen, Uzbekistan,Burundi, Cambodia, Zimbabwe,Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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First Food That I Want To Eat When I Revisit A Country

First Food That I Want To Eat When I Revisit a Country

“Like I said before. Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”Anthony Bourdain

 Japan Sushi at Tsukiji Market, any dessert made with yuzu or green tea.

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 Turkey Pide, fresh pomegranate juice, anything with eggplant, and any dessert made with semolina.

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 Croatia Fresh tuna and bean salad, grilled calamari and swiss chard.

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Cambodia Fresh coconut water and amok (I loved Cambodian food).

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 Greece Avgolemono soup, baklava and Greek salad (feta, tomatoes and olive oil don’t taste the same anywhere else).

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 Italy Pizza, pasta with fresh tomato sauce and basil.  (My dream is to go to Sicily and eat pizza).

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South Africa Biltong (Im not even a meateater and I love it).

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Israel  Falafel and Hummus.

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Colombia Guanabana juice and Arepa con Quisito.

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Spain Churros, hot chocolate and real gazpacho.

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 Panama Sancocho soup.

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Netherlands Pofferjes and poached egg on brioche with smoked salmon, (first time that I have had that).

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Brazil Tacaca with shrimp and fresh acai ( not the watered down sugary stuff we get here) in the Amazon.

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 Thailand Thai iced coffee.

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 Peru Ceviche with giant corn.

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Argentina Alfajores from Havanna.

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Mexico Tacos, guacamole, mole or really anything in Oaxaca. (except not a fan of the crickets every day)

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USA When I come home I want a turkey burger from Golden State in LA.

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Fly safe,
JAZ

Around The World With Beaded Bracelets

Around The World With Beaded Bracelets

“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten, – happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.” Brenda Ueland

That should really be the name of my blog. I don’t know when it started but I buy cheap ethnic bracelets in different countries around the world for myself and gifts. People like them. (temple cedar bracelets – Viet Nam)

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I try to spend under five dollars a bracelet and buy them in markets or from street vendors. A dollar or two is even better. (ceramic – Mexico)

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It is an easy to pack gift and a nice memory for me of a country I have been to. I mix them all up and wear them almost every day. Today I am wearing Argentina, Mexico, Myanmar and Thailand. (Myanmar, Thailand)

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It’s good to buy indigenous jewelry because it helps the local communities. Many countries have stores or markets that feature local artisans. The bracelets are made from wood from local trees, nuts, seeds, glass, silver, tin, brass, bamboo, woven, pottery and even plastic. Sometimes they have religious significance and sometimes only decorative.(Peru)

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My favorite one comes from Panama and is made from a tagua nut which is known as vegetable ivory. Due to tagua’s properties in color, appearance, hardness and feel like those of natural ivory, it is being substituted for the latter one. This helps in the depredation of elephants while at the same time keeps rain forests from being deforested which in turn favors the ecosystems and the environment.

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I also buy ethnic designed bracelets for myself. When I wear them, they remind of the special day in the country where I bought them. (Myanmar, Cambodia, Murano glass – Italy, Argentina, real coral-Croatia)

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Another important factor to consider is that making things by hand provides work to thousands of people in these poor countries giving them and their families a better life and the opportunity of offering their children a better education. (shells-Panama)

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Shopping for bracelets is perfect street consumerism for me.(Coca nut -Argentina)

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There is the thrill of finding the bracelet among the crafts and tourist crap. I know these look touristy but there was a beach in Panama that was covered in these pinkish orange shells so they remind me of that beautiful beach. Yes I brought home a bag of the shells also.  (Panama)

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Then there is the delicate negotiation of getting the right price without insulting anyone.There is the danger of going too low and the stupidity of paying too much. (plastic- Turkey or anywhere that has real Turquoise)

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Finally we have the adrenalin rush of the purchase. (Aborigine – Australia)

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It makes my world better and their world better. It’s a win – win situation.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Ta Prohm, Cambodia – The Tomb Raider Temple

Ta Prohm, Cambodia – The Tomb Raider Temple

“Indiana, we are simply passing through history. This… this is history.” Raiders of the Lost Ark

I know – wrong movie but it was such a good quote for this. Yes, Ta Prohm is the temple where Angelina Jolie played Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Disturbingly many more Americans probably know where Angelina Jolie is right now and do not know where Cambodia is. Some may know the Tomb Raider temple is in Cambodia. (The Tomb Raider tree)

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Ta Promh has been left the way it was originally found.

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The jungle had completely engulfed the entire complex when it was discovered in the last century.

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It was amazing to see how the massive trees have grown around and atop the structures, their roots seemingly strangling and holding up the temple’s towers and other buildings.

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At Ta Prohm you can start to appreciate what the first explorers saw when they re-discovered these temples.

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It is easy to relive the emotions of the French naturalist Henri Mouhot when he came across it hidden in the jungle in 1860.

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Ta Prohm was dedicated to the family of Jayavarman VII as shown by the inscriptions on the stele ( stone monument) The inscription lists many of Jayavarman’s ancestors, as well as giving details of the construction. Perhaps most compelling though is the information the stele gives about the people whose lives revolved around this site. Nearly 80,000 people were involved in serving the temple, coming from over 3,000 surrounding villages. The stele also mentions that there were 102 functioning hospitals in the Kingdom. Numbers like this give a fantastic insight into the sheer scale of the Khmer empire at that time.

The structure measures 145 by 125 meters and has a maze of courtyards and galleries, many impassable because of the dense overgrowth of creepers and roots.

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I had to put this photo in of a Cambodian butterfly at Ta Prohm Temple. Thanks for taking this Kim. I needed to use at least one of your “National Geographic photos”. Most of the photos atTa Prohm were taken by Wong Kimsian.

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The “jungle temple” is best visited early in the morning when everybody else is at Angkor Wat to get your best photographs of the ongoing battle between nature and architecture.

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Fly Safe,

JAZ

Animals I Met When Traveling

Animals I Met When Traveling

“Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to.” Alfred Montaper

Kangaroos Australia

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Tasmanian Devil Australia

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Baby Wombat  Australia

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Koalas Australia

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Sheep Australia

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Deer Japan

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Llama Peru

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Iguana Panama

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Elephant Thailand

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Parakeets (Emilio White) Argentina

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Coati Argentina

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Cow Cambodia

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Monkey Cambodia

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Water Buffalo Viet Nam

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Louie Miami

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Fly safe,

JAZ

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The Mekong Delta, Viet Nam

The Mekong Delta, Viet Nam

“Now without the bombs and gun shots, people can have a better sleep.“ from someone in the Mekong Delta.

The Mekong River has its origins in the mountains of Tibet, and it traverses six countries and 4500 km before spilling out into the Mekong Delta region of Viet Nam.

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After the rainy season, the water is brown from the silt that has been washed into it upstream.

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During the dry season the river becomes blue-green in color. There are many boats of different sizes and shapes traveling in all directions, including cargo boats, fishing boats, ferries, tourist boats and house boats.

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Everything happens on the river including the floating market of Cai Bei.

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All along the river, small huts are perched precariously on stilts so that the water at high tide does no more than wet the floor.

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Some are in good shape, but most are ramshackle, and one wonders how they manage to survive.

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During the Viet Nam War there was there was fighting there between the Viet Cong and the US Navy boats. After the war the Khmer Rouge attacked Viet Nam to reclaim the Delta area. This campaign precipitated the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and later downfall of the Khmer Rouge.

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The Mekong Delta is called the Rice Bowl of Viet Nam because most of the countries rice production comes from the Delta. They also have most of the country’s fisheries.

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The towns along the river are fun to explore by foot or bicycle.

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You will find French colonial architecture and delicious fruits and vegetables.

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The Mekong Lodge is an interesting place to stay on the Delta.

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It is reachable by boat and a good location for exploring the nearby villages and floating market. They are socially and environmentally responsible using eco-friendly materials for the bungalows, solar energy, rainwater, local ingredients and local employees. There is not a lot of English but it adds to the charm. Hand motions are the universal language and I am fluent in them.

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I had a great foot massage in a bamboo chair outside of my room overlooking beautiful gardens and fruit orchards of longan, rambutan, mango, durian trees and flowers. http://mekonglodge.com

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Another option are local guesthouses where you can stay with a lovely family on the Mekong.

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I spent some time at Muoi Huong Tourist Garden (070 3859992) with their lovely family and highly recommend it for a wonderful local experience. (Binh Hoa Phuoc Island, Long Ho District, Vinh Long, Viet Nam).

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I had a chance to talk to people in the Mekong Delta. What I noticed throughout Vietnam was some of the nicest friendliest people I met came from the Mekong Delta.

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There is an interconnectedness that all Vietnamese have with past generations that we do not have. Every home has an altar to their ancestors with photos and their favorite things on it. The smell of incense used for prayer permeates the country (not so good for me because I am allergic to it). But I love the idea of it – how the smoke rises up to connect them with their ancestors.

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They worship at communal houses.

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They work hard. They are underpaid and they do not complain.

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They have been helped by the efforts, work and suffering of previous generations and ancestors.

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Now they are part of the present, with each other, working toward a future when others will pray and thank them.

Special thanks to my tour guide in Saigon and the Mekong Delta Mr. Nguyen Dinh Thanh. Thanh is smart, funny, intuitive, helpful and very knowledgeable about everything related to Viet Nam. I had the best time exploring the Delta with him and highly recommend him as a tour guide.

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Di du lịch một cách an toàn,

JAZ

Bayon, Angor Thom, Cambodia

Bayon, Angor Thom, Cambodia

“Bayon can be said to be the most imaginative and singular in the world, because more unearthly in its conception, a temple from a city in some distant planet…imbued with the same elusive beauty that often lives between the lines of a great poem.”  Bruno Dagens

Bayon and Angkor Wat evoke similar aesthetic responses yet are different in purpose, design, architecture and decoration. Bayon was built in late 12th century to early 13th century, by  King Jayavarman VII. The dense jungle surrounding the temple camouflaged its place in relation to other structures at Angkor so it was not known for some time that the Bayon stands in the exact centre of the city of Angkor Thom.

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To get to the temple you cross a bridge lined with amazing statues.

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You continue on to my favorite place – the terrace of the elephants.

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On approaching from a distance, it resembles a rather formless initially disappointing jumble of stone.

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Inside you discover a maze of galleries, towers and passageways on three different levels.

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The structure is rich in decoration, detailing scenes from battles, religious rituals, and everyday life.

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The most famous thing about the Bayon Temple are the over 200 faces carved into the stone temple towers – some indistinct and crumbling and others perfectly preserved.

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It is generally accepted that four faces on the towers are images of the bodhisattva (fully enlightened beings) who delays entry into Nirvana to aid the spiritual development of others.

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The characteristics of the faces – a broad forehead, downcast eyes, wild nostrils, thick lips that curl upwards slightly at the ends-combine to reflect the famous ‘Smile of Angkor’.

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The feeling at Bayon Temple for me was very different from Angor Wat. It is smaller, greyer and in the jungle.

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There are slabs of stone and crumbling ruins all around.

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You can see how they brought the stone from quarries thirty miles away and lifted it up.

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My guide in Cambodia was Mr. Wong Kimsien. Kim was very knowledgeable and fun.  He had a good sense of humor and was able to go with the flow  and switched gears whenever necessary. He also took most of these photos and the ones at Ta Prohm as well.  He is a very good photographer.  Thank you Kim for being such a good tour guide and all your kindness.

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Bayon is less crowded than Angor Wat so you can even find a quiet space for a blessing  under the sightless gaze of the ever-present faces.

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Fly safe,

JAZ