Things That I Have Learned In Reykjavik, Iceland

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Things That I Have Learned In Reykjavik, Iceland

“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer” – Unknown

Reykjavík is the northernmost capital city in the world.

Reykjavík is regarded as the world’s most sustainable city. The city plans to be a carbon neutral city by 2040.

The steam rising from the area’s hot springs gave Reykjavik its name, which literally translates to “Cove of Smokes,” or more eloquently ” Smoky Bay.

Towering over the Reykjavik skyline is Hallgrimskirkja, a 240-foot tall Evangelical Lutheran church. The building which resembles volcanic basalt lava columns, opened in 1986. It is the tallest building in the city—as well as the second tallest in the entire country.

The National Museum of Iceland is the place to go when you want to learn about Icelandic life through the centuries. Everything related to this island nation from belief and religion, to seafaring, farming, culture, costume and the development of trade relationships from the beginning to the present day. The exhibits are beautifully displayed in the various sections with lots of info. Audio displays tell some fascinating stories and computers give access to a wealth of additional facts. A photography exhibition is always on show.

One of the most popular foods in Iceland is hot dogs. There’s no better hot dog stand in Iceland to get them than at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. The kiosk has been in the Reykjavik harbor since 1937, but President Bill Clinton and Anthony Bourdain’s visit solidified its constant long line of locals and tourists waiting for the lamb-based hot dog doused in ketchup, mustard, remoulade (mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish), and both raw and fried onion. ”The president you have now, I wouldn’t serve a hot dog.”, said the owner.

The Saga Museum which features seventeen exhibits traces Icelandic history from the Norwegian exodus to the Black Death. It is now located  in a historic home on the Reykjavik harbor.

The Icelandic Phallological Museum is a must visit for those who are curious about penises – from whales to hamsters. It is located on the main shopping street in Reykjavik. I didn’t have time but I would I have loved to see all the tourists taking selfies. 

From mid-April until late August, the Atlantic puffins summer in Iceland! You can take a Puffin tour from Reykjavik but I saw them near Husavik.

They are cute little birds and definitely worth putting the red suits on (for warmth and flotation devices)  and taking a beautiful three hour tour. 

On October 8, 2007, John Lennon’s birthday Yoko Ono revealed an outdoor beam of light called the Inagine Peace Tower on the city’s Viðey Island in honor of her late husband. “I hope the Imagine Peace Tower will give light to the strong wishes of World Peace from all corners of the planet. And give encouragement, inspiration and a sense of solidarity in a world now filled with fear and confusion. Let us come together to realize a peaceful world,” Ono said. Now it is  lit from October 9 to December 8, December 21 to December 31, February 18, and March 20 to 27.

In 2011, Reykjavik was the fifth city named a City of  Literature by UNESCO, thanks to its “invaluable heritage of ancient medieval literature” and “the central role literature plays within the modern urban landscape.”

Let’s be real. People don’t come to Iceland to shop. They come for the nature, the waterfalls, the glaciers, and all the fun stuff you can do around Iceland.. Reykjavik is one of the most expensive cities.in Europe. However, you can find  cool, locally designed outerwear in many stores for similar  prices to your country. Every time you wear it, you will remember your time in Iceland. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Ruins That I Would Like to See

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Ruins I Would Like To See.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   But I have promises to keep,   And miles to go before I sleep,   And miles to go before I sleep.”Robert Frost

Our world is so filled with places that I want to see. It’s hard to say whether a single lifetime would indeed be enough to experience all of it. Most of us will probably never see everything that the world has to offer us, but it’s worth a shot. Here are the ruins I still haven’t seen and want to. 

Tikal, Guatemala

The Mayan ruins in Guatemala are ancient wonders built between the sixth century BC and the tenth century AD. Reclaimed by the jungle hundreds of years ago, they’ve been partially excavated and stand as reminders of a great civilization. It’s the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas and famous for its view..

 Terra Cotta Warriors, China

IF you’ve heard of Xian in China before I’m pretty sure it’s because you’ve also heard of the Terracotta Warriors, a collection of terracotta sculptures created to represent the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. This figures were only discovered in 1974 by 3 farmers and have now become one of China’s most prized possessions. Estimates from 2007 were that the three pits containing the Terracotta Army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which remained buried in the pits.

Great Wall, China

When i was very young, I saw a picture of the Great Wall Of China. While its length was beyond  my comprehension, I vaguely remember sitting down and being absolutely in awe .It is the coolest landmark in the world. The Great Wall was unified and constructed during the Qin Dynasty over 2000 years ago.  Using hundreds of thousand of workers and prisoners, the wall was constructed over decades of work. It was almost destroyed by the Mongols and Chairman Mao but in 1984 when a new ruler came into power, Deng Xiaoping he re-opened its doors to the rest of the world and opted to rebuilt the Great Wall to restore National Pride.

 

Chichen Itza, Mexico

 Chichen Itza is the most well-known and frequently visited Mayan ruins site in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It has a fascinating 1,000-year-old history. One thing that makes  Chichen Itza so intriguing, other than the giant stone pyramid, is the mysterious decline of the Maya people themselves.By the time of the Spanish conquest, this great city and others like it were virtually ghost towns. Mexico’s most famous ruins are astonishingly well-restored site compared to other Mayan ruins in the region. 

Giza, Egypt

The Giza Pyramid complex is located just at the outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo. Set in the desert, it comprises three Pyramids that each have a mini-complex of its own and the Sphinx. The Sphinx is an iconic Giant statue of the mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. There are many theories about why the pyramids were constructed in the first place. The most accepted one was that they were constructed as a tomb for the great pharaohs that ordered them built. Many theories abound as to how is it that these massive structures were made especially during ancient times.

Luxor, Egypt

Established on the shore of the great Nile river and surrounded by both mango plantations and desert, Luxor is one of the greatest open air museums. containing some the largest and most striking ancient monuments ever constructed.. The history of Luxor (originally called the city of Thebes) dates back to 3,200 B.C. Nevertheless, the city didn’t prosper until the 2,134 B.C., during the 11th Dynasty, when Mentuhotep ll brought peace and stability to the region, and Thebes started to grow as a city, becoming, during the 18th Dynasty, in 1,550 B.C., the religious and political capital of Ancient Egypt.most of their tombs, monuments and temples still remain, very well-preserved, including the tomb of the world-famous  Tutankhamen..

Stonehenge, England

What were they for? How did they get here? What do they mean? So many questions surround the ring of massive prehistoric stones found at Stonehenge and the fact that we’ll probably never have any concrete answers only adds to the mystery and allure of the site.How these stones ended up in perfect architectural symmetry in the middle of the English countryside, long before modern machinery would have made it a much simpler feat, is perhaps what entices so many people to visit this ancient iconic site year after year.

Pompeii, Italy

In 79 AD somewhere around 20,000 Pompeians went about their daily lives giving nary a thought to the volcano they lived alongside. August 24th would change their lives forever. On that fateful day as Mt. Vesuvius spewed, though much of the city was destroyed, Pompeii was also buried under 20 feet of ash and pumice. Centuries of history were sealed away until 1748. It was Rocque Joaquin de Acubierre that discovered Pompeii. Due to the lack of air and moisture, artifacts buried under the ash and pumice at both archeological sites were extremely well preserved. 

Great Mosque, Mali

The iconic Grand Mosque in Djenne, northern Mali is the largest free standing mud brick building in the world and harking back to a time of tribal empires long since fallen.A new layer of adobe plastering is used to fill the cracks which occur in the extreme summer heat, and repairs made to damage done with the pounding of the annual rains. The worst kept secret of Djenne’s Grand Mosque is that it is not the original. Though it is surely the finest example of Sahelian adobe architecture in the world, it was in fact built by the French in c. 1908. The original dated back to the 13th century but did not stand the test of time and of the elements.

Borobodor Temple, Indonesia

Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple, and Indonesia’s most visited tourist attraction. Located on the island of Java, the temple was constructed in the 9th century, before being abandoned in the 14th century as the population converted to Islam. Protected by UNESCO, it was restored in the 1970s and later opened to the public (while still being used for religious pilgrimage).

Ellora and Ajanta Caves, India

The Ellora and Ajanta caves are located outside of Aurangabad, which is an eight-hour train ride from Mumbai. The Ellora caves were built between the fifth and tenth century. There are 34 caves, some Hindu, some Buddhist and a few Jain. The Ajanta caves, like the temples of Khajuraho, were “lost” for centuries until an Englishman discovered them in the mid-19th century. They are all Buddhist, and known more for their paintings 

Carthage, Tunisia

Carthage was the centre of the Carthaginian Empire in antiquity. The city has existed for nearly 3,000 years, developing from a Phoenician colony of the first millennium BC into the capital of an ancient empire. Carthage is 15 kilometers north of Tunis and these ruins once were the most important trading base in that region with a population of over half a million. Do you know Hannibal? He came from Carthage and tried to battle the Romans but was defeated two centuries BC. Half a century later the Romans took Carthage and destroyed most if not all of the city. They rebuild their own Carthage and made it the capital of the Roman province Africa. 

Fly safe,
JAZ

Ten Things That I Want To Do In Portugal This Time

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Ten Things That I Want To Do In Portugal This Time

“Life is what we make of it. Travel is the traveler. What we see isn’t what we see but what we are.” Fernando Pessoa, Book Of Disquiet

Porto is the colorful, Unesco city that I  have wanted to visit. The photos are beautiful and I can’t wait to walk down those streets.

 Livraria Lello and Irmao is one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Ask JK Rowling.

Drink Port which is named after….

I love seafood and both Porto and Lisbon are on the sea – codfish, sardines, snails, grilled whole fresh fish of the day with coarse salt and crispy, skin, octopus, eels, and snails along with kale soup and pastel de nata  is a great reason to go to Portugal  (This is a major eating trip)

When I was in Lisbon I didn’t make it to the National Tile Museum ((Museo Nacional De Azulejo). It is located in the Alfama area (where we are staying this time)  in a fifteenth century convent. I saw those beautiful tiles on many of the old buildings and palaces when I was there and I want to know more about them.

The Fado Museum (Portuguese guitar music) is also in Alfama and sounds like something I would like. The Fado Museum is a  testimony of passion and dedication this country has for Fado and has helped musicians, instrument manufacturers and researchers gain the exceptional esteem which the practice of fado enjoys today.

Buying a few more pair of handmade gloves at Ulisses in Lisbon.  They are guaranteed for life so i will check mine before I leave for Portugal . 

The Douro Valley is known for its vineyards, landscapes and the Douro River. It’s another amazing place in Portugal that I will see this time.

Drive from Porto to Lisbon stopping in towns and fishing villages along the way.

Buy canned fish to take home from Lisbon. There are many different cans to choose from. Shelves in every corner of the city sit stacked with cans of sardines, horse mackerel, tuna, anchovies, octopus, eel, and more. Some shops sell nothing but tinned fish. It is surprisingly good. It is not like Chicken of the Sea.

Fly safe,

JAZ

The White City Of Tel Aviv, Israel

The White City Of Tel Aviv, Israel

“Less is more.” Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe

Over 4,000 Bauhaus-style buildings were constructed in Tel Aviv between 1920 and 1940, by German-Jewish architects who immigrated to the region after the rise of the Nazis.

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The Bauhaus  Movement was started by Walter Gropius in Germany in 1919 as an architectural style that would represent the machine age. It is characterized by simple and sensible lines. “Form follows function.”“Bauhaus” is an inversion of the German term “hausbau,” which means “building house”. It is also called the Modern or International style.

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The majority of Tel Aviv’s examples can be found in the central White City – a UNESCO World Heritage Site protected as “an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century”. it is the world’s largest Bauhaus settlement.

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The Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv  http://www.bauhaus-center.com/ was founded in the area in 2000 to increase awareness of the heritage and encourage preservation works. It hosts a library, a shop and a gallery for exhibitions. They offer architectural tours for visitors and enthusiasts on Friday mornings at 10AM. They  also offer a self-guided audio tour and private tours in Hebrew, English, Russian, German, French and Italian.

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The tour was crowded. First we were given an overview and background of the Bauhaus movement in Israel at the Center, We walked around the streets and  boulevards and our tour guide pointed out facades and details of the many white modern buildings. My friends thought it was interesting to take a tour of their neighborhood as they live in a protected building and hadn’t seen it this way before.

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A little known fact was that in the early years before World War Two, the immigrants to Israel were allowed to take their money out if they bought German products with it. Some of the buildings are made with German materials.

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Germany is now  committed to help Israel keep an architectural legacy that recalls Jewish design pioneers who fled the Nazi regime in the 1930s. They will invest $3.2 million over the coming nine years to help save these Bauhaus-style buildings  .

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The tour is an interesting introduction to the city of Tel Aviv and a sharp contrast to the Ottoman inspired and ancient buildings of Jaffa nearby. I highly recommend this tour for anyone who is interesting in architecture or history. I’m a Bauhaus fan and learned  a lot here and saw more Bauhaus architecture than in Berlin.

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Fly safe,
JAZ

Sugarloaf and Christ The Redeemer, Rio, Brazil

Sugarloaf and Christ The Redeemer

“Some people travel for the culture, or the place’s history, or the sheer experience. Our aim is total dissolution. We travel from Egypt to Estonia, big clunky blocks of metal hanging from our necks, naïve and stuttering and asking all the right questions at all the right times—“Is this the Great Wall I’ve been hearing so much about?”—flashing a few photos and no one looks twice, except maybe to point and laugh but we are just harmless Americans come for a tour of life on the other side.”  Chris Campanion

Rio’s two biggest tourist attractions are on two famous hills overlooking the city.

Christ the Redeemer is one of the most visited sites in Rio.The famous statue is the largest Art Deco statue in the world and the second largest of Christ. The largest is in Świebodzin, Poland, built in 2010. Designed by Polish-French sculptor Paul Landowski, it took nine years to build and finally opened in 1931. The ceremony was supposed to have been lit by electric lights remotely turned on by Marconi in Rome, but the weather was so bad the signal couldn’t get through.

it is located on the top of a mountain known as Corcovado. You can take a van or a train from Cosmic Velho. If you go during any global sporting event, the lines will be ridiculous.

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If you are adventurous, you can hike up. We took a jeep tour with a tour guide who knew everything about everything. We got a lot of World Cup and Olympic inside information.

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You will experience the ninety eight foot statue with hordes of tourists all trying to take the perfect selfie.

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The security guards are the nicest ones in the world. If you climb on something to get a better photo, they so nicely ask you to get down that you aren’t sure if they mean it.

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The guards are busy taking pictures of everyone and showing you where to go to get the perfect shot. Im so used to security guards who think their uniform means they have to be large and in charge.

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Risto Redentor (as it is called in Portuguese) is an architecture wonder, a tourist attraction, a religious symbol and a Rio de Janeiro’s landmark. The views from up there are amazing but check the weather before you go up because the weather in Rio changes quickly and the Christ is often covered in clouds.

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The giant statue is struck by lightning several times a year and is constantly being repaired. The city seems willing to pay for multiple restorations, even though the pale gray-green soapstone that covers the statue is becoming hard to find.

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The other must do in Rio is Sugarloaf Mountain, located in Urca and probably no where near where you are staying. (View from the Christ)

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It is at the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. (Olympic water events will be here)

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Sugarloaf Mountain is 1,299 ft high above the harbor in Rio de Janeiro.

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The mountain is named for its resemblance to a traditional shape of a concentrated refined loaf of sugar.

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You can take a bus, taxi or tour to get there. It is called Pao De Acucar in Portuguese if you need to tell the driver. (my name is there now)

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A glass-walled cable car carries 65 passengers on to the mountain every 20 minutes. (the first cable car is there)

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Sugar Loaf Mountain is also one of the largest and most popular urban rock climbing destinations in the world. There are 270 different routes to explore in the area as you climb high above the Atlantic Ocean and the sprawling Rio de Janeiro. Or if you are like me, you can watch.

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The views are stunning and even with a lot of people, you dont feel cramped and can always a find a good place for photographs.

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Fly safe,

JAZ

Things I Have Learned In Cambodia

Things I Have Learned In Cambodia

“If you smile at me, i will understand because that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language,” Crosby Stills Nash and Young

The Kingdom of Cambodia is located in the southern portion of the Indochina peninsula in South East Asia. It is bordered by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and the Gulf of Thailand.

Khmer or Cambodian is the language of the Khmer people and the official language of Cambodia.

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In Cambodia, greeting is formally done by joining both the palms together in front of each other and then bowing. This is called Sompeah and is usually initiated by the younger or lower rank of people.

Electricity in Cambodia is in pressing need in the rural areas. It is supplied in the evening only from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM while the business establishments and hotels rely more on generators. It is not uncommon to receive notes in your hotel about power outtages..

The infamous tyrant leader Pol Pot, who took control of Cambodia in 1975, was considered  the most notorious war criminal of modern times.

Over one and a half million people died during the regime of the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot. The exact number is not known . It could be a lot more. One-fifth of Cambodia’s population was killed. They were mostly educated people, priests, and monks. Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot wanted all educated Cambodians dead so that nobody would oppose their rule. You don’t see many old people.

Americans do not learn Asian History in school unless it directly affects us. Cambodia is still a traumatized country from the time of the Khmer Rouge and it is good to read about it. I read First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers  written by Loung Ung, a Cambodian author and survivor of the Pol Pot regime – or watch the Killing Fields before you go.

UNESCO has listed Cambodia as the third most landmined country in the world. More than 4 million landmines are still strewn across the country causing a high amount of casualties. It is estimated that it will take a decade before all the land mines are cleared up.

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Cambodia has the highest per-capita percentage of amputees in the world. Each month there are between 300 and 700 amputations due to land-mine injuries.

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Cambodia has the largest inland lake in South East Asia called the Tonle Sap.

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Cambodia has the least Chinese influences among all the other Mainland Southeast Asian nations.

Cows are a part of life in an agrarian economy and you see them all around Cambodia. Often you see children entrusted with the responsibility of walking with them.

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Since motorbikes are cheaper than cars in Cambodia is not unusual to see whole families on one bike.

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Rice is ubiquitous in Cambodian meals. It is served in many forms that include fried, steamed, noodles or dessert. (rice field)

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The relationship between water buffalo and humans in Cambodia is integral to their agricultural way of life. They have no fear of us. I was very close.  He was like “just take the photo already”.

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The official religion of Cambodia is Theravada Buddhism which is practiced by 95% of the Cambodian population.

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Tarantula kebabs are a popular delicacy in Cambodia. Spiders are another delicacy or necessity served in Cambodia,

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Prahok is a national ingredient in Cambodia, and is made of fermented fish.

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Cambodian food is a complex mix of local dishes and various influences such as Thai, French, and Sino-Vietnamese and is really tasty. (amok and morning glory)

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Cambodia’s motto is “Nation, Religion, King.

The Temples of Angor are a great place to take wedding photos.

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The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is an outgrowth of the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea (PRPK), which through the 1980s served as the single party, providing discipline and leadership for the socialist state. It is not clear to what extent the transition to a multiparty democracy has taken place. There is a lot of corruption in the political system.

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Many people in Siem Reap speak English because “the people who know more teach the people who know less.” School is in the morning or the afternoon. Now most of the kids you see working in Siem Reap do it before or after school.

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Hammocks are a lifestyle  in Viet Nam and even more in Cambodia. Maybe it is the heat but they are everywhere.

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Garment export and tourism are two of the main industries that generate revenue for the economy of Cambodia. (I’m hoping garment export doesn’t mean factories with underpaid workers)

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Half of Cambodia’s current population is younger than 15 years old.

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Traditionally, birthdays are not celebrated in Cambodia. Older people might not even know their birthdays.

In Cambodia, the head is regarded as the highest part of the body and shouldn’t be touched even in the nicest way.

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The Cambodian flag is the only national flag that has an image of a building – the Angkor Wat.

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Cambodia is home to the emblematic Angkor Wat temple, which is a silent testimony to how resourceful and artistically brilliant its people are.

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Fly safe,

JAZ