Visiting the City of Temples

Today in Siem Reap, Cambodia, our group traveled to Angkor Wat. Translated literally, Angkor Wat means “City of Temples.” Originally it was built as a Hindu temple, but when a new king took over in the late 13th century, it was changed to a Buddhist one.

This entire temple complex consisted up multiple temples and even a city with about one million people. All that is left is ruins, but they are beautifully preserved. The building project was so well put together that the temples have remained for hundreds of years and we could still see a lot of detail on the decorative walls.

The first temple we visited was Angkor Wat, The views were amazing and the detail was astounding! There were ornate carvings for borders of doors and windows, and every wall was covered with battle scenes depicting religious history such as Vishnu, monkeys and demons. We also got to visit two other temple areas. Angkor Thom had over 150 giant smiling faces for towers and Ta Prohm had giant trees covering the ruins, and was also where the movie, Tomb Raiders was filmed.

Overall, the entire experience was very impressive. It was amazing how they pulled off creating such elaborate structures with more “primitive” methods. Everything was so beautiful!

Submitted by Deidre Derksen

Killing fields, Cambodia. Wednesday, January 9th

“When broken glass floats” is an old proverb that Cambodians use to signify the prevalence of evil. When broken glass floats evil appears to be winning and the bad is all you see. But eventually a the glass sinks, good makes a comeback, and the evil is vanquished.

This proverb became literal for the Cambodians in the 1970s when political unrest led to a new group taking over called the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge inflicted genocide over all of Cambodia where 3 million people were killed. The population of Cambodia at the time was only 8 million.

On Wednesday January 9th our group visited a site from the genocide called ‘The Killing Fields.’ This was a concentration camp where hundreds of men, women, and children were executed despite having committed no wrongs. Today the area is a museum for tourists and locals to learn about the tragedy that swept across the nation.

On entry visitors are given a headset and map, and then set out on a cleared path to walk around the area. As we walked and listed we learned of the many ways people of all ages were tortured and killed before being mercilessly thrown into mass graves. It was heartbreaking to see the mass graves of hundreds of children who were murdered regardless of their age.

In the center of the field was a memorial tower filled with levels of skulls enclosed in a glass case. These were the actual remains of the many victims. Whose lives were taken at the field in the tragic genocide.

Today Cambodia is still recovering from its sad past. Although the glass has sunk and the Khmer Rouge was overthrown long ago, you can still feel the effects of the disaster today in Phnom Penh.

Visiting these fields was an experience unlike any other, the chance to learn the heartbreaking story of a small nation that most have never even heard of.

Deidre Derksen views rags and pieces of clothing of victims collected from the site.

Contributed by Logan Zielke


Small Spaces

On the 7th we traveled from Ho Chi Minh City to the CuChi province where we were able to see tunnels used by the Vietcong during the war. We were actually able to go the tunnels and see where these people lived for upwards of 15 years underground.

The tunnels were widened by about two times the original size and we all still had trouble trying to crawl through them. We were able to see the different kinds of booby traps that they made by hand and it was amazing to see the variety and effectiveness of the traps. Everything was perfectly camouflaged with the jungle, and scattered throughout the area were bomb craters and other obvious signs of battles that took place there.

Contributed by Mason McCarty

Mekong delta. January 5, 2013.

We traveled from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to the Mekong delta southwest of the city. This was a place where some fighting would have taken place in the war.

As a part of our tour of the Mekong, we were put on paddle boats. Four of us were in the boats at a time and there was one Vietnamese paddler.

We traveled down a very narrow canal that was packed with trees on each side. This ride gave me an understanding of the immense task that soldiers must have been going through of trying to traverse the foreign territory of Vietnam. They were in a country that is different in so many ways from our home country, the United States of America.

MeKong Delta

Taking a ride.

Contributed by Daniel Dick


Cambodia was distinctly different from any other country we have visited.  I could tell you about the crazy driving, the mothers going to market in their pajamas, or even the interesting smells, which can be attributed to either the livestock or the culinary creations being peddled on every street corner.  If any of these things intrigue you, go ahead and ask me to elaborate.   (The traffic situation is my favorite thing to talk about.)

Instead, what I’d like to tell you about is the part of Cambodia that gripped each of us during our visit and that deserves solemn reverence.

Odds are you’re not ignorant to the horrors of WWII Nazi reign.  It’s a common part of history curriculum in schools, and some of us even have parents or grandparents who were alive during that time and remember it all too well.  That was 70 years ago.  But did you know about the holocaust in Cambodia that took place just 30 years ago?

I had never heard of the Khmer Rouge or Pol Pot before this last December.  But in preparation for this trip, I read a book called When Broken Glass Floats, a memoir by Chanrithy Him, a woman who survived a childhood ruled by the Khmer Rouge.  (Read it.  It’s great.)  Or, if you’re like me and you typically don’t have the time or motivation to read a 300-page book, check out the movie “The Killing Fields.”  It’s not an easy movie to watch, but several Cambodians commented on its accuracy.

The result of the Khmer Rouge reign was the death of more than 3 million Cambodian men, women and children.  While that number is only half compared to the holocaust in Germany, it is still a striking number.  And it was only 30 years ago.

We visited the killing fields, the place where the Khmer Rouge did the bulk of their executions.  It’s difficult to describe just how sobering it was to be in that place—to look down and see clothes and bones barely unearthed after the last rain.  Of the 140+ mass graves, there are still 80 that have not been touched.

What made it all feel real, other than the connection I felt from reading first-hand accounts in books, was that we were getting our tour from a man who lived through it all.  He lost his mother, father, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and many others during the time of the Khmer Rouge, and hearing him describe what it was like to return to that field in 1980, after the Khmer Rouge had been overthrown, it made the whole thing painfully real.

There was so much more to our time in Cambodia, and much of it was far less depressing.  But the time we spent visiting the memorials of this tragedy were the most striking.  If you ever get a chance to visit, go.  If you can only read books or watch the movie, do it.  This is a piece of world history that needs to be remembered, and a people who need to be understood.

Rachel Welch

Siem Reap

Upon arriving in Cambodia we were greeted by our notorious “Tuk-Tuk” drivers outside the airport. After dodging various motorcycles, three buses, and a semi — our very obliging drivers stacked the awkward luggage in a very unique fashion onto his motorbike, which is a skill purely unique to the Cambodian “Tuk-Tuk” drivers.

Cambodian traffic, as Ben Faul calls it, is “controlled chaos.” It took us around an hour and half stalled in traffic, while our ears adjusted to the orchestra of car horns. Five a.m. to me is an ungodly hour, but the bus service to Siem Reap doesn’t see it that way. We boarded our “limousine bus,” for the six-hour trek through the Cambodian countryside.

Sadly if you ever take the “limousine bus” through Cambodia there are no shrimp cocktails or champagne. But it does break down in various places.  We were luck Aaron Epp is particularly handy when it comes to buses in the Cambodian countryside.

When we arrived at our hotel we were so exhausted that Rachel Welch and I fell asleep watching Tom and Jerry. The next day was the most eventful of our time in Siem Reap. Our particular driver that day wore a t-shirt that we all envied that said “Tuk-Tuk drivers for peace.”  This was so we could conveniently identify him by his shirt. The Wats were beyond breath taking, Angkor Wat was their crown jewel of the Wats. The architecture was overwhelmingly elaborate. I never imagined ruins being nearly perfectly intact. We got lost in the ruins for the day, which was strangely similar to being inside the Jungle Book.

I was more dehydrated then I’ve ever been.  We had some rather non-conventional run-ins with Asian monkeys, and my jeans were covered with the dust of ancient ruins. We ended the day by climbing to a temple on top of a mountain to watch the sun set. As the sun went down we ended our  time in Angkor Wat  and our Cambodian adventure.

By Tessa Hoduski

Chiang Mai–our mid trip respite

We had the opportunity to spend a very brief time in Chiang Mai, Thailand before before heading to Cambodia.  The flight that we had to take leaving Malaysia left at 6:55 a.m. which meant that we needed to leave the hotel at 3:30 a.m.!  Needless to say, we welcomed the 65-70 degree weather, laid back culture, and very hard beds!

We had many opportunities to experience the culture through shopping at the night bazaar, visiting Buddhist Wats (or temples), chatting with a Monk, elephant rides, and Tuk Tuk rides.  A major highlight for me, and I believe for many, was the opportunity to meet up with Andy Owen.  Owen is a Tabor grad who is now serving the Lord in Chiang Mai.  He took us to the international missionary’s school that his students are attending.  We got the opportunity to talk to some of the elementary and high school students, visit both principles, and talk about opportunities that may be possible for some of us in the future.  They even presented the education majors with the opportunity to student teach over there!  After the tour of the school they took us out to eat at a BEAUTIFUL jungle restaurant for some delicious Thai food.

The next day we met up with Andy again and he took us to an organization that is serving as a refuge for children who are being forced to sell flowers and such in the red light district of Chiang Mai.  The children that they have enrolled in their program come after school and are given a meal, an English lesson, and a chance to see the love of God through adults who truly care for them.  It was an eye-opening and touching thing for us to see and also get to be a part of for one night.

Chiang Mai was a blessing to all of us who needed a chance to get a little bit of a rest, but now we are gearing up for an intense last week in Asia.  Blessings to all of you back in the USA! — Amanda Zuercher

New cultures, new experiences

Singapore was a lot different than what I expected. We arrived at 11:45pm Thursday night after a 15-hour and a four-hour flight. We are all very tired but amazed by the skyscrapers on our ride to the hotel.

The following morning we visited the Singapore Art Museum. It was a lot different from anything I’ve ever been to. It had very modern art and it was all by local artists.

The next day we went to a history museum and we rode on the Singapore Flyer– the world’s largest observation ferris wheel.  We could see all over the city. It was really cool.

I think that we were all surprised by how modern Singapore was.  Most of the group was expecting the culture to be very eastern, but we could observe a lot of western influence.  The city was extremely clean and we always felt safe.  We spent a bit of time in Chinatown.  Our hotel was right outside of Little India.  Those two places were the biggest culture shock we experienced.  Overall, I enjoyed Singapore a lot.  I would have liked to be able to spend more time there. – Megan McCarty

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur!

Hope all is well back home! The team arrived in KL and has been experiencing the Asian culture like the master tourists we are.

We have gone to several museums including the National Museum, all of which have been very interesting to read about and understand the Malaysian culture and lifestyles we are inhabiting. We, as a team, also went to the National Mosque. For some of us it was the first time to a mosque and was quite “different.”Altogether, an experience not soon forgotten.

As you may or may not know, Kuala Lumpur is known for a lot of different things, one being it’s food. Another is the Petronas Twin Towers. These are the tallest twin towers in the world. We didn’t get a chance to go up in them but we got to go up the KL tower (tall but not as tall as the Petronas Towers, of course) and experience a breathtaking view of the skyline, including the twin towers.

One of my highlights of the trip was what happened today, Sunday the 16th. We went to Petaling Jaya Gospel Church and afterwards two men involved with Focus on the Family talked to us about that ministry. It’s heartwarming and very encouraging to know that God is at work in Asia and specifically KL. God is about family and Focus on the Family is allowing God to take over their ministry and use it in powerful ways. It’s amazing.

As I write this to you I should be in bed because tomorrow @ 3oclock in the morning we take the first steps toward Chiang Mai Thailand. I’m excited to use their currency, the baht, because the exchange rate is 30 baht to 1 U.S. dollar.

That’s all for now! -Ben Faul

Long House

Only on the island of Borneo in southeast Asia can you take a boat trip up a river to a village where the natives are living in a long house. The boat was a hollowed out log with several seats in it and a motor strapped to the back. Once the motor gets going, riders get to enjoy a water skiing type experience. The long house was about 100-yards long and on stilts, which put the floor almost ten feet off the ground. Inside the long house, each family had their own room. The chief of this long house was 98 years old! I felt honored to shake his hand. The cultural experience was amazing. Enjoying the night festivities of the tribe and sleeping in a mosquito net made me feel like I was on the most exotic camping trip of my life. – Michael Loewen

Longhouse 3
Longhouse 2

The Adventure Begins

Tabor College students and staff are now embarking on an adventure of a lifetime.  Dr. Aleen Ratzlaff and Ron Braun are guiding a group of seven students on a trip through Southeast Asia.  They left early the morning of Jan.5 and will return Jan. 28.

Their trip will include stops in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia.  In addition to visiting museums, mosques and sightseeing, there will also be travel to indigenous villages of the tribes in Borneo and northern Thailand.  Service projects will be completed at mission locations.

This group of seven students and two leaders left this morning from Wichita.  They will spend most of January touring and learning.

This group of seven students and two leaders left this morning from Wichita. They will spend most of January touring and learning.

During their travel, they will be learning more about Buddhism, Confuciansim, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity while being immersed in the cultures of the Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, Thai and Cambodian people.