Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Cambodia’

Beyond the Temples

Beyond the Temples of Siem Reap are its people.

Hopeful merchants outside every temple parking lot encroaching on weary foreigners. Young children happily visiting until they notice someone entering or leaving a temple. Their eyes turn sad as they count the postcards for sale, “One, two, three…”

Other children in uniforms ride their bicycles to school. We also find locals driving the roads using a variety of mechanical contraptions. Tourist mix in, pedaling or riding tuk-tuk’s to the ancient treasures while others speed by in large tourist buses.

Outside of the main temple circuit, one can see more and more folks farming and going about their daily life away from the main attractions. In the country, families sell goodies they have created by the side of the road such as candy and sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves. Nearby their children play carefree.

This is Siem Reap, beyond the city, between the temples.

20130319-072811.jpg

20130319-072842.jpg

20130319-073316.jpg

20130319-073330.jpg

20130319-073424.jpg

20130319-073349.jpg

20130319-073502.jpg

20130319-073639.jpg

20130319-073823.jpg

20130319-073846.jpg

20130319-073934.jpg

20130319-074051.jpg

20130319-074111.jpg

Don’t Walk, Run to See the Wonders of Siem Reap

Siem Reap is best known for the twelfth century wonder known as Angkor Wat. However, there are more than one hundred temples dating from the ninth to the twelfth century built around this Angkorian capitol which was all but destroyed by the Thai Army in the fourteenth century. Angkor Wat was one of the last temples built during the during this period but is best known as it is both one of the largest and most detailed of them all.

As kings and religions changed over the centuries, so too did the purpose of the temples. However, the line between each religion becomes blended with old traditions and the importance honoring ancestors. Therefore, temples or monuments originally dedicated to Hinduism, Animism or Buddhism may be rededicated with the change in belief system over the years.

Locals break up the temples into three parts; The “Small Circuit” include Angkor Wat, Bayon which is nicknamed “Temple with the Faces” and Ta Prohm nicknamed “The Tomb Raider Temple” as is was made famous by Anglia Jolie’s famous movie, ‘Laura Croft: Tomb Raider’. The “Big Circuit” includes one of my favorites, Preah Khan, which is a very detailed temple with pink highlights and losing a battle against numerous banyan trees towering above the collapsing stones. Further away from the center is the “Roluos Group” which comprises of some of the oldest temples dating from the ninth century.

For the adventurous there are amazing temples further out from these three groups. The greatest of these is Beng Mealea. Here not only the trees but also the moss and jungle seemed to be claiming it for their own.

Most tourists come in groups and just seem to view the highlights. Coming for extra days with your own transportation, waiting for the groups to pass by make the journey more peaceful. It is common to rent a bicycle and pedal from place to place.

I snapped over a thousand photographs in my three day visit to the temples. In reviewing the photos I realize that nothing seems to capture the greatness of it all.

I, like many visitors, arrived early to witness the changing morning colors over Angkor Wat. I was quickly introduced to the steep narrow steps most temples possess. The steps lead up to holy sites that are built higher to be closer to god or heaven.

I must admit that I was nervous climbing up and down some of the steps. Some steps barely achieved three inches in width. A few times, I could feel my toes tighten to hold myself as my fingers gripped tightly to these narrow steps as I mind questioned why I decided to climb to the top.

By the second day of my journey, I notice little restoration work about me as I become more and more aware of the impact thousands of tourist a day are having on these sites.

At one temple, I see three workers vainly attempt some reconstruction without any heavy equipment. At the same site I notice bus loads of tourist crawling all over one of the oldest temples, Beng Mealea, in order to capture “that perfect photo”. The stones are not stable, but one by one they wait their turn and crawl over to the place for their chance at the same photograph and creating additional damage along the way. I begin to wonder why the government is not doing more restoration and blocking off areas to preserve the temples for future generations.

On the last day I hired a personal guide to help answer questions I have had about the temples and the people surrounding Siem Reap. At the end of the day I asked, “What do you want me to know about this place before I leave?” I was shocked to learn his answer. “Where is your ticket?” I reached in my bag and pulled out my three day Angkor World Heritage Pass. “Look at the symbol at the bottom.” He pointed to a pink symbol and under it had the words ‘SOKHA HOTEL Co., LTD’.

“What does that mean?” I asked. My guide explained that the government had a contract that allows most of the revenues from these Cambodian treasures to be claimed by this company which little, if any, goes to support reconstruction or to help the people of Cambodia. In my guides opinion, due to government corruption it is unlikely that these contracts will be changed to support the people of Cambodia or the temples located here.

I titled this blog, “Don’t Walk, Run To See The Wonders of Siem Reap”, because with little interest or financial resources to restore this structures, as the country is still rebuilding from the wrecking ball of the Khmer Rouge, I fear that the destruction of the temples will continue over time as the number of tourist mount. So, do come quickly if you are eager to see the temples as unrestricted as I have been able to enjoy. However, please be aware of your presence here and please do your part minimize your lasting footprint on the area.

20130318-144229.jpg

20130318-144253.jpg

20130318-144335.jpg

20130318-144418.jpg

20130318-144449.jpg

20130318-144556.jpg

20130318-144625.jpg

20130318-144642.jpg

20130318-144707.jpg

20130318-144824.jpg

20130318-144850.jpg

20130318-144918.jpg

20130318-144948.jpg

20130318-145013.jpg

20130318-145046.jpg

20130318-145119.jpg

20130318-145151.jpg

20130318-145309.jpg

20130318-145348.jpg

20130318-145426.jpg

20130318-145445.jpg

20130318-145501.jpg

20130318-145539.jpg

20130318-145611.jpg

20130318-145629.jpg

20130318-145642.jpg

20130318-145715.jpg

20130318-145747.jpg

20130318-145813.jpg

20130318-150000.jpg

20130318-150032.jpg

20130318-150047.jpg

20130318-150130.jpg

20130318-150329.jpg

20130318-150405.jpg

20130318-150514.jpg

20130318-150935.jpg

20130318-151535.jpg

Phnom Pen – Rising From The Ashes

The capitol of Cambodia is a raw and bustling entanglement of street venders, vehicles, businessmen, bicycles and sidewalk restaurants. Motorbike and tuk tuk drivers ask each passerby if they need a ride. Police sit in corner restaurants or stand by street intersections and observe the daily chaos.

As I walk around the city there is an unmistakeable friendliness that fills the air. Despite the poverty and long working hours of the people there are smiles everywhere. People want to get to know you. As I walked to the river one tuk tuk driver asked if I wanted a ride, “Tuk tuk?” “No, I am walking.” As point my index and middle finder down and move them back and forth as legs walking. “Oh….. Walking!” The driver pauses smiles and adds, “Walking is good too.”

Highlights in Phnom Pen include visiting the Royal Palace, National History Museum and walking by the river. It was a meaningful experience to visit the museums and memorial for the the victims of Pol Pots reign. Above all however, I enjoyed attending two Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) performances at the National Museum.

The CLA was formed in 1998 by Arn Chorn-Pond, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide. About ninety percent of Cambodia’s artists were killed during the reign of Khmer Rouge and the traditional arts were at risk of extinction. The CLA was formed to keep the traditional Cambodian arts alive with a focus of providing opportunities for under privileged children to learn the arts and further pursue their educational endeavors.

My time in the capitol city proved that people are resilient and where there is a spark, a flame can be rekindled in the human spirit.

20130311-083047.jpg

20130311-083118.jpg

20130311-083059.jpg

20130311-083200.jpg

20130311-084511.jpg

20130311-084625.jpg

20130311-084641.jpg