Temples in the jungle of Cambodia
02.10.2008 - 07.10.2008 36 °C
The hundreds of temples surviving today are the skeleton of the vast political, religious and social center. An empire that stretched from Burma to Vietnam and which, at its zenith, boasted a population of one million.
I flew in a prop plane of Lao Airlines from Luang Prabang on the 2nd of October in a rain storm. Good news is that before I had my Cambodian Visa and picked up my luggage, the sun was shining. I made my way to a tuk tuk driver and into town to meet Peter, who was one of the IBM'er with me in Vietnam. He flew in from Saigon.
We found a nice guest house with a pool, Ancient Angkor Guesthouse http://www.ancient-angkor.com/, and went off to see the sunset from the top of one of the temples. Angkor Wat is lit at night and is quite spectacular. We arranged to be met at 5AM by our tuk tuk driver to begin our tour by seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Amazingly there are a lot of people who chose to avoid the heat and start early.
We had a big day seeing the major sites.
The heat in the middle of the day is hard to believe. It is difficult to think of the people working to build and decorate these buildings in this heat. There are hugh modern hotels here and more being built. This is on the package tour circuit now that Cambodia is not in a civil war. People are here from every continent. I have seen a lot of Japanese tourist and my tuk tuk driver speaks Japanese as well as English!
The next day we started at 6AM to a small town where the temple building began. We hired a boat to take us to a village built on stilts that is flooded most of the year from the overflow of the large lake near by. It was very interesting to think of living on the water all the time. We returned and saw several of the oldest temples and called it a day.
Three other IBM'ers arrived that evening for their visit and we had dinner with them and caught up on their travels in Vietnam.
The Kymer culture is one I was not familiar with and I will enjoy learning more about it. They were a very powerful civilization and have some beautiful art.
Economic situation is very poor here. There is a corrupt government. Election was held recently, but the people are powerless to make changes. One example: A private group has the contract to collect the fees to Angkor wat ($20 a day). The precentage for the ticket collector is 17%, only 10% goes to the restoration of the temples. The rest, 73% goes to the corrupt government treasury. Angkor Wat has created a tourist boom for Cambodia. Visas into the country are $20 and exit fees at the airport for international flights are $25. None of this benefits the people.
Several US companies have opened garment manufacturing in Phnom Penh. Columbia, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, Gap, Gant, and Next are some of the brands. Any consumer spending slow down would affect the number of workers and is a subject of one of the front page stories in the newspaper.
There is no social network, so disabled people are on their own with no assistance from the government. There are many people who are disabled from the war or the land mines that explode accidently even today when people are looking for scrap metal. I saw a man with no arms below the elbow holding a display around his neck selling books on Cambodia. They try, but there is not enought work for the people.
The Cambodians have been at war either with invaders of their country (France, Thailand, Vietnam), at war with themselves through civil wars or the Khymer Rouge regime for so long, they just want to enjoy today, and look forward to tomorrow, because for so long, there was no tomorrow. Millions were killed during the 4 years of the Pol Pot Kymer Rouge regime attempt to create a suppressed agricultural workforce. No one has ever been brought to justice for the crimes against humanity and some of the leaders of the Kymer Rouge are now in the government. The population wants peace after so many years of war.
Now on to Bangkok! The most developed economy of the neighbors and a country that has a cultural debt to their poor neighbor of Cambodia for their music, Kymer kick boxing. and their arts.
Photos can be viewed at http://good-times.webshots.com/album/568351538HidiJV