It is Thursday. We are 11hours later than Indianapolis time and a day ahead of Indianapolis. So, when we are writing our blog, it is 5:30 PM on Thursday where we are and 6:30 AM on Wednesday in Indianapolis. It gets so confusing trying to communicate with you at home.
We are in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It has a population of 162,000. They speak Cambodian. But, the money they use in Cambodia is the US dollar! We found that to be very weird. They have their own money, but no one uses it. All prices for hotels, restaurants, admissions, etc. are in US Dollars. Apparently, the UN paid its peace-keeping soldiers stationed here in 1993 in US Dollars and the currency stuck.
Cambodia has had a tough history. From 1975 to 1979, it has been estimated that 1.5 to 2.5 million Cambodians were either executed or died of starvation during the Khmer Rouge era. Since the UN’s involvement in 1993, the lot of the Cambodians has been steadily improving although their economy is not very strong. The Cambodians we have interacted with are beautiful people, hard working, gracious, smile often and laugh a lot.
We came to Cambodia to see the temples that include Angkor Wat, considered by some to be one of the new “seven wonders of the world”. There were originally 290 ancient temples packed into a 150-mile area surrounding Siem Reap. Most of the temples are from the 11th to the 13th Century. Adjacent to Angkor Wat is Angkor Thom, a 13th Century metropolis of over 1 million people at a time when London’s population was a mere 30,000. It was the last capital of the Khmer Empire, which controlled much of Southeast Asia for over 600 years. Unfortunately, Angkor Thom no longer exists.
Angkor Wat was originally a Hindu temple dedicated to the God Vishnu. But, it was subsequently converted to a Buddhist temple. It was built from 1125 to approximately 1165. It took 20,000 workers and 40,000 elephants. The 5.5 million tons of stone came from a quarry 25 miles away. Angkor Wat covers a space in excess of 15 million square feet. It has 5 lotus blossom shaped towers that symbolize Mount Meru and it’s surrounding peaks which are the center of Hindu Universe. Stairways connect the three levels of the temple. The top level is known as “Balkan”, which represents heaven. After Angkor Wat was converted to a Buddhist temple, the second level, the Hall is known as the hall of a Thousand Buddhas, because it contained statues of Buddhas standing guard over the temple. Angkor Wat has carvings or bas reliefs on the temple walls that are 1800 feet long.
Rita and I visited Angkor Wat in the rain. Everything was wet, muddy, dark with mold or mildew which has grown for over 700 years, and very crowded as always. The sky was a yucky white, you know kind of like Indianapolis in March. My camera photos were all under exposed, my fault. I did not compensate for the white sky and the black subject. Rita’s IPhone photos were a little better. So, I did not really consider Angkor Wat to be the “wow” sight that I thought it would be. I was somewhat disappointed and I don’t know why. I just can’t put my finger on it. Rita found it interesting, but she was not wowed either. She thinks maybe her expectations were too high and that she thought it was going to be so much more. We don’t want to demean Angkor Wat in any way, it was beautiful, extraordinary, a masterpiece of engineering and construction, but we did want to share our impressions. Take a look at our photos and give us your impressions.
After Angkor Wat, we visited Ta Prohm, a nearby temple area that was used as a movie location for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. For the most part, this temple complex has been left in the state in which it was found. In other words, the temple has not been completely cleared of the trees and vines from the forest/jungle that is in the process of reclaiming it. We found Ta Prohm to be stunningly beautiful because of the interaction or inter connectedness of the temples and nature. Beautiful sponge trees with elongated roots had claimed a large portion of the temples with their roots spreading out like the legs of an octopus over the temples. Many of the temples were covered with green moss that seemed to radiate color. The temples are quite photogenic and the temples have this wonderful atmosphere even in the rain, wet, muddy, white sky, and crowded conditions. See our photos for the results.
We would like to say that the people here in Cambodia are very humble and inviting. They always have a smile on their face and are more than willing to go above and beyond to help us experience their country. They are very proud of who they are and it really shows in their actions towards us.
There are two very important things that we wanted to add to this post, but as of right now, neither one of us can actually remember what they are. Old age, travelers absent-mindedness, we don’t have any explanation, except we forget right now. So as soon as we remember what those two things are, we’ll post them.
Love and miss you all, Norm and Rita
Siem Reap, Cambodia – Here are some photos from Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the largest religious edifice in the world.
Ta Prohm ( Where Lara Croft Tomb Raider was filmed)
Then we did venture out at night to check out the nightlife in Siem Reap!
And had to see what it also looks like by day!