Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Kingdom of Cambodia

You are probably wondering why I bring up Cambodia on our alpaca website. One of our 3 sons is adopted from Cambodia.  He is a survivor of the holocaust perpetrated by the Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. We are so proud of him because he has rebuilt his life, getting a good education, getting a good job and starting a family of his own. At times, he is understandably homesick for Cambodia.  Len and I hope to go with him to visit his homeland.  The tourism websites say that “There’s a magic about Cambodia that casts a spell on many who visit this charming yet confounding kingdom.” (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/cambodia). 

Cambodia is still a very, very poor country but is trying to revive its tourism business. Siem Reap, the cultural home of the Khmer people, is revitalized, is Cambodia's fastest growing city and serves as a small charming gateway town to the world famous heritage site of the Angkor temples.  It has several modern hotels and B&B’s. Within the city of Siem Reap there is the Angkor National Museum, one of King Sihanouk palaces and many shrines and pagodas. I also has an Old French Quarter, with its Chinese-inspired architecture, the Tonle Sap lake bird sanctuary, rice paddies, traditional Apsara dance performances, and the Old Market's craft shops and silk farms.

Angkor Wat, just outside Siem Reap, is the world’s largest religious building and considered the Seventh Wonder of the World. Wats means Buddhist temples. The Angkor Archeological Park is a huge place, having more than 40 major temples within the park, and many others outside it.  Every wall of Angkor Wat is covered with bas-relief and decorations, including Aspara dancers, gods, demons, soldiers, kings, and more. There is a long causeway to the main temple with reflecting pools on either side.






Angkor Wat is THE  temple to visit in Cambodia, but Angkor Tom is a large temple complex near Angkor Wat. The Angkor Thom complex has an area that is much larger than the Angkor Wat complex, but unlike Angkor Wat, it houses several small temples instead of just one. The name translates to "Great Angkor" or "Great City” (Angkor = great, Thom = city). I am particularly looking forward to seeing the Elephant Terrace.



Between Angkor Wat and the south gate of Angkor Thom is the Phnom Bakheng Temple or "Strong Hill" Temple, one of the earliest mountain temple in Angkor. Elephants take you from the bottom to the top of Phnom Bakheng Mountain. I want to do this too!

Also just outside Siem Reap is Tonlé Sap, the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia. The area is home to many ethnic Vietnamese and numerous Cham (Muslim) communities, living in floating villages around the lake.



I’m ready, Sam, let’s go!

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