Cambodia

Trip Start Apr 16, 2007
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Trip End Jul 2008


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Thursday, October 25, 2007

We caught the Mekong Express bus to take us to Siem Reap.  The trip took several hours during which we saw the country side.  Generally the people outside the cities appear to be fairly poor and live a simple existence through farming, clearly a big void between the rich and the poor....Most of the children were either wearing little or no clothes at all and only a hand full appeared to be going to school. 

Interesting Fact - In 2006, Transparency International rated Cambodia as 151 of 163 countries making it one of the most corrupt countries on earth)

The Khmer Empire once included much of modern-day Thailand.  The name Siem Reap means the 'Defeat of Siem', but Thailand controlled Siem Reap and Angkor from 1794 to 1907.  

In 1901, the the École Française d'Extrême Orient (EFEO) funded an expedition to the Bayon and in 1907 Angkor, which had been under Thai control, was returned to Cambodia. The EFEO took responsibility for clearing and rescuing the whole site from the jungle.  The town of Siem Reap gradually grew from there as the numbers of tourists steadily increased.  

In 1975, Siem Reap, along with the rest of the cities and towns in Cambodia, had it's population forced into the countryside by the Khmer Rouge.  Not until the mid 1990's did the area begin to see tourism again.

Siem Reap is a rapidly growing city and has a regular flow of tourists arriving to see Angkor Wat.  There is a flashy international airport and in the town there are numerous restaurants and bars to keep you entertained and a variety of hotels for every budget, we stayed in an old Colonial guethouse by the River which was excellent, and only $15USD per night (much to our Rik-shaw driver's dismay we eventually arrived at the correct place after he took us to a couple of 'other' guest houses where he no doubt would receive a hefty commision! And when we arrived, surprisingly our guesthouse wasn't in the middle of being rebuilt or noisy - by now we had heard it all before!!) 

As soon as we arrived, we headed to Angkor Wat to catch the sunset...unfortunately there really wasn't much of a sunset but we wandered through the main gates into Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat lives upto its reputation very, very impressive and fantastic, an amazing Wat!

We paid 40USD for a 3 day Angkor Pass.  (Approximately 28% of ticket revenues across the whole Angkor site is spent on the temples-although one thing we noticed was that most work was carried out by foreign government-sponsored teams rather than by the Cambodian authorities.)

Angkor Wat
Built for King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. It is the only temple to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation-first Hindu, dedicated to Vishnu, then in the 14th or 15th century the temple was converted to Theravada Buddhist use, which continues to the present day.
The temple and it's Khmer architecture has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on every Cambodian national flag -the only building to appear on any national flag.

Angkor Thom
Besides the main temple of Angkor Wat we also visited Angkor Thom which is made up of 3 main temples.  The Bayon - with all the heads, the Baphuon - which has a large reclining buddha along one side but is virtually collapsed and the impressive Ta Prohm.  This is the one which features in Tomb Raider and has all the roots of the silk cotton trees growing all over it.  This temple was only partially recovered from the jungle as the trees are holding it together.  (This was one of our favourites to explore.)


After that we headed to see smaller temple such as the hill side temple of Ta Keo which had fantastic views of Angkor Wat and we visited a large temple thought to have been used as a university/ monastery- Preah Khan.

We had a great time in Siem Reap and took millions of photos's of the temples ...but have only added a small selection here for you to sample....no doubt we will bore the pants of some lucky few who get to see the whole lot!! 
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