Temples and Landmines in Siem Reap

Trip Start Oct 14, 2009
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Trip End Jul 01, 2014


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Where I stayed
Frangipani Villa Hotel Siem Reap

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I arrived yesterday afternoon and met Robert, a Peace Corp Volunteer who teaches 10th grade in Battenbang. Robert had recently sent an inquiry to OLPC asking how one start's a new XO laptop project. Since I was going to be in the neighborhood anyway, we arranged to meet. From Robert I learned that in Cambodia there are primary schools in most villages but only regional secondary schools. The children in Battenbang, which is a large province, do not learn computer skills at all in the public schools. There are no computers in the elementary schools, none in the middle schools, and none in the high schools.

We talked about what might be possible, what might make sense, and how very poor the people in Cambodia are. Siem Reap is not representative of Cambodia. Even I know that. And in Siem Reap, I am once again stunned by the poverty. The needs are so great.

I hired a capable driver, Sri Piten to take me to some of the temples and to the Landmine Museum. Sri Piten is studying to be a certified tour guide and he speaks acceptable English. He works out of the airport with a legitimate company. If you are planning a trip and wish to have your own driver, Sri Piten is dependable, knowledgeable and very pleasant. You can hire him for the day and he will pick you up at your hotel at the appointed time, take you where ever you want to go and wait for you for however long. You can email sripiten@gmail.com or call him at (855) 979994391.

We headed out towards Banteay Srei about 8:30 AM. We first stopped at Temple Pre Rup (Sunset Temple) on the way out to Banteay Srei. It was still early, not very crowded, and very special to be there. In the late 10th Century, Pre Rup was one of the first temples that King Rajendravarman II built as his "state temple" when the capitol moved back to Angkor from Koh Ker. The style is a classic temple-mountain with 5 towers and it is built of the red brick, laterite and sandstone that is common to this area.

Banteay Srei used to be an out of the way temple site, as the road was still mined. It has been cleared now and a "proper tourist infrastructure" has been built. This definitely changes the temple experience. It's not quite Disney World, but it isn't old Angkor anymore either. While the trip out there provides a good view of life in the countryside, through small villages and rice paddies, Banteay Srei is definitely no longer off the beaten path.

These archeological sites are amazing, both for the sheer number of temples and the vision of the past they provide. I first visited Angkor Wat almost 6 years ago. Certainly then, there were other visitors but now, the experience with so many tourists is much different. I arrived by 10:00 AM, and the parking lot was already crowded with buses. It is definitely a different experience this visit, but still, it is a treat to experience these magnificent historical structures, even with lots of other tourists and amongst the many tour buses.

Banteay Srei is a (relatively) smaller temple. This temple, the "Citadel of Women" is said to have some of the finest carvings in the world. Like Pre Rup, Banteay Srei was built in the late 10th
century. It is unusual in that it is the only temple that was not built under the authority of the King. It was a Brahmin advisor to King Rajendravarman, Yajinyavaraha, who built the Banteay Srei complex and dedicated it to Shiva. The soft red sandstone carves like wood, and just about every bit of wall space in this temple is covered in exquisitely detailed carvings. I saw geometric and floral patterns, in addition to male and female gods, Naga (the snake), the story of Parvati and Shiva, and more.

This temple is probably not on the "if you have only one day in Siem Reap" must see list, but it has the most detailed and intact carvings of any I have seen and it would be on "my" do not miss in Siem Reap list. Be sure to check my photos to study the carvings and for clues to how the archeological restoration is done.

Next we went to the Landmine Museum. A new pet project of mine is the Undercover UXO Game designed for the xo Laptop. http://www.UndercoverUXO.org This intriguing "health risk education game" is designed to teach children in land mine affected countries to avoid the risk of unexploded ordinance. It was developed by a Team then at Michigan State U in the USA, with a grant from the US State Department and support from Humanitarian West, and the OLPC Contributors Program, and M.I.N.D Lab. The project team includes Dr. Corey Bohill, now at University of Central Florida, Dr. Charles Owen at MSU, and Dr. Frank Biocca, now at Syracuse University.

Since I am traveling in SE Asia anyway, I decided to try and help to get the word out about the game to landmine affected countries here, when I can. UndercoverUXO is designed to be easily translated from one language to another and I thought if we can save even one life or limb, then this is a really important project! I have the game and have been showing it to many people. I wanted to learn more about the landmine problem in Cambodia, and about Landmine education for children and adults. The Landmine Museum outside of Siem Reap on the road to Banteay Srei was an excellent place to start.

An American volunteer, William Morse was giving an informational tour. Bill works with the Landmine Relief Fund http://www.Landmine-Relief-Fund.com and with http://www.CambodianSelfHelpDemining.org

The museum has an extensive collection of landmine casings that the museum founder Aki Ra has collected in his work de-mining the Cambodian countryside. The museum raises funds to support 50 children that live on the compound. These child victims, or children with parent victims are being given a better chance at life through the museum organization's work. I had a good conversation with Bill about the landmine problem in Cambodia and around the world. Not surprisingly, Afghanistan and Iraq are hot spots. I did not know that Columbia, South America, is heavily mined and that Peru has quite a problem too. There are lots of XOs in Peru. I think we'll have to get the UndercoverUXO game localized, translated into Spanish very soon.

I enjoyed the lovely and reasonably priced Frangipani Villa Hotel. I had a refreshing swim in the hotel salt water pool, did some shopping at the Old Market and Tourist market and had a relaxing dinner at the very fine Paris-Saigon Restaurant, near Wat Bo Road and my hotel. That was a real treat. Tomorrow I am off to visit a village that has had XOs for quite some time. I look forward to meeting the children and older students too.

Be sure to look over each photo here carefully. The stories are in the details!
Best to all,
Nancie



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Comments

Russ on

Hello Nancy,

I'm a freelance writer and I'm interested in the Undercover UXO game you mentioned and your efforts to spread the word. What would be the best way to reach you for some specific questions?

Russ

nsevers
nsevers on

Hi Russ!
I would be very happy to speak or skype with you. Please email your contact info to seven.upp@hotmail.com and I'll get back to you!!! Best, Nancie:)

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