Temples of Angkor

Trip Start Oct 01, 2011
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Trip End Dec 22, 2011


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Flag of Cambodia  , Prey Vêng,
Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hello again,

Our time in Cambodia got off to a bumpy start with a 4 hr wait at the border, a few dollars lost greasing the border officers (formally called quarantine fee, departure fee, stamping fee, etc), a bus of much less caliber than the "Super VIP" that we booked, about twice as many passengers than there was seats, and of course, a late arrival in Phnom Penn.

Since we are meeting up with Danielle and Nick (friends from high school) in Siem Reap, we only had a day to explore Phnom Penn. It would have been nice to see a bit more of the city past the main tourist attraction but you can only fit so much in one day. Since most of these main sights are dedicated to the very recent genocide of the Khmer Rouge regime, it was a rather sombre day. For those not aware of this history see the below history blurb on the Khmer Rouge. In our busy day (and with the help of a great tuk-tuk driver) we managed to squeeze in a visit to the Royal Palace, the Choeung Ek killing fields, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (high school converted into prison) and Russian Market (where we cheered ourselves up on silly purchases after a sobering day of history).

History - The Khmer Rouge
After a relatively peaceful 22 years of independence, the Khmer Rouge took power and implemented a brutal and radical restructuring  with the goal of transforming Cambodia into a peasant dominated cooperative. The regime was led by a european educated communist party member named Pol Pot  (Saloth Sar). Cities were dismantled and all Cambodians, regardless of age, sex, health or background, were ordered to work in the countryside in slave labour type camps. Any who were disobedient, were associated to other political beliefs, from a foreign country, had higher education which could undermine the regime, or were mistrusted in anyway ended up in prison or most often brutally tortured and executed. It is estimated that 2 million people died under the Khmer Rouge rule which equates to about every 1 in 4 Cambodians. Although the Khmer Rouge were defeated by Vietnamese troops in 1979, due to geopolitics, most western countries continued to recognize the Khmer Rouge as Cambodians governing body (including the UN). The senior members of the Khmer Rouge are only now being internationally tried for genocide and war crimes which will likely be to late to bring justice to these elderly individuals whom have lived out most of their life in exile.

We left Phnom Penh on route to Siem Reap to meet up with Danielle and Nick and to explore the temples of Angkor for a few days. The Angkor temple ruins are the remnants of a 1,000 year old civilization (Khmer) which ruled much of South East Asia during that period. Most are familiar with the famous Angkor Wat but the area is actually comprised of hundred of such ruins expanding out in all directions.

Siem Reap being the gateway to the Angkor temples, currently one of the most visited tourist attractions on the planet, is not the most picturesque town (or representative of the rest of Cambodia) but an unfortunate necessity to explore the temples. It did however make for a nice place to spend our non temple exploring hours with fish spa's (little fish that nibble at your feet), markets, good friends, tasty food and plentiful drinks. We had the added bonus of running into our Laos travel buddies, Ryan and Christina.

The temples themselves are of course amazing and we spent two days exploring Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Ta Kao, Bayon, Angkor Thom, Preah Khan, Phnom Bakheng, Banteay Kdei and Pre Rup. Aside from a pain in the ass Tuk-Tuk driver (surprise), we had a great time learning about the Angkor history, having intense debates on how they possibly built these wonders 1,000 years ago, trying to understand how they possibly lost them for another 500 years, people watching at the "Tomb Raider Tree", and taking in the beautiful (though popular) sunset and sunrise over the temples. It has been 4 years since the last time Steve had been at the temples and it is rather amazing how much they have changed. Many seem to have undergone extensive renovations and now have wooden walkways that you have to follow when you could once roam freely. We can imagine they will continue to change just as much over the upcoming years. 

We have a quick day in Bangkok and then fly tomorrow for Myanmar (Burma). 

For a full set of photos, click HERE or paste the following link:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.984053662637.2417726.122605004&type=1&l=2057079de3

Hope everyone is still enjoying the updates.

Steve and Audrey

PS - we have posted a few videos from the Zip Lining in Southern Laos which are available at the following link for those interested.

Video 1
Video 2
Video 3


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