27.12.2008 - 27.12.2008 23 °C
Today we finally got to see Angkor Wat. Since we have actually been in Cambodia for quite awhile and in the city of Siem Reap for 2 days we were tired of everyone asking us if we had seen the temples. We wanted to really prepare and start early in the morning so we saved all the exploring for today.
We hired a driver and guide for the day. We wanted to do the tuk-tuk thing again but when we saw the road conditions, or lack of roads we thought it might be better to get a car...a car with air- conditioning. We met our driver and guide at 6:30am at the hotel. Our guide was very informative, he was big on geography and Khmer history. At times he was too excited and Andy and i were not sure what he was talking about because he was listing off gods, kings, and wars in Cambodian from the last 14 centuries.
We started off at Angkor Thom, the largest town of all the cities. Inside we visited Bayon temple, the temple of 216 giant faces set on 54 towers. We explored the 3 floors of the temple. Our guide explained each of the stories depicted on the walls of the first floor. We roamed around the King's palace, private temple, swimming pool and bath. It's good to be king. Before lunch we visited Ta Prohm, where they filmed the first Tomb Raider. The temple is over 800 years old and was left abandoned for the last 4 centuries. When the temple was re-discovered, massive trees had grown all over the temple walls. The trees were 200- 500 years old.
After lunch we started to explore Angkor Wat... "8th" wonder of the world. according to Cambodians. It is the biggest religious monument on earth. It took 135 years to finish. I cannot even imagine working on a project for that long. All the temples were dedicated to bringing together Hindu and Buddhism religons to bring together the people of Cambodia. All day long we could not stop commenting on how andy felt like Indiana Jones and I felt like Laura Croft.
The overall message and lesson learned about the Kingdom of Cambodia that Andy and i got is that there is a long history of fighting and civil war. The country is starting to recover but it takes time. It was amazing to think that close to 2 million people were exterminated less than 30 years ago. In my lifetime these people have gone through so much suffering, while I was growing up on the other side of the world. The tourism economy is taking off and it seems as if they are trying to grow, while still preserving their heritage and monuments. We had a really great time in Cambodia, the people are friendly and the food is awesome. We talked about coming back in 20 years to see the reconstruction efforts on the temples, but we also laughed at how different things would be from now. The things we loved, tuk-tuks, cheap/cold beers, and the quiet country-side might be gone.
We are going to miss Cambodia, the country that we were most interested in seeing but had the biggest doubts about.