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Published: January 15th 2007
Ever feel like you're being watched?
Angkor Thom's the Bayon has 216 faces of Jayavarman VII looking down on visitors with his mysterious and unsettling smile. Each pillar you see jutted upwards has his face from north, south, east and west angles
Chenelle and I vegged out for a day and did nothing at all, except drink beer and use the internet. Siem Reap is a full-fledged tourist town near the Temples of Angkor. Away from the cheap tourist town is the Rodeo Drive of hotels. Apparently, there is a huge influx of Asian tourists to the region, so there are lots of people getting in on the market (blah!). I'm staying at a nice hotel with Chenelle b/c my dad knows a hotel owner in Cambodia. I'm delighted.
Chenelle and I agreed to wake up at the crack of dawn to watch the sunrise at Angkor, but despite our efforts, we got there at 6 a.m. and we managed to beat the thousands of tourists, but not the hundreds who apparently had the same plan as us. We should have gotten there by 5 a.m.
The Temples of Angkor were just stunning... these collections (over a thousand) are remnants of Khmer architecture and culture. They were built between 850 and 1150 at the height of the Khmer kingdom and most were abandoned and forgotten until the start of the 20th century, when a French explorer discovered it while strolling through
Angkor Wat at 6:30 a.m.
I guess it's worth coming early not having people as the main backdrop.
the Cambodian jungles. During the Khmer Rouge, many were destroyed, but archaeologists worked their buns off trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle.
You can see the Hindu influence, but it has it’s own magical uniqueness. Now I know why Cambodians consider it the national pride of this country, as it is on their flag and national beer! After all that this hopeful country has been through, it’s a symbol of greatness for them. They are blessed to have this phenomenal religious site to call their own, and I (and the million other Chinese tour groups) am blessed to have been able to share their appreciation. Seeing it in person, and feeling the massiveness of the ruins is not even a tenth of seeing it in pictures.
My favorite was Ta Prohm (I believe it’s the Tomb Raider site), a temple where pollen had blown onto the walls, and after many hundreds of years, they grew into full-blown trees. So imagine these ancient walls being engulfed by thick roots that look like massive octopus legs. Another thing that was crazy was that there were carvings of dinosaurs (Stegosaurus) on the walls! Imagine that…
One of the three central towers
I couldn't climb it b/c I suddenly developed a fear of heights
that three day passes are a must to fully enjoy and appreciate the temples, but I think that with an open mind, and fast moving legs, one days is enough to appreciate it...perhaps not as personal as a three day tour would be. The whole area is really just so massive that a person can spend weeks lasily walking around.
On our way back, we saw Kantha Bopha Pediatric Hospital and a large banner stating their need for blood donations, particularly B type, for children infected with Dengue Fever, a fatal disease transmitted from mosquito bites. So we pulled over and went in. I am scared sh!t of needles (especially those in a third world country!), but the occasion called for me to suck up my whimpiness. Turns out, that the hospital is government-run, and totally legit. A brief story behind it is that in 1974/75, Dr. Beat Richner came from Switzerland to Cambodia to work at the hospital, but shortly after, he was forced to leave during the Khmer Rouge takeover. He returned in 1991, as the Cambodian government asked him to rebuild and manage the hospital. It is a beautiful thing that he does, offering thousands of
children and their mothers free medical service. Who said one person can't make a difference?
I'm really happy that I was able to make even a small contribution as donating blood. Actually, I probably wouldn't have thought to pull over on our tuk-tuk, but Chenelle, who does social work, felt compelled to donate blood. It turned out that I had B-positive blood type, which is the blood type they need the most, so the nurses were thrilled. Minus one pint of blood later, I got a t-shirt and a Coke! You can gohere
for more information, and I would encourage blood donation to anyone who goes there.
Later that evening, Chenelle and I passed out at our hotel room. I woke up shocked to see that my flight to Hanoi, Vietnam leaves in 40 mintues! We quickly bid farewell and I was off to the airport. It was a time well spent together, and I’m glad to have met her to show me how to bargain with tuk tuk drivers, deal with solicitors, and most importantly, learn the value of preparation!
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