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Published: November 24th 2013
Today was a long day on the bus, but for me more interesting than Angkor Way. First we went to Angkor Thom, much smaller in stature, but each tower has smiling faces of the gods. The adornments and grounds were fascinating to me, and the people riding elephants around the grounds made this an other-worldly place. After seeing elephants in the wild in Africa, I would never opt for a ride, but those who were riding seemed to be enjoying themselves, though the elephants eyes looked very distant.
We went out to Baphoun Temple, still being excavated by archaeologists. We stopped at the Terrace of the Elephants and that of the Leper king, which were once used as stages for lavish performances and religious ceremonies.
This afternoon we had a long drive into a rural area where our guide Savon was from. She told us her life story, being born at the beginning of Pol Pot's regime, when everyone was forced to work in the rice fields, and those that were educated were put to death. She showed us how the homes were built on stilts because the river flooded the area during monsoon season, when the rice would
be planted. Her mother dug a hole in the ground and put her in it so she wouldn't walk off. All she had to play with was a stick at 18 months old. Later another woman brought her baby to the same hole, so she had a playmate, and she progressed and learned to talk after that. Later in l ife her village laid land mines on the road to prevent the soldiers from coming into the village and stealing the girls for sex and the boys for war. In the morning they would dig up the mines and the road would be opened again for trucks to go through. It was hard to imagine this kind of life, and that it was just 30 years ago this all happened. She said they were told not to look back, only look forward, and thank God for what they had now, their freedom.
When we arrived at Batay Srei, the Lady Temple, I was taken aback by it's sheer beauty. It is intricately carved out of pink sandstone, and the statures standing guard around the structures are beautiful. This is a very special place, and we were almost the only
people there. I felt this was much more spiritual than other temples we visited, and felt this the most moving of all the places we visited.
On the way back from there we stopped at the ODA English Language School in the village of Ta Toum, which is sponsored by AMA Waterways. We had brought school supplies and gave them to Mr. Leng, the head of the school. He is an artist that, through art is teaching these children (32 at the moment) to make their way in the world. They did a dance performance for us, then a tour of the facility including the "gym" a bicycle operated pump from the well to a cistern for fresh water. Then we were able to purchase art the children had made, $10-$15 per item, and many of us did, to take home, and to help pay for the costs of the school, which helps orphans and children from disadvantaged homes. They children enjoy practicing their English and showing their work. It was a great visit, and a highlight of the trip!
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