The Kingdom of Wonder

Cambodia is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia.
Officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia and once known as the Khmer Empire. We flew to Siem Reap which mean Defeat of Siam. Images of Yul Brenner in The King and I came to my mind, even though Siam is in Thailand but as we learned, this country has a long history of changing rulers and the neighboring countries. Vietnam and Thailand, took constant bites of this land.
More about it you can find it here.

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The main attraction are the temples and the main one is called Angkor Wat.

The temples were build in the 7 -10 century A.D. They were build for one religion, Hinduism but then a new ruler came who believed in Buddhism, thus he destroyed the  images of the exciting religion and new ones were carved. Nature also took it’s toll but an extensive restoration work was done on most of them so we had  a full “plate” on our hands.  We started with Angkor Thom and the Bayon Temple then on to Preah Khan then Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat. Each one was unique. The biggest is Angkor Wat. The temples have the same basic architecture. They were  build with 4 corner prayer/meditation rooms, courtyard in the middle and three towers each symbolize a different god. It seems that the numbers 3 and 4 are important, which sums to 7. Nothing is random and you can find meaning in everything.  I find that I tend to compare it to Judaism. There is so much in common even though these believes developed in different parts of the world.

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I marveled at each one but I got restless in Angkor Wat. I found out later that its the only one that served as a burial place for the kings. This reminded me of the Taj-Mahal which is another wonder but also is a mausoleum and let’s not forget the Pyramids… what is it with the obsession with death?

The Next morning I woke up at 4am, took  a Tuk-tuk which is a motorcycle attached to a carriage, to the town of Phnom Krom. Took a steep hike and arrived at a pagoda on the top of a mountain. It’s a monastery and the monks were getting up for their morning chanting. After the chanting I joined a purification ceremony which included chanting, prayers, meditation and final blessing with holy water by the abbot. I was also given a red string on my right hand. I joined an Indian family who cam for the blessing, for breakfast and watched the sunrise.

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We heard there was a place called a Thousand Lingas.  Yes…  it’s a phallic symbol but again it symbolize beginnings. We drove an hour and half out of the city. The landscape consists mainly of rice fields. The farmers live in huts on stilts, they don’t have any electricity or running water.
We learned from our guide that it is the government’s interest to keep the people poor and uneducated.
We climbed for an hour and arrived at the famous Thousand Lingas river. Back to Siem Reap we stopped at the ” pink temple” Banteay Prei which is big but has no ornamentation.

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The next stop was the Landmine museum. This was a reminder that Cambodia was under the Khmer Rouge dictatorship regime that killed over 2 million Cambodians.

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There are few staple Cambodian foods. I took a cooking class which started with a trip to the market to get the fish or rather make sure it’s the fish I can eat … then to the kitchen to make banana flower salad with smoked fish, coconut soup with tofu and fish amok.
We leave Cambodia to go North to Hanoi. We leave a country with a rich history that is filled with wars and pain and hope for a brighter future.

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