Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cambodia

There are two themes in this post. The first is about Angkor Wat and the second is the floating villages on the Tonle Sap Lake. In actuality Angkor Wat is only one of the temples in the area around the town of Siem Reap. There are many temples hidden in the jungle over hundreds of square kilometers, each with the name of its own. Angkor Wat (wat means temple) is just the most famous and kind of serves as a general term for the whole area. Following is a photo essay of the three we liked best. There will be few words; the temples speak for themselves.


The Bayon

This temple comes at you suddenly. You go down a small path and are all of a sudden confronted by one of the ancient guard gates with four faces of Buddha, one on each side. All the imagery carved on the walls features both Buddhist and Hindu gods. This temple was built around 1200 AD when Hinduism was the dominant religion but was slowly being replaced by Buddhism. Inside there are doorways and staircases everywhere.


Ta Prohm

This temple is still in the jungle. While most temples are being restored, a decision was made to leave this one much like it was found. Its key features are the trees that are growing out of the walls and foundations. Giant roots from these trees snake across the stones and then plunge into the earth. Most of the temples were like this once, but the jungle has been hacked back and the stones restacked. The temple is where the movie "Laura Croft and the Tomb Raiders" was filmed. Elva is standing at one of the spots where a scene was filmed.


Angkor Wat
And now for the most famous temple. It is the largest in area covered. It has a majestic causeway over a 200 meter-wide moat leading into the outer enclosure and then another from there into the main temple complex. It was thronged the day we were there. There are corridors in every direction. It would be easy to get lost. It was big and grand, but truthfully I liked Ta Prohm better.



Floating Village
The Tonle Sap lake is the most peculiar thing. It is actually an "overflow basin" for the Mekong River. In the spring when the Mekong is in flood, the excess water flows into the Tonle Sap, and during the dry season the water flows back out again. All along the banks of the lake live a large colony of boat people. Either they are too poor to afford land or they are immigrants (mostly Vietnamese) with no legal standing in Cambodia, so they live as landless people on their boats and depend on the lake for their livelihood. They fish the lake (or have fish pens beneath their floating homes) and take the fish to market in trade for vegetables.


1 comment:

Carol said...

I loved my "visit" to Vietnam and Cambodia today. Amazing I can cover so much in one day. :-)
Thanks.