Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cambodia!!!!!!! (part 1)

After visiting Ho Chi Min we flew to Siem Reap. That first day was a free day so two other girls and I hired a tuk-tuk and we went exploring around the city. We passed by several markets, a school, a group of young boys playing in a water hole, a group of women riding bikes to work, little girls walking along a canal. One of my favorite places we visited was a Cambodian orphanage. Little kids jumped out to greet us, tease us, and play with us. They spoke English almost fluently. The older students took care of the younger ones while the adult worked. All the children were happy and energetic. We learned that they went to a school run completely off donations and it was an incredible success. I was touched in the thirty minutes we spent with them.

Next, we spent the entire next day visiting the ancient temples of Cambodia. Siem Reap used to house one of the most powerful kingdoms in the world. The temples were…wow. We visited one temple that had large trees growing all over the ancient stone architecture. Huge twisting roots grew through windows, around columns, and over stairs and fountains. It was exactly how you would imagine an ancient ruin to look. I guess they filmed the movie “Tomb Raider” at this temple. There was another fascinating temple called “the face temple”. About a hundred stone men, each with unique faces and clothing, stood out side the gate of the temple holding two large stone serpents (Nagas) The Nagas are supposed to protect the temple from the evils of the outside world. As soon as I walked inside the temple an eerie chill swept over me. Huge faces, the size of a garage door, stared at me from every direction. Every face was unique, magnificent and silhouetted by the soft purple sky at dusk. It was so cool! Finally, we visited the most popular temple, one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the majestic Angkor Wat. It was beautiful. Almost all the walls were covered with intricate stone carvings. According to our tour guide, the stone carvers who worked on the ancient temples were put to death if they made any mistakes on the holy walls. Yikes. I guess the threat worked because I didn’t see any mistakes. Later that night we hiked up to the highest point in the city and sat on the stones of another ancient temple and watched the sunset across the city. It was weird to think how such a powerful kingdom could turn to ruins in only a matter of a few centuries.