Angkor Wat

I’m sitting at the airport now, waiting for my flight back to Hong Kong. Cambodia, a country that sits between Thailand and Vietnam, is perhaps best known for Angkor Wat. It appears on the list of the seven world wonders, though that list changes from source to source.

We did indeed see the Angkor Wat, and it is most magnificent at sunrise. However, Angkor Wat is only one temple of many in the area. Angkor Tham was once a major city in the 12th century, when Europe was still in the Medieval Age. It’s just amazing to see the details put into the architecture. More amazingly is that they just let tourists walk all over it. Unlike many places you might visit, there isn’t really a path that you have to follow. You are free to climb the rocks, touch almost everything, and it actually is becoming a problem in its preservation.

From the Angkor Wat in Siem Riep, we headed to Phnom Penh, the capital city, by boat. First, it was a hectic morning. After asking us to wake up at 6:00 am, they proceeded to drive us around to the different hotels/hostels around to pick up other people. By 7:00, the time we were told that the boat would leave, we were still at this. We didn’t really have a choice, and our minivan was overfilled with people. But apparently the boat waits for people and actually leaves at 8:00. Coming from Hong Kong, we weren’t really used to this inefficiency. Everything leaves on time there. Business is efficient, things get done, but we were traveling and anticipated problems.

Speaking of problems, the boat’s engine died mid-trip. We had to wait maybe two hours for another boat to come tow us. While some may see it as a disaster, we had a great time meeting the locals on the shore. As our boat landed, everyone came and stared. There were aspects of their lives that seemed traditional, but there were modernistic ones as well. The kids just watched us as if they had no other things to do. They also did not speak any English and we didn’t know a word of Cambodian, so we all resorted to watching each other. But they were nice, they loved posing for photos and looking at photos of themselves. They gave my friend flowers freshly picked. They lived along the river for the fish, and we watched the local woman weave a net. While their clothes were full of wholes (or they didn’t have a shirt/pants), the some families still had motorcycles or phones, which presented an inconsistency.

In Phnom Penh, we visited S-21, the Khmer Rouge prison. It holds many similarities to the Holocaust, in an effort to bring “equality” to Cambodia. While we always focus on major events, we neglect to study some of these other less-well known ones. I cannot say that I knew of this history before seeing it myself. The Killing Fields show more of the atrocities as the “burial grounds.” However, for the Cambodian families, almost all of who this history has touched, believe that the ghosts cannot rest until the bodies have been properly buried following religion. As these bones surface through erosion with rain, hopefully they can rest properly in the future.

Finally, we visited the palace. However, only a small portion was open to the public since the Cambodian king passed away recently. Overall, it was a great trip, and even though I have a final exam tomorrow, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I wished I could have traveled more during the semester.

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