Angkor WOW!

Trip Start Feb 08, 2010
Trip End Mar 11, 2010

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Monday, February 15, 2010

We decided to splurge a little on our tour of the Angkor ruins. We hired a guide by the name of Kol Chhen (last name, first name) for two days to interpret the ruins for us, and take us to the best spots. We also had a driver, an air-conditioned Toyota (the car brand of choice here, apparently) and ice-cold drinks, which were welcomed after a few hours walking around in the 35+ degree heat.

To qualify for a guide's license, Chhen had to study architecture, ancient history, and the Buddhist and Hindu religions in order to give visitors the proper context for understanding the ruins. Oh, and he had to "pay corruption" of about $2,000 US, an astronomical sum, but "not too bad", according to him.

The extensive temples of Angkor are infinitely amazing, as is the history behind them. Chhen told us that the temples were built by various kings in order to display their power. They held rooms for worshiping, Buddhas and phallic symbols for Buddhist and/or Hindu kings, libraries, pools for bathing, and more.

Since the grandeur of the temples displayed the king's power, they were primary targets for Siamese (now modern-day Thai) and Cham invaders. Nature has also been a destructive force, as has bombing by Americans in the middle of this century.

A few of the temples have been painstakingly reconstructed by the French, who held Cambodia as a colony during the middle of the century. Various governments and NGOs are also involved in the restoration.

Highlights of the day included:

- the hundred faces of the Bayon temple;
- the gorgeous carvings in the galleries depicting the daily lives of the people, and the wars in which they fought;
- the three-headed elephant sculpture on the south gate of Angkor Thom; and
- climbing up and down narrow, steep stairs; and
- seeing the sun set over Angkor Wat.

Words truly can't do this place justice, so I'll upload a few photos for your enjoyment.

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