Angkor continues to fascinate and enchant. It’s many facets include more than the gorgeous temples it is famous for all over the world.
We visited the largest lake in south east Asia called Tonle Sap or Great Lake. It is unusual for two reasons. It changes direction twice a year. During dry season it drains south into the Mekong but during the rainy season it forms a huge lake and drains north. We took a boat ride to the floating villages that move around the lake with the flow of the water and seasons. It was truly life in the raw. The houses were anchored on barges for easy movement and we saw everyday scenes of lazy afternoons in a hammock, cleaning and cooking, washing dishes and clothes and normal household chores. But in a very difficult environment. The local Khmer and refugee Vietnamese live at subsistence level and it is a hard life. We passed a floating church, mosque, market and school.
Cambodian food continues my culinary journey and though it is very good I must profess to favor. Vietnamese.
We drove deep into the Cambodian countryside to visit the 10th century Bantay Srei temple. It’s pink sandstone glowed in the early morning sun.
We heard the story of the Khmer Rouge and it was difficult to picture the peaceful rice paddies and gorgeous vistas with the killing fields of Pol Pot. The Cambodians have done an awe inspiring and heroic effort of re building their nation after 15+ years of massacre of intellectuals, doctors, teachers and professionals. Education is now mandatory for every child.
The Beng Mealea temples have only opened recently to travelers. I have to admit to some apprehension walking the extensive grounds as they were just declared free of land mines. They are still clearing thousands of land mines all over the country and apparently have over 70% to go. This complex has not been restored and it was heart breaking to hear our guide wish for funds to be devoted to education and helping the poor vs restoration. The jungle has taken over and it was awe inspiring to see trees assert their dominance over mere man made structures that in most places were rubble and piles of stones.
Cambodian life in the villages continues at an unhurried space. Amidst all the usual accoutrements of everyday life it was hilarious to see gas being sold in old Johnnie Walker black label bottles.
I am humbled at what Cambodia has endured and what it has achieved in only 20+ years. The United Nations only rescued Cambodia in the late 80’s and it was a devastated nation. The spirit of the people and their generosity to
visitors is amazing in light of what they have endured. I am truly fortunate to visit and get to know them, even if it’s for so brief an interlude.
Adios till next time!!!