Category Archives: Cambodia

Angkor Wat, once a magical place

Have you ever gone to a magical place that became a disappointment the second time you visited? Well, that place for me is Angkor Wat. When I first visited Angkor Wat in 2008 with my good friend, Rebekah, we had the enormous temple for ourselves and we were able to embrace the marvelous details and grandiosity. Siem Reap was a cute little town with a handful of restaurants and shops. Yes, there were some beggars and kids trying to sell you anything at the temples. But overall it was a calm place where you could just enjoy your time at the temples.

Sebastian will be sharing the background on this wonder of the world in a separate blog and I could not have left Angkor Wat out of our world tour for obvious reasons. On a personal level, I wanted my family to feel the WOW factor that I had years ago when you enter Angkor Wat.

We certainly did say “WOW”  when we arrived at the bridge to enter Angkor Wat. Only this time around it was about the hordes of tourists and buses of Korean and Chinese groups pushing everyone around to take selfies. For example, in order to climb to the 3rd floor of Angkor Wat, we had to wait in line for 20 minutes and push your way through to see the temple from the top. By the time we returned to the bottom, that line was twice as long! Flashback to my visit with Rebekah and we had the entire area to ourselves.

Siem Reap roads are just as busy as a big city. For instance, Pub Street, where a handful of restaurants were located years ago, reminds me of Carnaval for tourists today with big crowds that you need to push your way through.

Another humbling experience was a quick 20-minute family foot massage. The masseuses were 2 16 year-old boys the size of our kids who charged $1 for the massage. Great learning experience to our kids that don’t hesitate to download a $1 app from the AppStore while kids almost their age are working to earn $1 on a school night. We had a family discussion and reflection about this experience for our kids to absorb the realities of the situation for other children around the world in less fortunate circumstances.

On a positive note, we stayed in a very comfortable hotel – Shining Angkor. We also had a great farewell dinner at Mie Cafe. Our local guide, Lee, was knowledgeable and shared insight on the current political situation of Cambodia as well as its history with neighboring nations Vietnam and Thailand who seem to take advantage of the Cambodians on a regular basis. And, surprise surprise, we even found a Brazilian restaurant – Gigi Brazil. I couldn’t recall the last time I had some yummy pão de queijo, pastel and churrasco and we really loved this break from the Asian food circuit.

In the end, I know this mass tourism is good for the people of Cambodia as the increased tourism brings great improvements to their quality of life (at least in theory). At the same time, I am torn because it meant that the place I once considered to be very special, is now gone to the massive tours. So I sit here in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar this week thinking that in 5 years time the same fate could happen to the beautiful Bagan and places that we have enjoyed here. Only time will tell.

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Rebekah and I – 2008

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Ohh the tourists – Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat

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Ta Prohm

 

 

 

Siem Reap, Cambodia ⎮ A Day at the Temples…

Okay, to start off this blog, Dad made me do it! Alright, maybe I was happy to get assigned to do an educational blog. This was a pretty awesome day to begin with, and I really enjoyed all the temple viewing. It is quite tiring though!

We visited multiple small temples and saved the largest, Angkor Wat, for last.(which Sebastian will be educating you on) But before I start my portion, here is a little fun fact that was in my World History class.

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Fun Fact!

Did you now it took over 600 years to build Angkor Wat? It is also the largest Hindu temple in the world! Pretty cool!

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Before telling you all about the temples we visited, let me provide you some knowledge on Hinduism. It is okay, you can trust me. I just learned about this in World History.

Hinduism is a religion originated in India. To be specific, with the Aryan peoples in the Indus Valley. It is the largest religion in India and considered 3rd largest in the world. Today, about 80% of Indians are Hindu. One of the projects I did for my World History class involved the caste system. This is one of the beliefs in Hinduism. It is a social structure used to organize society. The Hindus worship many gods. There is one main god, Brahma, but Hindus worship millions of other gods separately including Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Ganesh. You may have heard of these gods before. A major belief that the Hindus have is reincarnation. This is the belief that a person is reborn after their death. They also believe in karma which is if a person does good deeds, they will be awarded in the next life. Maybe by being in a higher class in the caste system. Karma also relates to a person doing bad deeds being punished in the next life. Possibly by being in a lower class in the caste system or even a slug!

Now that you have some background knowledge on Hinduism, let me tell you about the temples of Siem Reap.

The first we visited is a city named Angkor Thom. It actually has multiple temples in it such as the main one, Bayon temple. It took 40 years to construct the city and there is a moat surrounding it. There are five gates that allow you to enter or leave, each having both gods and a demons. To the left are the gods and the right has the demons. They are lined up and you will notice that they hold something; well, that something is a snake. Yep, that’s right! Not a real one of course. Anyways, the gods hold the tail and the demonds hold the head. And to think that we have not even entered the city yet! But even from the outside, you can see that there are 49 tall towers in the city. This was easy to remember because all I have to think about are the San Francisco 49ers! Each tower has four faces that were built for the king way back when (12th century) and the four faces on the tower represent mercy, compassion, sympathy, and impersonality. Inside each tower, there are statues of the Lingha and Juni. The Lingha is represented as the male and Juni is female. The Hindu people offer the Lingha and Juni water and flowers and Buddhist people burn incense instead. Today there is only one statue of Lingha and Juni still standing of the 49 towers.

・・・・・・・・・・The Legend of Phimenakas ・・・・・・・・・・

Another temple we visited inside Angkor Tham is Phimenakas. The cool thing about this one is the awesome myth behind it! Let me begin…

There was a king and he wanted to know what was on top of the temple.  No one had ever gone up before so no one ever knew. The reason being that if you did, according to legend, then you would die. But the king was tempted and he set off to climb the temple. At the top, he found a beautiful woman and he made a promise that he would climb up there every day to see her. Lucky him, right? Not! If he failed to do that, he would die. One night, the king climbed up hoping to kill the woman and free himself from this daily burden. But just as he slashed his sword into her, she turned into a snake. The woman was a serpent the whole time! The king was given a disease from the serpent’s bite and soon died. Sorry to let you down friends 🙁

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 Another cool place we visited in Angkor Thom was the elephant fields. It’s a very large grassy, dirt area where they used to have races, on elephants. Just imagine how fun that would be! You could have your own personal elephant and climb up and race on him any day! Now I don’t know how fast they’d go but my brother, Sebastian, says that they could run as fast as 25 mph! There is a huge viewing area with really cool sculptures of animals that the royalty and friends would sit on to watch the races. Now they use the field to set up VIP private parties for sunset dinners and no, we were not VIPs!

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Fun Fact!

Did you know that Hindu and Buddhist dancers use twisting hand motions to tell stories? 

I learned some moves – pinch your two fingers together, (index and thumb) and point them down towards the ground. Curl it back up so it is pointing to the ceiling or sky now. This means stem and growing. Get it? The plant is a stem to start with and your fingers pinched towards the ground. When you twist and curl them back up, it is growing just as a plant grows. Then, open up your two fingers still pointing up. This means flowering and fruit. I thought it was really cool how people can tell stories just by making hand motions!

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Phew! Just writing all this makes me sleepy…just think about how it really was! I hope you got something out of this and most of all enjoyed it! 🙂

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The 180º panorama view of Angkor Thom

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Family photo with Angkor Thom

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A relaxing lunch on the hammocks…

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