Living Outside the Boundaries Cambodia
Arriving at the Airport
What is hotter than 12 times hell? Cambodia. Oh My Goodness!!!!!!! It was so hot it just didn’t make sense. It was 104 F on the day of my arrival and it hovered around that the entire time in country. When I stepped out of the airport I was hit in the face by heat. It felt like an actual fist of heat had given me a full body assault. But I wasn’t concerned, I had arranged for the hotel to send a car, or so I thought. Below is what greeted me.
Right there in the middle of the Siem Reap International Airport’s pick up lane I went through the five stages of grief.
Denial – “I wonder why the hotel would send the tuk-tuk to get my luggage and then send a car to pick me up.” That’s how stupid the heat made me.
Anger – “Aw hell no! They did not send a freaking tuk-tuk to get me in this heat.”
Bargaining – “Please, please, please let there be a car. Please, I’ll be good for the next two days.”
Depression – “Why does this crap always happen to me?”
Acceptance – “Hey let’s take a picture of my first tuk-tuk ride in 104 degree heat.”
Note to self: Always ask what kind of transportation is offered by your hotel. I found out later the hotel had an option for an air conditioned car for $7.00 but the tuk-tuk was free. I would have paid $70.00 for the car. After my internal princess rant I discovered that the heat is having serious consequences especially on children and rural communities. Nearly sixty percent of kids aren’t showing up in school because it is too hot. These are kids who really can’t afford to miss school. Wells are drying up and many of the children who stay home have to go to neighboring communities to get water for their families, sometimes long distances. Farmers are suffering because riverbeds and lakes are drying up. Temperatures up to 114 F have been recorded in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand; all three countries on my itinerary. My inner frustration at having to ride in the heat simply pales in comparison. Cambodia has a higher rate of poverty and as things are in the world, those in poverty suffer the most. Please send out prayers for the people who don’t have water readily available to drink or air-conditioned houses in which to escape the ever increasing heat in Cambodia and Southeast Asia. People are suffering. Pray.
Needless to say, because of the heat, I can tell you more about my hotel room Siem Reap. I would make a really bad travel blogger. I made it into the town of Siem Reap one time. I went to the Angkor Museum and enjoyed it. The circular ramp leading to the exhibits reminded me of the Guggenheim in New York City. The exhibit that stays in my memory (and that is not easy to do) was the room of 1000 Buddhas, in all shapes and sizes. It was quite impressive. I wish I could show you pictures but taking photos was not allowed. I barely escaped prison in Vietnam. I wasn’t about to risk it all for a picture of Buddha!
Sad to say the pictures below are the only pictures I took during my hour-long venture into the old town area of Siemp Reap. What is even more pathetic is that I took them sitting down from a restaurant/bar that I chose for its people watching factor. But it turned out the food was pretty good as was the Mojito. In my defense I did walk around the town for about twenty minutes but the heat slapped me down. The town is made for tourists basically so it is something that I would usually shy away from. There are quaint shops that appear to be more French or European in nature. The Pub street is teeming with restaurants catering to western tastes. Here you find pizza, burgers, Italian, French and other offerings more European than Asian. I fell in with the tourist crowd and ordered a big juicy burger and then toured the town for the next 45 minutes from my semi-comfortable chair in the restaurant. There is no shame in my game. I enjoyed every second of it.
Angkor Wat Archaeological Park
Every day the hotel’s front desk staff would see me at breakfast and ask, “What is your plan today”? By the third day I was too ashamed to admit to doing nothing again. While doing nothing suited me just fine, I traveled a long way to see the Angkor complex. Feeling like I had no choice, I made arrangements to get a private air conditioned car and an English speaking guide for a full day tour that included watching the sun set at Angkor Wat. I chose a one day pass to start. Heat aside, the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park is impressive. Angkor Wat is only one of the temples in the park and many people, including myself, mistakenly call the entire complex Angkor Wat. The most important of the temples is Angkor Wat, the Bayon Temple and Angkor Thom all built between the 9th to 14th centuries. Amazing! Angkor was the center of the Khmer Kingdom. I made sure to see the most important temples at the beginning of the day. It turned out to be a good decision. It is really impossible to see too much in a day but I was happy with what I got to experience. This UNESCO World Heritage site very well deserves to be under the protection of UNESCO. It is worthy of preservation. The park covers over 400 square meters and includes the remains of the temples of the Khmer Empire.
It was so hot I did not make the full day. My guide and driver made plans for us to see the sun set on Angkor Wat at around six o’clock. We’ve all seen the beautiful pictures of the sun setting on Angkor Wat with the orange sun descending in the background and the mirror image of the temple shimmering off the lake in the foreground. Well, I got to see it on a postcard and that’s it. I barely made it to two o’clock on the tour. I was over heated and flushed red from the sun. Out of nowhere I made the announcement that the tour was over, the day was ending early and released the guide and driver to go home to their families. I laughed to myself, and then out loud because, by the time they had wrapped their heads around what I was saying, I was in the car waiting for them. I tipped them well, went back to the hotel, took a shower, ordered room service and stayed in my room for two days, only coming out for breakfast and dinner. Most travelers say that you need at least three days to see the temples, best scenario would be seven. I say to heck with the best scenario. I came. I saw. I left. The end.
Summer or sprnng climates only, that was the goal when planning this trip, I made sure to never step off of a plane and find myself in a winter wonderland. I don’t like winter, and it’s easier to pack for warm weather. I am definitely re-thinking the philosophy behind the eternal summer theme. I didn’t know this kind of heat existed. Well I knew, but I never had to experience it.
Yes I climbed these stairs at the Angkor Wat temple. It is said that the people who came to worship at this temple climbed the stairs to be closer to heaven. I wanted to be closer to heaven too! It was breathtaking, literally and visually.
Angkor Wat was built in the early part of the 12th century and is one of the largest religious temples in the world, covering nearly 500 acres. The bas-relief is so intricate in detail. It was amazing!! Here are some examples of the detailed art work.Check out the hem of the skirt and the bangles on the ankles. Can you imagine how many artisans were used over thirty years to build this place?
From Hindu to Buddhist
The Angkor Wat temple was originally a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu. Vishnu is one of three Hindu gods. Brahma is the creator of the universe. Vishnu preserves the world and Shiva is the destroyer of the ego and the universe. I learned a lot about Hinduism and Buddhism while in Cambodia.
Around the 15th century Angkor Wat was converted from Hindu to a Buddhist temple. Many Buddha statues were added but since have been stolen or moved to various museums.
Angkor Thom – The Bayon Temple
Built during the late 12th to early 13th century, the Bayon Temple is a Buddhist temple but has Hindu roots. It was the central temple of the ancient city of Angkor Thom.
The Bayon Temple sits in the center of Angkor Thom. There are many small towers within the Bayon temple and each one has four faces of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara with each face keeping watch over the four compass points. I found this temple to be very peaceful. I could have stayed there for hours if not for the heat. It was mesmerizing the level of contentment and peace I felt among so many Buddhas. Maybe it was because there are 216 larger than life smiling Buddhas with a look of contentment on their faces. We could all use a little more contentment in our lives.
I will give you a brief break from history, for now. How about a little Hollywood history?
Ta Prohm Temple below may look familiar to you. Why? First one to answer correctly gets a free round the world trip. Sorry, you waited too long no winners in this round. This temple in Angkor Archaeological Park is where scenes from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” were filmed. Unfortunately I did not get to see Harrison Ford. Dang it! Other images may be familiar to you because “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” starring Angelina Jolie was also filmed in Angkor Wat. What I found interesting is that the movie “The Killing Fields”, a movie about the tragic take-over of the Cambodian government by the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent genocide was filmed in neighboring Thailand. I can understand that. I knew about the Khmer Rouge and the tragedy that took place in Cambodia but I had no idea that nearly 1.7 million people were massacred and murdered during the takeover by the the Communist Party of Kampuchea.The Khmer Rouge wanted a classless society so the rich and poor were put into the fields to work. During the evacuations to the fields in the countryside thousands of people died. The Khmer Rouge abolished money, personal property, normal schooling, religious practices, and foreign clothing. Churches, pagodas, mosques, universities, shops, public schools and government buildings were turned into prisons and reeducation camps. People were deprived of their basic rights and could not gather in groups. Okay I had to sneak in a little history.There is so much more to the history. While in Thailand I bought a book titled “A Shattered Youth: Surviving the Khmer Rouge.” by Sathavy Kim. I will let my book club members know if it is a good read.
As you can see in the pictures below the trees are winning here. The trees are majestic and stand so tall one has to do a slight bend of the back and neck to see the top of the trees. The temples were lost in the jungles for centuries and the trees eventually took over, toppling heavy stones and anything in their path. In 1860 a Frenchman cutting through the jungles of Cambodia discovered the the temples. Unfortunately he died from a disease attained during this trek in the jungle. His notes on this ancient city were discovered and printed and the interest in the buried city of temples began.Thank goodness for adventurers in the jungles. Can you believe that everything you see here was covered in deep, thick jungle and not visible to the human eye for centuries. You can do a Google search and check out the true beauty of this archaeological site. It really is amazing to see.
Who’s ringing my doorbell? Get outta here!
Hope you all are enjoy Living Outside the Boundaries updates as much as I enjoy sharing them. Now go, I mean it, get out of here.
“Clarity comes from engagement not thought.” Marie Forleo.