Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Ancient Siem Reap Cambodia: The Ghosts of Angkor

Cambodia is a haunted country. If you listen carefully when the wind blows, you can hear the ghosts calling out, telling ancient tales. If you pause you can see the ghosts everywhere, in the eyes of the 40 year old who survived the Killing Fields, and on the bas reliefs that are glorified at Angkor Wat.

Modern Cambodia is depending on Ancient Cambodia to rescue the country from its past. The hope is that tourists coming into the country specifically to see Angkor Wat will help by bringing in dollars (and in turn infrastructure) sorely needed as a life buoy for this once sinking country.

So, like the million other tourist who are predicted to visit Siem Reap this year, we have come to take in the glories of the ancient Kingdom of Cambodia and discover why Angkor Wat is one of the greatest religious monuments in the world (interestingly enough the greatest numbers of tourist come from Korea, and so far we’ve heard as much Korean as Khmer). Ironically in a country surrounded by so much death, it seems fitting that Angkor Wat is not only a temple, but also a mausoleum.

Angkor Wat is the largest and most important of a series of temples that sprawl over an area the size of New York City. At the height of the Khmer kingdom, over a million people lived in this capital city. The temples at Angkor Wat were built over a 500 year period from the 9th century to the 13th century. Although the glories of Angkor Wat were known throughout ancient Asia, they faded into obscurity until they were relatively forgotten by the outside world. Then in 1860’s, a French explorer named Henri Mahout stumbled out of the jungle and happened upon the most amazing sights: huge stone towers, a moat the size of large river, and thousands of statues depicting ancient Hindu gods. Since he publicized the place in Europe, Angkor Wat has been seducing visitors from around the globe. Hopefully these tourists will not to succumb to the same fate as Mahout, who later died of malaria that he contracted on his trip!

While we’ve taken over a 1000 photos, we’ll only bore you with a few of them.


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