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Thursday, November 14: Day 206 – Which Wat?

We are up early to fly to Siem Reap. This was a new challenge. I normally carry three bags, but I am only allowed to check one bag (<50 lbs.) and one carry-on (<15lbs.). As an added challenge, I had a lot of clothes that were still wet. I have dresses, but pants are required for temples so I have to do more laundry.

We had a great group of travelers. We often ask and are asked the same questions: where are you from, what do you do, etc. For us each question has an unexpected weird pause…

Where are you from? USA. What state? Actually we are between states, but we get our mail in Ohio. What do you do? Rob says travel followed by I’m retired. What did you do?

What was the weather like when you left? What made you choose to come here? Where are you going next? I have to yield to Rob on that one because I just follow his lead.

Every once in a while someone will say we used to live in Ohio, for example. It turns out that one couple on the cruise named Bill and Anita is friends with a couple in Dayton, OH that we had dinner with before we left named Mike and Terry Bevis. Bill used to work with Mike and even though they now live in Atlanta, they keep in touch. What are the odds?

Our staff came out to the bus to wave us goodbye. At our previous home in Ohio we would say goodbye to family and friends and then run across the backyard to the community pool where we would wave again as they had to drive around the neighborhood in order to exit our development. It felt a little like home. We will miss them.

Siem Reap

This is Sean’s hometown. The population of Siem Reap is 330,000. It is safe and easy to get around.

Most buildings were built between 1895 and 1937. Concrete was imported.

Today the Chinese are investing here. They buy property, and then sell in ten years to make large profit which is roughly ten times the purchase price. Real estate is booming.

A move to the city means better education.

Siem Reap became part of Cambodia when Siam was defeated.

King’s Road is where there are many shops and hotels.

Today the people are encouraged to use bamboo baskets when going to market. They hope to eliminate the use of plastic bags altogether.

Highway 6 goes west to Thailand and east to Saigon.

Tuk tuk is a term from Thailand for a small taxi. There are two types. An Indian tuk tuk is one piece like this:

A Cambodian tuk tuk is two pieces – a motorbike with attached wagon like this:

The ride is very inexpensive and is always an adventure. Here is our ride out to Angkor Wat, the world’s largest temple consisting of 485 acres.

On our way to the temple at Angkor Wat, I did not realize that there is a whole Angkor complex with numerous temples. And each temple has an impressive moat. Wat means temple.

The Anchor Archeological Park consists of 72 temples. We have a three-day pass with unlimited access.

Angkor Wat was built by the Hindus and then taken over by the Buddhists. Its five trademark temple towers are a symbol of Cambodia, and Angkor Wat is featured on the national flag.

A floating bridge was donated by the Canadians while the central gate called the Elephant Gate is being restored.

The king enters by the Elephant Gate…on an elephant, of course.

Sean likes to take us to the best places to take a photo. He presented it like a menu.

Starter (wow) taken by Rob.

Main course (wow, wow)

Dessert (wow,wow,wow)

There are monkeys here. They are only a problem if you stray from the group. Sean said stay together like sticky rice.

In 1973-1974 the Khmer Rouge occupied the Angkor Wat temple but did not use bombs. One can see some bullets holes at the front gate.

Carvings illustrate over 2,900 dancers with 60 different hair styles. The sugar palm tree is the national tree of Cambodia and is present in many decorations.

A guru is the teacher of the king and doesn’t talk to local people. His wisdom would be affected. He often was instrumental in the building of a temple.

Angkor Wat was rediscovered around 1860, and it took one hundred years to clear the vegetation. During 1960 to 1972, workers were forced to leave the area. When work resumed, much had to be done to ensure the safety of visitors.

In 1993 Angkor Wat was reopened. It became a UNESCO site in 1997. Due to people depositing oil from touching and the moisture from the environment, UNESCO is requiring the bas-relief carvings to be covered with glass in the next five years.

King Suryavarman II built Angkor Wat in the early 12th century at the height of the Khmer Empire’s power.

Angkor Wat is unfinished with only 98% complete by the king’s subjects. The next king wanted to build more temples than his father.

At one time 1.3 million lived nearby. People settled close to the great lake called Tonle Sap Lake. It is the bread basket of the region.

Siam fought with Cambodians. Most temples in Thailand were not built by Thai but Cambodians. Siem Reap belonged to Thailand during 1941-1945.

One of our guides named Luch took our picture and held my hat on his head. I said that I wanted to take HIS picture.

Luch told us that this was a popular place to have wedding pictures made. Here is a couple that we saw on the way to the temple. They were wearing traditional clothes.

On the way out we saw them in more western wedding attire. That is quite a costume change.

Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple is a another nearby temple built by the Buddhists. Angkor Wat predates this temple. All of our climbing is on one level but there is much to see.

I go nose to nose with Buddha!

There are 54 towers with smiling faces on all four sides (that makes 216 faces) so no matter where you stand someone is always watching you.

When viewing the many bas-relief carvings, one can learn about life in those times. Cambodians always have long ears. Muslims have long hair. Chinese are depicted with small eyes, top knot and short beard.

Here is a picture of Cambodians eating. At this time, they were not using chopsticks or spoons and forks.

A Cambodian gondola predates Italy. It was used for fighting. Now it is used for tourists.

The sun is starting to set and everyone is ushered out of the temples. Tomorrow we will go to more temples, but today as we leave, here is what we see.

And a drive-by temple.

We attended a Cambodian circus which was in a crowded circular arena where we saw young men do amazing acrobatic feats.

Phare, The Cambodian Circus offers these student performers a platform to hone their skills and a place to earn a decent wage. The training and money will take them out of poverty and give them self-respect and freedom.

Phare performers use theater, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories.

This young man is balancing on a stack of circle plastic pipes. It looks impossible!!

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