Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cambodia part 3 - temples, history, and culture

During our time in Cambodia, we got to visit Siem Reap and the temples in the area. Ken was our tour guide, and since he has been there so much he was quite knowledgable. There are over 50 temples, but we only managed to see about 5 of them, which was plenty. Angkor Wat is the best known, and was quite impressive to see. It was built in the 1200s and is huge with very intricate detail and design. I enjoyed seeing Ta Prohm as it hasn't been reconstructed, so there are huge trees and roots going through it.
We also got a Cambodian history lesson as we learned about the genocide of the Cambodian people by the Communist Khmer Rouge. At the genocide museum we saw pictures of some of those who were killed, rooms and devices used for torture, holding rooms, and more. In the killing fields, people were buried in mass graves and you can now find clothes and bones coming up through the ground. It was very sad to see as a few million people were executed during the Khmer Rouge's time. Thankfully, things are much better in Cambodia today.
There are 14 million people in Cambodia. The village life consists mostly of subsistance rice farming. In the villages we drove by, the houses are built on stilts out of wood and bush material. The stilts help to protect against rain and flooding, make it cooler, and to have more space for growing rice. We saw some wildlife in water buffalo, oxen, horses, and dead snakes, but tigers and elephants can be found in the jungles. In Phnom Penh, there are a lot of students trying to make a better way for themselves and their families by going to university, but there is still a lot of poverty and people living on the little they make selling things in a market.