So, Cambodia is probably most famous for Angkor Wat, which is a Hindu temple and one of the new “7 wonders of the world”. (Although to us non-Hindu and not-very-history-oriented Americans, Angkor Wat is most famous because it’s where they filmed Tomb Raider.)
The temples are very interesting– three of them in particular. Angkor Wat itself is the biggest and most impressive. I can’t begin to remember the names of the other two, but one has giant faces carved all over it, and the other has been overgrown with trees, the roots of which have grown in and through the stones and made the temple all wobbly.
(This would be much better with pictures of course, but this computer I’m using is from like 1982 so has no USB port to plug in my camera… hopefully I can add pictures later)
These temples were all built between 800-1400 AD, which is when Europe was in the dark ages, which is pretty amazing since they’re made of giant stones that had to be brought from miles away.
Anyway, I’m of the MTV generation and have the short attention span that goes with it, so at this point I’m pretty templed-out. It was nice yesterday because we took a temple break and visited a local school that is sponsored by Plan. My guide and his sister also use their tip money to help contribute to the school and seem to have made a big difference there.
Oh, speaking of my guide. His name is Dara, and he grew up during the Khmer Rouge, when education was outlawed, so he wasn’t able to start elementary school until he was 12 years old, but still managed to graduate high school when he was 19 years old. Impressive.
The sad part of Dara’s story though, is that his father, along with 100 other teachers, was taken into the forest by the Khmer Rouge soldiers, and, as Dara said, “he never came back.”
His mother only had a first grade education, but his father had been able to teach her to read before he died, and she in turn instilled the importance of education in Dara and his four sisters, who have all graduated high school. One even when to a university in Russia. Now they all are tour guides and speak several languages, and they all use their tip money to support local schools. Pretty inspiring.
Tomorrow is my last full day in Cambodia and then I fly to Bangkok on Saturday. In the meantime, we’ll be visiting more… you guessed it, temples! Everytime we pull up and get out of the car I’m swarmed with little children selling books and trinkets and things, almost always for “one dollar! one dollar!”. It can be overwhelming. Today a little boy came up to me at one of the temples and I was ready to tell him no, I didn’t want to buy whatever he was selling, but then he just put a little ring on my finger that was made out of a leaf and then walked away. It was sweet. Of course, he came back about a minute later and pointed to my finger and said “one dollar!” Oh well. We made a deal, I kept the ring and he took my half empty water bottle. I thought that was pretty fair.