Cambodia is a jewel of a country, framed by its glorious past of the Angkor kingdom and the recent horrific and tragic rule of the Khmer Rouge. Every Cambodian we met greeted us with a smile and we were very quickly mesmerized by this wonderful Buddhist country.
Siem Reap with the expansive, magnificent temples of the ancient Angkor dynasty was our first stop. We spent many days wandering the 50 km2 ancient holy site. The largest city, Ta Prom was very impressive. Within this ancient city is a Buddhist temple, the "Bayon"', with massive and numerous pillars, each containing 4 carved Buddha faces. We had lots of fun finding the Buddha with the biggest smile. I can't help but think that it is all of the smiling buddhas in this land that sustained the Cambodians during the sad times. Restoration efforts are in full swing everywhere but some of our favourite temples were ones where nature once again rules. Gnarly trees grow around stone door frames and one can explore while climbing over a heap of stones and through crumbling tunnels.
The crown jewel of Angkor, Angkor Wat was spectacularly enjoyed by all of us at sunrise. This is the largest religious monument in the world and is modeled after the Hindu concept of the universe: ocean, continents and mountains of the gods. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The gallery walls (continents) surrounding the temple are richly carved with myth and legend. We were all entranced by the story, The Churning Of The Ocean Of Milk. We will recount the story for you over a cup of tea sometime...
Perhaps our most memorable day was a jungle hike up to a mountain stream. An ancient king had 1000 lingas and numerous gods carved into the river stones, believing that as the river water flowed over them it would be more fertile for the rice crops and people. After this very peaceful hike we were awe-struck by yet another temple complex, Banteay Srei. This sublime, pink sand stone temple literally blew me away with its intricately carved walls, tympanums, columns and statues. It is widely believed that this particular temple contains some of the finest intricate stone reliefs in the world.
Other highlights for our family in Cambodia include: a powerful visit to a land mine museum, a visit to a silk farm, lunches at the Blue Pumpkin, visiting the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, a heavyhearted visit to the Killing Fields, our kind and lovely tuk tuk driver at the Angkor site, the pure enjoyment of soaking in the Cambodian countryside, and interacting with the lovely people of Cambodia. (Mike says the silk worms tastes better than the crickets).
Time and time again on this trip Mike and I are reminded how fantastic our kids are. They have been extremely adaptable, tried many unfamiliar foods, endured long bus trips, remained open minded, made many friends and spread many smiles. As I write this blog they are dancing, laughing and grooving around the hotel room to good tunes. They are so much fun to travel with! Solstice keeps us fit, Manas keeps us organized and Aleix solves our problems. Miss you all, the flying five, flying high!