We arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia, via Bangkok airlines on April 3rd and were met by "Thai," our guide from a tour outfit called Destinations Asia.   For the next four days, we spent each morning and afternoon with Thai exploring the sandstone temples of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and jungle temples outside Siem Reap.

The Angkor area temples are often considered high on the list of man made wonders of the world.  They were mostly constructed between the 8th and 11th centuries.  Angkor Wat (the most famous of the over 1500 temples) is a massive site with a palace wall decorated by the largest bas-relief in the world.  The carvings in all the temples were relatively well preserved and depicted the customs and culture of the Khmer people.

What is amazing about Angkor is that for centuries the area only existed as a myth until a French naturalist stumbled upon it in 1861.  After the historic discovery, the French people spent years excavating and rebuilding the temple structures that had collapsed and were buried underneath dense jungle.  Today, there are many restoration projects still underway and the projects are financially supported by countries such as China and Japan and organizations including the World Monument Fund.

In addition to seeing the temples around Angkor, we spent a little time touring the country side and visited a floating village.  It was during this time that we realized why Cambodia is considered one of the poorest countries in the world.   The majority of people we saw in Cambodia were living in small thatched roof shacks by the side of unpaved roads or living on small rickety boats.  People were bathing in filthy and stagnant river water and countless children were hawking small items and begging tourists for money.  Some of the sights and smells we experienced can not be described.  Although witnessing such poverty first hand was hard to bear, we can tell you that 98 percent of the children looked happy.  They did not look starving and they smiled and giggled when we approached them to snap pictures. 

To see Cambodia through the lens of our camera, click on one of the links below.   We have left the beetle bug eating (yes, really!) pictures out:

Angkor Wat
Floating Village
Jewel Temple
Jungle Temple
Other Temples


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           copyright chris & hugh hempel 2004                                                      last modified on Monday, 12. January 2004