Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cambodia


I'm posting from Siem Reap, Cambodia, which is best known as home of the temples of Angkor. The Angkor empire dominated South-East asia about a thousand years ago, then fell into obscurity. For centuries these giant stone temples were lost to the jungles and known only to the local villagers. Now that the prospect of war has lifted from Cambodian life, the site is seeing unprecedented numbers of visitors, increasing rapidly each year.

I spent the last 3 days touring the temples. It's my second time here, but this time I explored many more of the temples. They cover a wide area at the north eastern corner of the Tonle Sap lake, the massive lake dominating the Cambodian heartland. This unique lake receives an influx of water from the Mekong each year, when the water journeying towards the sea overwhelms the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam and backs up into the lake, multiplying it's size four fold. As the water recedes from the lake throughout the year, rice is planted continuously on the newly exposed, highly fertile land.

The Khmer Empire, which had it's capitol at Angkor, dominated south-east Asia at it's height, encompassing large swaths on land in modern day Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Much of today's cultural and religious life is rooted in heritage of this vast empire.

Look at my Flickr photos to get an idea what it's like at Angkor.

From India I spent 10 days in intensive Vipassana meditation at a center outside of Bangkok. There, I put my strength of will to the test. Wake up bell was at 4:00 AM. The days were filled with meditation (about 11 hours each day). We were also forbidden from speaking with our fellow meditators. A difficult but worthwhile experience. This organization has meditation centers worldwide, but Vipassana meditation centers with varying methodologies and degrees of strictness are to be found throughout S.E. Asia.

We are now in the peak of the Cambodian summer. This means a kind of heat that I thought only existed in the lower hells. I can feel the sun cooking my exposed skin like rotisserie chicken. From the 13th to 15th of this month the Khmer's celebrate the Cambodian New Year. I'll most likely be in Phnom Penh for this. This is known as Songkran (or Thai New Year) in Thailand and is also celebrated in Laos and Myanmar. I've been in Laos and Thailand for it in past years.... always an excellent time! I'm looking forward to seeing the Cambodian take on it.

More from the Capitol (Phnom Penh)...

2 comments:

pj said...

Love those gold spired hats!

Benji said...

i found your blog as a bookmark after looking through my mom's computer over spring break. it's great to hear of your travels. i hope one day to see the world, but not the tourist parts, but the actual civilizations people live.