Traveling always gives me a fresh perspective and an appreciation of where I am and where I came from. That is not to say though that I am happy because people elsewhere have it worse; rather, in the scheme of things, there are a lot of things to be thankful for. I firmly believe that culture is not something someone is born into. Being cultured is achieved by studying history, learning how to appreciate art and traveling the world.
The first two days of my stay in Siem Reap has been a blast! This would be my second trip abroad by myself. The first one was to Rayleigh, Krabi Thailand. So far, I've just gone around town (Pub Street), the Angkor National Museum and Temples (Pre Rup, Banteay Srei, Banteay Samrei, Banteay Kdei).
Note: Banteay means citadel
Like I mentioned previously, I have never really been exposed to the same kind of appreciation I've developed for European and American art I have now for Asian culture and art. It was interesting to hear about the history, symbolisms marked on the lintels, columnettes, pediments and "walls" (I forgot the right term haha). I have an information overload of Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu and other Hindi gods that pervade the temples I've been to thus far.
Some interesting learnings so far I can remember in my knackered state from drinking wine and cocktails:
1. Hindu was brought to India by the Aryans
2. Vishnu created Brahma when a lotus flower blossomed from his navel and shiva from his heart
3. HIV started spreading in Cambodia when the UN army went in 1992/93
4. For centuries, Khmer people buried their dead for a year then have them cremated. Yes they exhume the dead to cremate them.
5. Tourism boomed from 300k per year to 1-2 million after Tomb Raider was shown
6. Cambodia's top tourist sources are Vietnam, Thailand and China
7. Gay pride and acceptance started off when Khmers had TV shows where people were coming out seeking help from their grief and gender identity issues
8. Temples were built using lava stones (from Tonle Sap lake and the mountain) and sandstone
(More to follow in Part 2?)
It was also interesting to hear that the temples were mostly abandoned and left uncared for after the capital was moved to Phnom Penh. Since Khmer people were largely animists, they didn't bother to care for the temples. The French during their colonization of Cambodia rediscovered the temples and restored them from ruins.
It was more interesting to hear as well from my guide about his opinion on French colonization. He was largely thankful because had it not been for the French there wouldn't be any Cambodia for a number of reasons like they will have been overtaken by Thailand and Vietnam as well as they wouldn't have had the temples rediscovered, and the progress they have had won't be the same. Being the cynic that I am, I retorted the question: without the French there wouldn't be any Khmer Rouge right?