Katja and Arne's travel stories

24.01.15 Angkor Thom and the lost city

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Another morning another sunrise. Same procedure as last time. We get out just a little earlier since we’re driving a little longer.
Thanks to my friends Håkon and Sven we were made aware that the national broadcaster in Norway have a BBC documentary about Angkor available for streaming. It’s limited to computers in Norway, or computers in Cambodia using Hola Better Internet plugin in Google Chrome. If you have the opportunity to watch it, do it. A shoutout to the both of you guys. Many thanks!
Angkor Thom is even larger than Angkor Wat, and is quite different as well. Not so much by the fact that one is Hindu and the other is Buddhist-ish, but the way the place feel is just different.
The place we stay for sunrise, Bayon, is absolutely magic. It consists of 54 towers and held at one point 216 stone faces looking down from these and on to the common man. Probably not the real common man, but the most common of the upper class allowed to stay there. I won’t try to explain it. Look at the pictures instead.

We spent a lot of time there today. We were almost alone in the morning, except for four or five others. It’sa quiet almost serene sensation to this morning. Everyone here speaks in a low voice, move silently and greet each other, but otherwise stay out off each other’s way. The stone faces are a little Mona Lisa-ish with their smiles.
The king who ordered this temple built was Jayavarman VII. The Cham’s (remember the museum we visited in Da Nang, Vietnam?) sacked Angkor Wat and the king wowed never to be vulnerable on home ground again. He started a building frenzy like no other and created the aforementioned city with a million inhabitants. Namely Angkor Thom. It lasted for a while before it collapsed a few decades after the king’s death. The documentary explained this and I will not repeat it here. Again, watch the documentary.
We saw lots of different bas reliefs at Angkor Thom, quite different than in Angkor Wat. Where Angkor Wat is mostly displaying war and little everyday life, it’s opposite at Bayon in Angkor Thom. The walls are filled with pictures showing fishing, cooking, teaching, military training and as few larger battles. It was grand and smart overwhelming. After about five hours, and after only having a feed small bananas each our blood sugar suggested decent food.

We did a big breakfast/lunch at Sister Srey cafe, and spend some time getting our mojo back. Katja had a juice that contained kale, spinach, coconut and some other stuff. And then she looked genuinely surprised when she said:”It tastes funny…” No shit, Sherlock.
Then we headed back to the hotel and spent time by the pool. We read up on Phnom Penh, bus rides to the next stop after that, flights to Bali (yes, we’re going back in March for the Peaceful Warrior camp), flights from Cambodia to Laos and trekking opportunities in Laos. With more knowledge comes better decisions.
Then we did part three of the front crawl training. Better every day, far from good.
Katja got a haircut and I pick her up and we move to dinner. Between hot stone and pizza, pizza wins. Yay! Because it was so good we do pizza again and because it will be a long time to the next one.

Then we go to experience the Phare show. It’s a performance art most easily compared to the more known Cirque de Solei. That’s just wrong. I’ve seen two of cirque de solei’s shows in Las Vegas and none of them can be compared to this. The artists of CdS are of course better than the local Cambodian from around the corner here in Siem Reap, but they don’t have a compelling story.
We debated wether or not to go to this show. Did we want to spend the money? Are we up for it today? We’re just so happy we did. This performance hit me right in the heart. The theater/circus is based on people who got into school despite their situation. Poor, uneducated parents among other things. By channeling energy into physical training and art the concept of Phare was born in 2002. Since then they have performed 18 different shows, 7 days a week. Tonight’s show, called Sohka, was based on the life and experiences of one of the founders of Phare.
From happiness through hell and back with the Khmer Rouge. Into reunion, facing your demon and building a future. Short description of a show that made me laugh, cry, sit on the edge off my seat and gasp as they performed stunts of high class without any safety net. The strongest scene was a dream sequence where the masked representation of Khmer Rouge haunts her in a dream, but where she faces the demon and fight it off. Equally strong was the nurturing and healing in her actions toward the struggling young man who fought his own demons.

We’ve lived sheltered lives in Norway since the end of world war II. The regime of Khmer Rouge were behind as many as two to three million deaths between 1975-1979. It’s impossible to even comprehend the numbers. It’s near a quarter of the population of the country at the time. No-one was untouched by the atrocities. The way the Cambodians have come through and are a open and friendly people is a mystery. The show told a story of how you can make choices and do good even though others have been bad to you. Let that be an inspiration to us all. The videos below are from the show.

During the show some pictures where painted to set the mood and act as props. We bought one of them and it will hang over the sofa in my PlayStation-dungeon when we come home. A harsh reminder, but a fantastic picture we witnessed the creation of. It moved us, touched us and we’re happy to recommend it to anyone who’s ever in Siem Reap.


Author: arnber

Humongen! The big guy! The man, the myth, the legend! And then theres' me. The nice guy in the house. The man without cooking skills, but with five stars on the Playstation. Boss at work, relaxed at home. What you see is what you get. Life is good. I choose it to be.

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