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Cambodia Камбоджа

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#1 Милашка



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Отправлено 26 Февраль 2014 - 06:06

The mysterious, mystical and impressive Cambodia... Some 35 years ago, it was closed to tourists by the iron curtain of the Khmer Rouge communist regime, led by infamous Prime Minister Pol Pot. After the overthrow of the dictatorship, travellers began to flock here - primarily to see the ancient city of Angkor lost to jungle, which was once the capital of the powerful Khmer Empire and now a symbol of the state. Like the travellers before me, my own dream of seeing Angkor lured me to this still relatively undiscovered country. First Look at Sim Reap Having stepped on Cambodian soil I am hit by the burning +40 degree Celcius humidity, permeated with the smells of wood, exotic flowers, and herbs. The humidity makes it similar to being in a sauna. Grasshoppers jump around my feet and unidentified winged insects swarm around my pale European face. Swarthy locals show their friendly by grinning from ear-to-ear. It's frightful to think how many trials this nation has endured! However, no wars, coups nor repressions have managed to erase the smiles from people's faces. I get from the airport to my hotel for just $1 by a tuk-tuk, a noisy vehicle resembling a motorcycle with a passenger sidecar in the rear, weaving through urban traffic at a speed of 20 kilometers per hour. It's hardly a cracking pace and other motorists are streaming past. However this speed has its advantages: I have the chance to admire charming colonial-style houses; built by the French colonialists.

They border on countless Internet cafes and luxury hotel brands. There are several markets, including night ones, where at a ridiculous price you can buy folk craft goods, exotic fruit and popular specialties: fried snails, beetles, grasshoppers and cockroaches, sold in makeshift paper cups, like sunflower seeds. Frogs, snakes and other reptiles are also edible in Cambodia. I am brave enough to try snails. Overall, it's tasty if I try to ignore the feeling of having sand on my teeth as I chew. Among other interesting street food there are "pong moan", stuffed eggs, and a dessert called "oan som cheh", a mixture of banana pulp, rice and coconut milk, wrapped in a banana leaf. To taste the more elaborate traditional Khmer dishes, "amok" and "lok lak", it's better to visit Amok, a cosy restaurant in the downtown. Shelves of local markets groan with amazing tropical fruit worth mentioning. Here you can find everything from bananas we are used to and pineapples to the incredibly smelly but quite mouth-watering durian. I will give you some monetary advice. Upon arrival in Cambodia don't be in any hurry to change dollars to local riels. The American dollar is commonly used here and it is easier and more convenient than the local currency. At least you will be saved the pain of counting the required amount of hundreds of thousands of riels. The local population loves counting in dollars and to the question
"how much?" you will get a well memorised phrase "one dollar". It's a puzzle to me why everything from a bunch of bananas to a tuk-tuk ride to small Khmer souvenirs costs "one dollar"...
On the streets of Siem Reap 10-year-old boys sell 1$ postcards, speaking fluent English learned from tourists. I am deeply moved by a little boy who names capitals around the world without a single mistake. Again, tourists are the source of his knowledge. Generally, the whole Siem Reap with its population of 20,000, with its slow pace of life is ruled by tourism, which is the main source of income for locals. And it's all thanks to Angkor, this mysterious city built between the 9th to 15th centuries by the architectural geniuses from the Khmer Empire.
iff ends of the Ancient Angkor History says that the Khmers established one of the mightiest and most mysterious Asian civilisations, which in the 6th-15th centuries flourished over much of Indochina (the territory of Cambodia, Laos, South Vietnam and Thailand). The powerful Khmer rulers believed they were living gods on earth. They were especially good at fighting and building. They erected magnificent temples for themselves and for their gods, the most famous of which is Angkor Wat. It was built during the 11 th-13th centuries to represent Mount Meru, 71 home of the gods according to the Hindus. Like the sacred mountain is washed on all sides by the ocean, the temple is surrounded by a moat. In Siem Reap it is forbidden by law to erect buildings higher than the 65-metre Angkor as no accommodation can overshadow over the divine home. The enterprising descendants of the Khmers have made the temple the prime tourist attraction of the Kingdom of Cambodia and put its image on the national flag and currency. I go alone to Angkor by tuk-tuk early in the morning to listen to the ancient stones telling stories about the mighty civilization, to feel the energy of this sacred place and to enjoy the moment when my dream of seeing the temple became a reality. But things don't quite go to plan. Annoying tourists are already roaming all over the site trying to capture the best shots. The clicking of cameras violates the sacred silence. Originally a Hindu temple (from the 1st to the 16th century the Khmers were Hinduists), now it has a touch of Buddhism, the main religion of the modern Khmers. Monks arranged altars with Buddha statues in the galleries, where they pray and invite tourists to join them, handing out incense sticks for a token fee. I explore Angkor, contemplating the walls ornamented withgirls dancing a mystical dance called Apsara. At the time of the Khmers they danced for the gods, thus ensuring a good harvest and prosperity. Wandering tourists, artists and swarms of monkeys from the jungle fill the temple. From the top of it there is a wonderful view of the jungle. A dense green thicket conceals Bayon, another ancient temple of Angkor. When I notice the strange stone heads it seems as if someone is watching me the whole time. The 200 stone faces looking in different directions are associated with the Buddhist deity Avalokiteshvara, the symbol of mercy and compassion. It is said that the model for sculptors was the Khmer king Jayavarman VII himself. His face expresses different emotions, king's smile being especially sweet and plausible. The entire history of the Khmer Empire is written on the walls of Bayon, showing the everyday life of people, wars, and love stories. Interestingly, all Khmers are depicted with long ears as a symbol of a long life.71 Deeper in the jungle, there is Та Prohm, the most astonishing Angkor temple, at least to me. Imagine you are beating your way to the temple through along a jungle path surrounded by "spung", monster parasite trees, which are hollow inside and 'devour' other trees. Their roots crawl on the ground like giant snakes. Then you see the mysterious ruins of the temple wrapped on all sides with the spung, which holds it together, preventing final collapse due to its age. It looks like a shot an Indiana Jones movie. Actually, scenes from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie were filmed in the Та Prohm temple in 2000. Her love of the country began with the shooting of the film. By the way, in the heart of Siem Reap there is a place called the Piano Bar,where Jolie loved to stop by during breaks in filming. Today, the bar's owners are extremely proud of this fact and even decorated the walls with posters of the "tomb raider".
At High Water
An unprecedented downpour takes me by surprise in a fishing village on the shore of the large lake Tonle Sap, born 15 million years ago from the waters of one of the largest rivers in the world, Mekong. Today around a million people live by the lake: it gives them water, food and home. Its shores are dotted with poor fishermen's huts built of whatever materials were at hand. All houses are on piles and this is due to water level changes in the71 lake from season to season. Their life could not be more modest: they live without electricity but in almost every hut there is a TV powered by a generator. While I am soaked to the skin, kids seem unbothered and continue scampering about; dirty-faced, boys keep playing football on playing field of mud and water; and farmers calmly continue their daily chores. Everyone is used to tropical rains here. And so I go, or rather float off in the covered boat on the waters of Tonle Sap where fishing villages are located right in the water. What I see captures my imagination. On the water there are rocking boats and rafts transformed into houses; next to them there are villagers swimming, washing and fishing. All the houses have plates with a street number: it is a real floating street, which people follow by boat or by swimming. Then I even notice a Christian church and a school on the water. Here people live in peace and complete harmony with this lake as they have for centuries.

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