A day of culture

Today was a day to observe the cultural (that they choose to share) and shop.

We began the day at the school of dance. Students who have passed several tests, display potential and are from poor families are admitted for a four year program, a half day of dance and a half day of traditional school. The school was founded by a former dancer who managed to survive the the Khmer Rouge regime. The school is supported by the French government. The students range in age from 8 -12 for the first 3 years. The best stay on longer and the very best are eventually sent to the state university. We observed classrooms and then were entertained by the students.

Eileen was selected from the group as a model to demonstrate the proper way to wear a costume.

Later we went to the silk factory and watched the silk making process from mulberry leaf to finished product. Here they also train the poorer students in the trade. we have had a debate amongst the group about these enterprises or schools that train the poor. My feeling is these kids are very lucky to have a chance to come out of abject poverty. Other members feel like these schools are little more than indentured servitude.

In the evening I went on a cultural event in the country that included an ox cart ride. Mary and Eileen had a massage and shopped.

Susan, we stayed at the Royal Orchid in Bangkok and the Sofitel Siemens Reap. both the hotels are amazing.

Tomorrow we leave for the boat.

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Angkor Wat

This amazing complex was built around 1100 was built by King Suryavarman II and the rulers that followed over the century. In the morning we visited the largest and most recognizable of the temples. This is the first one built, construction took about 30 years. It is an example of Khmer art at the peak. Reliefs and sculptures cover the entire complex. Art work was created by slaves an artisans working at a level of perfection that was ensured by their life. Mistakes were not tolerated. Sculptures of dancers are everywhere and each face is unique. The temple was originally a Hindu temple it is now Buddhist and the Hindu gods that remain have been clothed by the local population to preserve modesty. The temple is surrounded by a large manmade moat. The composition of the building is perfectly balanced with a central entrance and two side entrances. Much of the restoration work is being provided by other countries.

After a short break at the hotel we returned to see three other sites within the complex.

The Angkor Thom, Bayon and Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm has been left almost in the same condition as it was discovered. Here is the site where the large kapok tree roots hav engulfed the temple – the picture was used on the cover of the National Geographic Magazine. The amount of growth that covered these temples as one time makes their discovery even more amazing. Several days before we arrived the Indian archeologist uncovered the largest Angkor Buddha at this site. We did not see it because it has been moved by the Indian government for restoration.

Bayon temple marks the beginning of the decline of the architecture. The base is surrounded by bas-reliefs that depict a war between chams and the the khmer.

Angkor Thom has towers with stone faces facing in each of the four cardinal directions.
The majority of the restoration is being completed by the French and Indian governments. The Japanese and Chinese governments are repaving roads and bridges. US does provide aid but the projects do not seem to be as a outstanding as the others who are vying for Cambodian loyalty.

The complex has over 2.5 million visitor a year at a minimum of $20 per person. All money from ticket sales and other venus on the site have been awarded to a friend of the prime minister who bid 2 million dollars a year for these rights.

In the evening we had a lovely dinner at the hotel and we were entertained by traditional dancers.

I am falling way behind on the writing…sorry.