2014 in review Tuesday, Dec 30 2014 

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Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Tuesday, Dec 30 2014 

Reunification Hall

Reunification Hall

On Boxing Day we disembarked the River Orchid in My Tho for an hour-and-a-half bus trip to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. The scenery changed from rice paddys to a modern city with skyscrapers such as the Bitexco Financial Tower with its heli-pad designed like a lotus blossom. Our first stop was Reunification Hall, originally known as the Norodom Palace and later called the Governor’s Palace. According to feng shui, the site is located on a dragon’s head; therefore, it was also referred to as the Dragon’s Head Palace. On February 27, 1962, two pilots of President Diệm’s Vietnam Air Force rebelled and flew two A-1 Skyraider aircraft towards the palace and bombed it, instead of going on a raid against the Việt Cộng. As a result, almost the entire left wing was destroyed. Diệm and his family, however, escaped this assassination attempt. As it was almost impossible to restore the palace, Diệm ordered it demolished and commissioned a new building, Independence Hall, in its place. Diệm was assassinated before it was completed. The Independence Hall served as General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu’s home and office from October 1967 to 21 April 1975. On April 30, 1975, two North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the wrought iron gates of this former symbol of the South Vietnamese government. We visited several rooms. The State Banqueting Hall held as many as 100 guests. The room’s gold color scheme, an informational sign told us, was designed to create a convivial atmosphere. The Palace’s architect, Ngô Viết Thụ, represented a scene from a poem widely known and cherished as an evocation of national unity in a massive painting divided in seven sections. The meetings held in the Cabinet Room included sittings of the President and his ministers. Official receptions for as many as 500 guests were and still are held in the Conference Hall. We also descended to a basement level and walked through the old war rooms with maps, desks, and telephones still in place.

A wedding was underway during our quick walk through of the Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. Later, I learned that the cathedral was constructed by French colonists between 1863 and 1880 using building materials imported from France. It has two bell towers, reaching a height of 190 feet. In 1959, Bishop Joseph Pham Van Thien, whose jurisdiction included Saigon, attended the Marian Congress held in the Vatican and ordered a statue of Our Lady of Peace made with granite in Rome. The statue was installed on February 16, 1959 and presented the title of “Regina Pacis”. In 1962, Pope John XXIII conferred the cathedral with the status of a basilica.

Designed by Gustave Eiffel, the Central Post Office, located across the street from the Notre-Dame Cathedral, was constructed between 1886-1891. The exterior was being repainted during our visit. A large space within the post office was devoted to selling souvenirs. Also, a public writer, Noi Chi Dan Va Viet Giup, spends time there. Our last morning stop was a lacquer workshop where artisans were producing beautiful pieces of art. During our stay in Ho Chi Minh City, we stayed at the Park Hyatt Saigon, centrally located and truly a five star hotel.

Napalm Girl Photo

Nick Ut with his Napalm Girl Photo

In the afternoon we visited the War Remnants Memorial. This museum, ironically located in the premises of the former U. S. Information Agency building, opened in 1975 as the “Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes.” In 1990, the name changed to “Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression.” In 1995, following the normalization of diplomatic relations with the United States and end of the US embargo from a year before, it became the “War Remnants Museum” The museum comprises a series of themed rooms in several buildings, with period military equipment placed within a walled yard. The military equipment includes a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter, an F-5A fighter, M48 Patton tank, an A-1 Skyraider attack bomber, and an A-37 Dragonfly attack bomber. There are a number of pieces of unexploded ordnance stored in the corner of the yard, with their charges and/or fuses removed. One building reproduces the “tiger cages” in which the South Vietnamese government kept political prisoners. Other exhibits include graphic photography, accompanied by a short text in English, Vietnamese and Japanese, covering the effects of Agent Orange and other chemical defoliant sprays, the use of napalm and phosphorus bombs, and war atrocities such as the My Lai massacre. The photographic display includes the famous “Napalm Girl” photo donated to the museum on March 29, 2013 by Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Nick Wat who was traveling with us.

The Saigon Opera House, built by the French in 1897, is located next to the Saigon Park Hyatt. We attended an evening performance of the AO Show. The one-hour program featured Vietnamese folk music as 17 young performers showed off their athletic acrobatic ability in a series of vignettes using only bamboo and baskets. The scene showing apartment life when electricity is lost conveyed universal humorous appeal. After the show we walked along the street enjoying the colorful lights hanging over the street sponsored by different businesses. Skyscrapers were also outlined in changing patterns of neon. Crossing a street is a challenge as there are few traffic lights and traffic is always heavy. The theory is that one simply starts walking across the street at a slow even pace and traffic will adjust around you. Difficult to do! We had dinner at an authentic Chinese restaurant where we were the only Westerners. On our walk back to our hotel around the Opera House we discovered that this area is a popular date spot filled with couples on bicycles and motor-scooters.

On our last day in Ho Chi Minh City we traveled out of the city to Trang Bang where Nick Ut’s famous photograph was taken. The Cao Dai Temple seen in the photo helped orient us. The noodle shop where the mother of the naked girl in the photo, Kim, is still there in an updated version. Inside, pictures related to that important event hang on the wall. Two of Kim’s cousins, a sister holding the hand of her younger brother in the photograph, were present for a reunion picture with Nick Ut that Mark Harris took for a story he is writing. This outing made history come alive!

Our excursion continued with a visit to the Ben Dinh tunnel of Củ Chi, an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located outside Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong’s base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. A segment of a tunnel has been expanded so that Westeners like me can get a sense of them. I duck walked only about 15 meters in the dark, and had enough. It is hard to imagine living under such conditions for significant amounts of time. We learned that there were actually three levels of tunnel. We found comparisons with the underground cities in Cappadocia, Turkey. The Christians in Turkey, however, lived underground in much better style.

Our tour of Southeast Asia came to a close with an early 3:30 a.m. departure from Ho Chi Minh City on a two-and-a-half hour flight to Hong Kong. From there we took a twelve hour flight to San Francisco. The final leg was a two hour flight to Phoenix. With nine hours spent waiting in airports, it took us about 27 hours to return home. But this trip to Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia was a great way to end 2014!

Mekong River Cruise, Vietnam Monday, Dec 29 2014 

On Christmas Eve our ship crossed the Mekong River from Cambodia to Vietnam. During the morning cruise our ship’s chef and his assistant displayed a variety of tropical fruits, and prepared them for sampling. The chef concluded his program by carving a rose design on a small watermelon while we were served coconut milk from a coconut. Shortly after this program we moved from the sun deck to the bar for an introduction to “The Fine Art of Travel Photography” by fellow guest Mark Harris. His work has appeared in many publications and his book North Korea was named Photography Book of the Year at the 2013 International Photography Awards. Mark explained the techniques he uses to capture memorable images by showing a selection of his photographs.

We passed more interesting homes along the river taking a branch, the Hâu River, to Châu Đốc. In the afternoon we boarded a sampan that took us along the Vinh Te canal, a man made canal that goes some ten miles to the ocean. We made a stop where we walked through a predominantly Cham community. We saw a mosque as the Cham follow Sunni Islam. We made a second stop to see a fish farm where they raise catfish, red snapper, and carp. The town is a busy trading center due to its border position with Cambodia. Back on board we were gifted with a Buddha carving.

Sa Dec Market

Sa Dec Market

On the morning of Christmas Day we took a sampan excursion to Sa Đéc . We walked through the bustling local market where vendors were selling many varieties of rice and vegetables, all sorts of fish, and fresh meat ranging from chickens to rats. The French writer Marguerite Duras lived in Sa Đéc during a three- to four-year period between 1928 and 1932 where her mother ran a school. Duras met Huynh Thuy Le, the son of a wealthy Chinese family, and the two became involved in a love affair that became the basis for Duras’s prize-winning novel, The Lover. We visited the majestic 19th-century Huynh Thuy Le House where we drank tea and heard about the house’s history. Our sampan excursion continued through Sa Đéc canals where we observed locals going about their daily routines: washing themselves or their clothing, fisherman, and the harvesting of water hyacinth used to make furniture popular in Europe. We passed plants for processing rice and visited a brick factory where we learned about the process of making bricks with Mekong mud by fueling the kilns with rice husks. The ashes from the husks are then used as fertilizer in the rice fields.

Sa Dec Excursion

Life on the Mekong

After our return to the River Orchid, one of the guides lectured on “Vietnam Today and a Lively Saigon.” Our lunch meal included traditional Christmas favorites such as turkey and cranberry sauce. In the afternoon we boarded another sampan for an excursion of Cai Be. We cruised through a floating market with boats selling fruits and vegetables. The canal was lined with stilted houses. We stopped at the An Kiet House where we toured this upscale home and walked around the grounds where fruit trees were growing. We also made a stop where pop rice candy, rice paper, and rice wine are made. Snakes are placed in the jars of rice wine. One large jar held 35 different snakes?! We were treated to tea and tastes of several varieties of their candies. Before dinner, the River Orchid crew sang Christmas songs and we were gifted with an external battery for our cell phones and other electronics. After another delicious dinner, this one with a Vietnamese theme, we heard a performance by local entertainers on traditional Music of Southern Vietnam.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia Thursday, Dec 25 2014 

We arrived in Phnom Penh while eating dinner on the River Orchid. After dinner we found a pharmacy and explored the local’s night market which only happens on Sunday. In addition to clothing, food vendors were selling local cuisine  circling a large open area covered with mats for picnicking. We also listened briefly to a program on a stage where children were apparently telling what they wanted for Christmas. The language barrier kept us from appreciating the humorous responses.

Royal Palace Throne Hall

Royal Palace Throne Hall

The next morning we each mounted a cyclo for a city tour of Phnom Penh. The Royal Palace, built in the 19th century, is a beautiful example of classic KIhmer style, and is the official residence of Cambodia’s reining monarch, King Sihamoni. The Throne Hall is where the king’s confidants, generals, and royal officials once carried out their duties. Today it is used as a place for religious and royal ceremonies (such as coronations and royal weddings) as well as a meeting place for guests of the King. The cross-shaped building is crowned with three spires. The central, 59 meter spire is topped with the white, four-faced head of Brahma. Inside, the Throne Hall contains three royal thrones (one is more of western style and the other two are traditional) and golden busts of Cambodians kings and queen starting from the reign King Ang Doung onwards. No photographs are allowed.

The Khemarin Palace is used as an official residence of the King of Cambodia. This compound is separated from other buildings by a small wall and is located to the right of the Throne Hall. The main building is topped with a single spire prang.

The Silver Pagoda, located within the complex, is named for its floor, which is inlaid with more than 5,000 silver tiles. An impressive golden Buddha is bejeweled with 9,584 diamonds. Sorry no photographs are allowed.

The National Museum, built in the early 1900s, is housed in a beautiful building built in the Khmer-French. The museum houses a collection of Khmer art such as sculpture, ceramics, bronzes, and ethnographic objects. in four open-air buildings built around a courtyard. Several pieces are from Angkor Wat. Photography is allowed only in the courtyard and a statue of Garuda at the entrance.

In the afternoon my wife attended a Khmer cooking class where she learned how to make spring rolls, beef loc lac, and chek kits. I walked around the city, especially enjoying the walkway next to the Mekong lined with flags from around the world. Onboard in the evening we enjoyed a special dance performance by children from a local orphanage. In addition to entertaining us with traditional Cambodian dance, the boys exhibited innovative break dance routine.

Choeung Ek Genocidal Center

Choeung Ek Genocidal Center Stupa

On our final day in Phnom Penh we visited Choeung Ek, the site of mass graves of victims of the Khmer Rouge killed between 1975 and 1979. Mass graves containing 8,895 bodies were discovered at Choeung Ek after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. Many of the dead were former political prisoners who were kept by the Khmer Rouge in their Tuol Sleng detention center. Today, Choeung Ek is a memorial, marked by a Buddhist stupa. The stupa has acrylic glass sides and is filled with more than 5,000 human skulls. Apart from the stupa, there are pits from which the bodies were exhumed. Human bones still litter the site. The film The Killing Fields is a dramatized portrayal of events like those that took place at Choeung Ek.

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former high school located in Phnom Penh, was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979. Tuol Sleng means “Hill of the Poisonous Trees” or “Strychnine Hill”. Tuol Sleng was only one of at least 150 execution centers in the country, and as many as 20,000 prisoners there were later killed. When prisoners were first brought to Tuol Sleng, they were made aware of ten rules that they were to follow during their incarceration. What follows is what is posted today at the Tuol Sleng Museum; the imperfect grammar is a result of faulty translation from the original Khmer:

  1. You must answer accordingly to my question. Don’t turn them away.
  2. Don’t try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that, you are strictly prohibited to contest me.
  3. Don’t be a fool for you are a chap who dare to thwart the revolution.
  4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.
  5. Don’t tell me either about your immoralities or the essence of the revolution.
  6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.
  7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.
  8. Don’t make pretext about Kampuchea Kromin order to hide your secret or traitor.
  9. If you don’t follow all the above rules, you shall get many lashes of electric wire.
  10. If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric discharge.
Bou Meng

Survivor Bou Meng

The prison had a staff of 1,720 people. Of those, approximately 300 were office staff, internal workforce and interrogators. The other 1,400 were general workers, including people who grew food for the prison. Several of these workers were children taken from the prisoner families. The chief of the prison was Khang Khek Ieu (also known as Comrade Duch), a former mathematics teacher who worked closely with Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot. The documentation unit was responsible for transcribing tape-recorded confessions, typing the handwritten notes from prisoners’ confessions, preparing summaries of confessions, and maintaining files. In the photography sub-unit, workers took mug shots of prisoners when they arrived, pictures of prisoners who had died while in detention, and pictures of important prisoners after they were executed. Our guide was around eight during the Khmer Rouge terror, He was separated from his parents who were killed. He survived through some extraordinary circumstances as did his grandparents who subsequently raised him. Two survivors of Tuol Sleng, Chum Mey, who had mechanical skills, and Bou Meng, an artist,were selling copies of their books during our visit.

Long-time AP photographer Nick Ut, who took the “Napalm Girl” photograph during the Vietnam War, shared with us some of his famous war photographs and more recent pictures of Hollywood celebrities. In addition, he previewed some of his photographs taken earlier in the day from Choeung Ek the Tuol Sleng. He has remarkable talent!

Mekong River Cruise, Cambodia Sunday, Dec 21 2014 

A five hour bus ride from Siem Reap to Kampong Cham provided us with a look at how rural Cambodians live. Some of the houses on stilts displayed a pink cloth above the door which advertised an eligible woman 18 or older available for marriage. A few homes had rice drying on plastic mats. Our guide stopped in the midst of a rubber tree plantation and showed us how rubber is harvested. When we arrived in Kampong Cham, the sixth largest city in Cambodia, we embarked on the River Orchid. Our compact room has a large bathroom and plenty of storage. We were gifted with the Future of Cambodian Children bathrobes embroidered with our initials. Two sets of entry doors allow for viewing the scenery through windows while the outer door is open. We were treated to a brief, colorful sunset.

For our morning excursion, our vessel traveled up the Mekong River. A throng of village children awaited us on disembarking. We visited a house on stilts, unannounced. The interior was immaculate. The pots in the kitchen were shining clean even though there is no running water. Rain water is collected on the roof. Containers mounted on the wall ingeniously hold utensils. The main living area had two beds that could be divided for privacy. Framed collections of photos were mounted throughout.

Our guide showed us the many ways a scarf can be used by a Cambodian. There are several possible folds for covering the head. The scarf can be used to carry items. If one places stones at the ends, it can be used as a weapon. It can be worn as a skirt, and women can cover themselves if there is no private restroom. The scarf can be used atop the head or on the shoulder to carry heavy loads.

Wat Hanchey Monk

Wat Hanchey Monk

Wat Hanchey is a beautifully situated temple complex and monastery with panoramic views of the Mekong River. Pre-Angkor and Angkor aged temples mingle with contemporary Buddhist structures, giving a sense of Cambodia’s past and present religious life. We received a blessing from two monks, one was 14, the other 9. Our visit coincided with the lunch meal of the Buddhist monks. Interestingly, one of the village girls attached herself to me. She held my hand during the walk to and from the temple complex. Cambodians are open to being photographed, and appreciate being shown the picture.

We visited Phnom Pros, the Man Hill, from where we could see the corresponding Phnom Srey, the Woman Hill, on a nearby hilltop. In the Phnom Pros temple several older men, who are supported in their old age by the Buddhist monks, were sitting. As we descended a staircase, monkeys were frolicking in the woods. We walked along a series of statues illustrating the life story of the Buddha before seeing a massive Buddha statue teaching his disciples. A building housing the library was nearby. Behind it lays a massive reclining Buddha. A stupa erected to honor the dead from a nearby Khmer Rouge killing field holds a lotus-shaped container filled with human skulls. An 85-year-old who lost all relatives sat inside soliciting donations. He wanted to end his life, but suicide in Buddhism is unacceptable as it would necessitate 100 reincarnations. After dinner we saw a documentary about Pol Pot, the architect for the genocide of one-fourth of all Cambodians, especially intellectuals. Wearing glasses was a death warrant from 1975 until 1979. Today half the population of Cambodia is under the age of 25.

Our final temple for the day was the Nokor Bachey Temple, built at the same time as the Angkor temples. It boasts intricate wall carvings and ancient Buddha statues. As we exited some us took pictures of water buffaloes in a nearby yard. One of our group was charged by a protective mother water buffalo. That was scary. We completed our day with an excellent sunset.

Floating Village

Floating Village

Our morning cruise along the Tonle Sap River gave us a first hand look at village life. We observed fishing with sampans in a straight line connected with one another by planks. One of our guides gave an informative discussion about Cambodian geography along the Mekong River. He introduced us to the likely repercussions if more dams are built along this river which is the lifeblood of Cambodia. In the afternoon we boarded an excursion boat to view hundreds of floating homes of Kampong Chhnang. Most of these residents are from Vietnam. The Tonlé  Sap, “Large Fresh Water River”, but more commonly translated as “Great Lake”) is a combined lake and river system of major importance to Cambodia. The Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and an ecological hot spot designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997. The Tonlé Sap is unusual for two reasons: its flow changes direction twice a year, and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons. From November to May, Cambodia’s dry season, the Tonlé Sap drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh. However, when the year’s heavy rains begin in June, the Tonlé Sap backs up to form an enormous lake, five times its size during the dry season. Another good sunset as we headed for Phnom Penh.

Siem Reap, Cambodia Thursday, Dec 18 2014 

Elephant Ride

Elephant Ride

Hanoi is building a new terminal for international flights that is expected to open with the New Year. They are also building a new highway and bridge across the Red River which will provide quicker access to the city. We flew Vietnamese Airlines to Siem Reap, Cambodia. The plane was modern with good service, including a light lunch. We stayed in the Victoria Anghor Resort in Siem Reap.

I chose to rise early in order to experience the sunrise over Anghow Wat from Bakheng Hill. Our tour guide was pleased that the sun was partially visible through the clouds. It was interesting to watch the great temple rise out of the dark, but we have superior sunrises almost every day in Prescott. After a picnic breakfast, I climbed aboard a female elephant for a twenty-five minute ride to Bayon.

Bayon is the centerpiece of Angkor Thom with its multitude of serene and massive stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak. The temple is known also for two impressive sets of bas-reliefs, which present an unusual combination of mythological, historical, and mundane scenes. It was originally a Hindu site and only later made a Buddhist temple. With its center tower symbolizing Meru, and its oceanic moat, it can be seen as a metaphor for the natural world.

The vast area of Angkor Thom is dotted with many temples and features. We stopped at the Terrace of the Elephant, named for the carvings of elephants on its eastern face. The terrace was used by Angkor’s king Jayavarman VII as a platform from which to view his victorious returning army. It was attached to the palace of Phimeanakas, of which only a few ruins remain. Angkor Thom is in the Bayon style. This manifests itself in the large scale of the construction, in the widespread use of laterite, in the face-towers at each of the entrances to the city and in the naga-carrying giant figures which accompany each of the towers.

Unlike most of the other Angkor temples, which have been painstakingly excavated and restored, Ta Prohm has been left mush as it was found. Massive trees seem to grow like magic from the stone, their tentacle-like roots pouring over doorways, lounging on roofs, and stretching across courtyards. The temple of Ta Prohm was used as a location in the film Tomb Raider.

Future of Khmer Children

Future of Khmer Children

After lunch at Champey, we rode on a tuk-tuk (motorcycle rickshaw) for a city tour. We had stopped at Future of Khmer Children (FKC), a local school providing needy children with an intensive English language curriculum and musical, dance, and sewing skills. We were shocked to learn that one of the children who looked like he was 4 or 5 was 9. Stunted growth, we learned, is quite common as a result of malnutrition. Because of their devastating civil war, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. Some 35% of the population lives in poverty and 15% in extreme poverty. FKC is trying to give poor children a chance for a brighter future. I contributed a chess set and board to the school. We made another stop at Artisans for Angkor, an organization providing young rural people with craft skills that can earn a living in their home village. We observed rooms devoted to weaving, painting, stone and wood carving.

Reflection of Angkor Wat

Reflection of Angkor Wat

Unlike most Khmer temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west rather than the east. This has led many to conclude that Suryavarman intended it to serve as his funerary temple. Further evidence for this view is provided by the bas-reliefs, which proceed in a counter-clockwise direction—prasavya in Hindu terminology—as this is the reverse of the normal order. Rituals take place in reverse order during Brahminic funeral services. Angkor Wat is the prime example of the classical style of Khmer architecture—the Angkor Wat style—to which it has given its name. By the 12th century Khmer architects had become skilled and confident in the use of sandstone (rather than brick or laterite) as the main building material. Most of the visible areas are of sandstone blocks, while laterite was used for the outer wall and for hidden structural parts. The five spires of the main temple of Angkor are the most recognized symbol of Cambodia. The handmade moat is more than a mile in length. I took an interesting picture of the temple and its reflection on an inner lake. The inner walls of the outer gallery bear a series of large-scale scenes mainly depicting episodes from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. There are three levels at Angkor. We traversed the steep stairs to the third level for awe-inspiring views.

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei

On a drive to Banteay Srey we observed houses on stilts. The lower level is used for keeping animals and dining, not because of flooding. Brahman cattle originally from India are used in the fields and a source of wealth. We also saw water buffalo. Banteay Srey, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, is considered by many experts to be the pinnacle of artistic achievement at Angkor. The temple’s name means citadel of the women or citadel of beauty which is probably related to the intricacy of the bas relief carvings found on the walls, and the tiny dimensions of the buildings themselves. It is built largely of a hard red sandstone that can be carved like wood.

Banteay Samre is a large, comparatively flat temple displaying Angkor Wat style of architecture and artistry. Built under Suryavarman II and Yasovarman II in the early 12th century, it is a Hindu temple in the Angkor Wat style. It was named after the Samré, an ancient people of Indochina. The temple uses the same materials as the Banteay Srei.

Apsara Dance

Apsara Dance

At the La Tradition Restaurant we enjoyed a traditional Khmer dinner where each course was interspersed with Apsara dance. Apsara or Celestial Dancers are featured by the thousands at the ancient temples of Angkor. Apsara were reputed to be friendly and playful and danced for the gods in order to encourage rain, good crops, prosperity, and protection of the Kingdom. We saw Robam Ploy Souy which is a folk dance dedicated to the Cave Spirit and other gods who are believed to protect their community. The Fishing Dance reminds us of the traditional methods of fishing by the people who lived near the Tonle Sap Lake. The Memento Dance expresses the first meeting between a man and woman who on the one hand are full of love and on the other break away and miss one another.

We enjoyed seeing the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat and experiencing the wonderful Cambodian people living in Siem Reap.

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