Cambodia would make for a good “Eat, Pray, Love” remake. Maybe not LOVE. But definitely the ‘Eat’ and ‘Pray’ part.
Cambodia is famous for its Kampot pepper which is quite an expensive spice. Like most countries in IndoChina, rice is the staple food. The cuisine also contains noodles, tropical fruits (YES!), insects and fish/sea food. Red fire ants and spiders are enjoyed fried. I passed on that. Cambodia is the home of Amok, which is a Khmer coconut curry steamed in a banana leaf. It is most often cooked with fish, but beef, chicken, tofu and vegetables work as well. The popular Angkor beer goes down really well in Cambodia’s ridiculously hot weather. Apart from traditional Khmer food, bigger cities have several restaurants offering cuisines from all over the world: Italian, French, Mediterranean etc.
Angkor was the capital city of the Khmer Empire, situated in a city today known as Siem Reap. Angkor is the largest pre-industrial city in the world, with researchers discovering elaborate water systems, sophisticated infrastructure and an area of about 1000 sq km. It is estimated that there were over 1000 temples in the city. Unfortunately it was abandoned in the 15th century after its capture by Siam (now Thailand). Forest cover took over and the elements destroyed most of the civilization. However, since the 20th century, experts from across the globe have worked together in restoring Angkor’s temples.
Angkor Wat, an ancient temple complex in Angkor, is the largest religious monument in the world and attracts over 2 million tourist every year. Cambodia’s history includes Hinduism as the first religion, but later Buddhism took root. Angkor Wat is a Hindu temple, despite being caught up in Hindu-Buddhist adaptations, built in the 12th century by the Khmer. The temple displays skilled craftsmanship in its carvings, aesthetic architectural elements and functional structures. Towards the end of the 12th century, it had been transformed to a Buddhist temple. Allow me to use a Wiki excerpt…
“It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century inYaśodharapura (Khmer: យសោធរបុរៈ, present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. Breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious center since its foundation. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country’s prime attraction for visitors.”
In the same Angkor region, one can visit Ta Prohm (the Tomb Raider Temple) and Bayon (Temple of the Smiling Faces). Bayon also shifted between being a Hindu and Buddhist temple depending on the king that reigned. There are many myths explaining the smiling faces. One states that they depict a smiling Buddha, another that it is a smiling King Jayavarman VII… I guess we’ll never know. You may recognise Ta Prohm from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
FUN FACT: Hindu temples are storied and high, while Buddhist temples have only one floor.
I’m not sure what to say about Cambodia and love. I was going through a breakup when I visited it. That’s remotely related to love, right?
Stay tuned for a second post on Cambodia this week. 🙂 It was too long to all share in one post.
Love and Light