Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Khmer Art and Architecture

Throughout Cambodia's history, religious principles guided and inspired its arts. A unique Khmer style emerged from the combination of indigenous animistic beliefs and the originally Indian religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. These two religions, along with the Sanskrit language and other elements of Indian civilization, arrived in mainland Southeast Asia during the first few centuries ad. Seafaring merchants following the coast from India to China brought them to the port cities along the Gulf of Thailand, which were then controlled by the state of Funan in Cambodia. At varying times, Cambodian culture also absorbed Javanese, Chinese, and Thai influences.
Between the 9th and 15th centuries, a prosperous and powerful empire flourished in northw
estern Cambodia. The Khmer kingdom of Angkor, named for its capital city, dominated much of what is now Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. The kingdom drew its religious and political inspiration from India. The literary language of the court was Sanskrit; the spoken language was Khmer. Massive temples from this period, including Angkor Wat and the Bayon at Angkor Thum, testify to the power of Angkor and the grandeur of its architecture and decorative art. The unparalleled achievements in art, architecture, music, and dance during this period served as models for later cultural development in Cambodia.
Angkor faded into obscurity after the capital moved south to Phnom Penh in the 15th century, probably due in part to frequent invasions by the neighboring Thais. The jungle rapidly grew over the monuments. In the centuries that followed, frequent wars reduced the territory, wealth, and power of Cambodian monarchs. However, an independent state with its capital near Phnom Penh survived until the 19th century. The most important work of Cambodian literature, the Reamker (a Khmer-language version of the Indian myth of the Ramayana), was composed during thistime. France, which began administering Cambodia in 1863, rediscovered the temples at Angkor and worked to preserve them beginning in the early 20th century. Cambodia's traditional culture and the monuments of Angkor were endangered between 1970 and 1990 due to civil war. The Communist Khmer Rouge regime, which opposed and mistrusted religion and education, banned all of Cambodia's traditional arts and its written language. Since 1991, when Cambodia's warring factions signed a peace accord, international organizations have helped the Cambodian government restore the sites at Angkor and revive Cambodia's traditional crafts.
Type of Khmer Art & Achitecture
1. Sculpture The stone carving skill of the ancient Khmer was basically inherited from the Indian civilization, however, it was later evolved into its own unique Khmer style. The Khmer sculptures were carved from stone with great craftsmanship and many of them represent the Hindu deities such as Shiva, Vishnu, Brahmans, the elephant god Ganesha and many other gods and goddesses, as well as Hindu mythical monsters such as the serpent naga, the demon kala, the giant makara, and the mythical lions. Some large sculptures even portray the epics of the Hindu myths such as Mahabharata and Ramayana.
In later centuries, the Buddha statues appeared and enshrined in many temples. The most astounding Buddha statues are found in Angkor Thom (Bayon) where the magnificent statues of four-faced Bodhisattava Avalokiteshvara, the lord Buddha, were sculptured on fifty towers. Although each sculpture bears the common characteristics of the supernatural being it represents as described in the epics or myths, its details reveal the personal imagination of its sculptor. In addition, some sculptures depict the important events such as the war against its foreign invaders while some reveal the everyday life of the Khmer people such as the relief carvings of Angkor Thom.
2. Architecture The house of the local people in ancient Khmer was more or less similar to those found today in villages of modern Cambodia. It was elevated about two and a half meters above the ground with the wooden ladder and was built by wooden piles which supported the floor, the walls and the roof.
The wall was made up of either the straws or the bamboo with the roof covered with the thatched leaves of dry coconut palms. The architecture of the dignitaries' houses and the palaces was somewhat different from those of the laymen, and differed in sizes, layouts and dimensions. The materials used to built the house consisted of stronger wooden planks, generally made up of teakwood, and the roof was covered with tiles for the inner rooms and with thatched leaves for the outer corners. These differences clearly identified the classes of the people by which the laymen were not even dare to put up a single tile on their roof.
According to Hinduism, the gods reside in the five sacred mountains with central Mount Meru and these mountains are surrounded by the cosmic ocean. The structure of the Khmer temples mostly symbolizes the heavenly residence of the gods with five towers, called Prasats. The central dominant tower or Prasat represents the Mount Meru with four smaller ones, each at its corners, to represent the other four sacred mountains of the heaven. In some temples, there are galleries connecting the towers. The moat surrounding the temple symbolizes the cosmic ocean.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Restaurants and Bars in Siem Reap

Siem Reap is only a small town but, because of the Ancient city of Angkor, it attracts over one million visitors every year. As Siem Reap receives more visitors, then the need for restaurants and bars increases, which many developers have recognised.
Siem Reap has hundreds of restaurants to choose from now, including Khmer, French, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, Korean, Steak, Fish, BBQ, buffet style and lots more. The buffet style restaurants are very popular with tour groups, as these are great places to see Apsara Dancing which makes an entertaining and nice evening out. There are also many Khmer style restaurants, which have live Khmer singers singing Khmer songs. These restaurants are very popular with Khmers, so if you are looking for something different then this might be worth trying.
There is an abundance of restaurants in Siem Reap serving all kinds of food from all corners of the world. French, Thai, Italian and Indian are the most popular restaurants, so if you fancy a steak, a Thai curry, an Indian curry, a pizza or some pasta, then you will not have far to look in Siem Reap. There are no McDonalds, Burger Kings or Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets in Siem Reap, but there are a number of fast food restaurants opening up, serving similar types of food.
If you are looking for a romantic night out in Siem Reap, then there are number of execllent restaurants in town with many of them having international chefs and serving fine wines from their wine cellars.
Siem Reap also has quite a number of bars and pubs now and the main nightlife is located in and around Pub Street (Bar Street). A good night out does not need to cost a fortune, as the price of drinks are not that expensive in Siem Reap especially during happy hours. If you are looking to go night clubbing, then there are number of night clubs that are worth going to if you fancy a dance or a late drink. A lot of the night clubs play western music and also a lot of Thai music.

La Residence D'Angkor Stylishly decorated but supremely relaxed, The Dining Room serves both international and Khmer cuisine in a serene, traditional atmosphere. Our globally acclaimed team of Chefs feature Executive Chef Pascal Schmit who offers international dishes with French flair and flavour, and Mee Sarmorn who prepares traditional Khmer cuisine with a contemporary twist.
Tel: 063 963 390

Bopha Angkor
Set in an amazing tropical garden, where you can have a drink on the terrace on the bank of the Siem Reap River, the restaurant offers variety of traditional Khmer cusine.
Tel: 063 964 928

Dining at Meric offers the best of both worlds. Choose from international dishes or a seasonally-inspired Khmer menu showcasing the distinctive harvests of local farmers and untamed surrounds. Named after the world-class Cambodian pepper grown in the famed Kampot region, diners at Meric will enjoy a truly unique experience.
Tel: 063 966 000

Newly renovated, our Museum Restaurant serves authentic Khmer dishes in style. Built to cater to a capacity crowd of 140 guests at any one sitting, the ambience is perfect for a good meal whether it be lunch or dinner. If you so prefer, we have an air-conditioned VIP section to meet your comfort.
Tel: 063 760 274

Jasmine Lodge
Centrally located in Siem Reap, Jasmine lodge is a popular place to meet amongst travellers offering delicious Khmer-style food. It is a good place to relax with a beer at the end of the day and play a 'free' game of pool.
Tel: 012 784 980 / 012 530 843 / 063 760 697

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Leisure Activities

If you are looking for things to do in Siem Reap then why not try one of the following leisure activities. The information below will help you find what you are looking for:
Angkor Hospital for children
If you feel like helping out the less fortunate then why not go give blood at the Angkor Hospital for children near the central market. Your blood is taken with sterile needles so there's no risk of any kind of infections. Medical treatment is given free here by the trainee medical students. Donations are much appreciated as well.
Apsara Dancing with buffet meal
Apsara Dancing is one of the biggest attractions for visitors to Siem Reap after the Angkor temples and it is on most visitors list of things to do. There a number of places in Siem Reap to see Apsara Dancing now and most of these places are restaurants which provide a buffet style meal and a dance show. Apsara Dancing is definitely worth seeing and it is a nice evening out in Siem Reap.
Cookery Classes in Siem Reap
There are a few restaurants in Siem Reap now where you can learn how to cook Khmer food. You will normally visit the market to buy your produce then go back to the restaurant to prepare and cook the food before sitting down to enjoy your meal.
If you want to go dancing in the evening, you can try Bakheng, Zone One, Sok San or Martinis. They all start to get busy around 9pm and finish around 2pm. Zone One is the most popular club for tourists, but Bakheng is a new club which has just opened recently and also getting very popular.
Dirt Bikes and 4W Drive Tours
Dirt bike tours are available in Siem Reap with a few companies who specialise in these types of leisure activities. Four-wheel drive tours are also available in siem Reap.
Elephant Ride
You can take an elephant ride while you are at Bakheng mountain from around 4pm to 6pm. The cost for a ride up the Bakheng mountain on an elephant is US$15 and to come back down the cost is US$10. You can also take an elephant ride from the south gate of Bayon to the Bayon temple in the early mornings and the cost is US$10 per person.

Golf Courses
Sofitel Royal Angkor Golf and Spa resort has an 18 hole golf course and Golf package holidays are available.
Gyms and Saunas
Many of the bigger hotels have gyms and saunas, where you can pay a daily rate to use their facilities.
Helicopter Rides
Take a scenic flight over the temples in a helicopter. Prices start from around US$50 per person for an 8 minute flight over Angkor Wat (minimum of 3 persons).
Horse Riding
Horse riding is available now in Siem Reap and prices start from around US$15 for one hour’s horse riding. You can also take a ride in a horse drawn cart around the Angkor temples.
Hot Air Balloon
If you want to see more of the Angkor Temples, then why not try a hot air balloon over Siem Reap where you can take some photos from up above. The cost is US$15 for about 15 minutes.
Jayavarman VII children’s hospital and Beat Cello
Jayavarmans VII hospital in Siem Reap was founded by Dr. Beat Richner and if you would like to donate blood then you can do so during the day. Dr. Beat Richner plays the Cello on Fridays and Saturdays and gives a brief talk about the hospital, the Beat Cello concert starts at 7:15pm and it is free to enter but donations are accepted.
If you like karaoke then there are numerous karaoke bars in Siem Reap where you can sing as much as you want. To get to a karaoke bar near you just ask a tuk tuk driver who will be able to take you there.
Quad Biking
Why not try something different and explore the beautiful countryside of Cambodia and meet Khmer families in a spirit of discovery, respect and safety. Guided tours from 45 minutes to 1 day on fully equipped all terrain vehicles. For more information check out the Quad Adventure Cambodia website or email info@quad-adventure-cambodia.com.

Singing Tree Cafe
Check out the Singing Tree Cafe just off Wat Bo Road as this is one of the few community centres in Siem Reap. They have regular yoga and meditation classes plus other performances and lectures.
There are a number of places in Siem Reap where you can play snooker. Some places are better than others with better tables and some even have V.I.P rooms with A/C for around US$3 per hour. Cambodians do not use the proper rules though, so you may have to correct the girl who does your refereeing. Ask any tuk tuk driver where you can play snooker and they will be able to show you where.
Swimming Pools
Nearly all of the hotels in Siem Reap which have swimming pools will let you use their swimming pool and facilities for a charge. Some hotels will actually have specials where you can get a meal, a drink and use all of their facilities for a fixed price for the day.
Traditional Khmer Massage
There are many places in Siem Reap where you can go to relax and have a soothing body, face or foot massage. Prices vary from US$3 up to US$100 in the more deluxe places. Ask at your hotel or guest house, as they should be able to recommend a good one.
Ultra Light Gliding
If you fancy doing a bit ultra light gliding then you can do so by appointment. Tours, training and joy flights are available.


Brief Information
The hottest month of the year in Siem Reap is April with intense heat during the day and very high humidity during the night. The coolest months of the year are December and January, when you might actually see people wearing coats in the evening. The climate of Siem Reap does not stop you from visiting Angkor at any time of the year.
Cambodia is not affected by tsunamis or earthquakes and although typhoons and tropical cyclones often hit the coast of Vietnam, they never reach Siem Reap.
Siem Reap can be visited at any time of year though, because even during the rainy season the temples are still open. The road from Poipet to Siem Reap used to be heavily affected by the rain, but now the road is much improved. During the rainy season, the streets of Siem Reap are sometimes flooded and the river does overflow due to the poor drainage system, but normally the water drains away during the night.
Siem Reap's climate can be broken down into four seasons as follows:
November to February is cool and dry with the day temperatures somewhere between 20 and 30 degrees celsius. During these months in Siem Reap it can get quite cool in the evenings, but during the day it is still quite hot. December, January and February are the peak high season and this is the best time to see Angkor when the skies are normally clear with perfect sunrises and sunsets. If you are getting up for sunrise during these months you will probably need a heavier piece of clothing, especially if you are going on a tuk tuk. There is very little rain during these months, but when there is it is usually in either January or February. The humidity is quite low around 50% during the day, but in the evening it often increases to about 80%, especially in February.
Siem Reap is hot and dry in March, April and May with day temperatures between 28 and 38 degrees celsius. During these months it gets very hot with intense heat during the day and high humidity in the evenings. Humidity in Siem Reap during the day can be over 70% and in the evenings it can be 90%. Air conditioning is recommended, because fans do very little to help in these temparatures. The skies are still pretty clear during these months, so you can still see good sunrises and sunsets.
June, July and August are hot and wet with day temperatures between 28 and 38 degrees celsius. This is when the rains really start in Siem Reap and when the weather and climate is so hot and humid, you are actually glad when the rain showers come as it freshens the air a bit. The humidity during the day reaches 70% and in the evenings it reaches 90%. It is still a good time to visit the temples, however, because when the rain does come it is normally around 4pm and eases off by the next morning, when the skies are often clear until later in the day again. Sunrises and sunsets are harder to see during these months. A light rain coat is recommended at this time of year and also a strong trainer type shoe that have a grip for climbing the temples when the stone is wet.
September to October is cool and wet with day temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees celsius. These are the wettest months of the year with wet and cold weather. The humidity is lower during the day although still quite high in the evenings. A light rain coat is strongly advised, because it can rain at anytime, although it normally starts around 4pm. Strong trainer type shoes with a good grip are also recommended for climbing the temples as the stone is often wet and slippery. Sunrises are not worth getting up for and sunsets are not very good so look at the sky before your driver or guide asks you if you want to see a sunset. September and October are some of the nicest months of the year for scenery especially if you are interested in photography, as this is when the countryside is lush and green with rice fields stretching for miles and the trees with all of their leaves. Siem Reap is normally pretty quiet this time of year because visitors tend to keep away from the rainy season, but it is not so wet that you can not visit and the plus side is there are not so many tourists around so many prices are cheaper at this time of year.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

People and Life Style

Family : Cambodian families are normally big. There are at least 2 children for the average. Most fathers go to work or try to earn for a living for the families, but nowadays things have been changing. Some women go to work or find ways to make money for the family too. Most children go to school and do not help much in the families, but they are respectful to their parents. These days they become more and more independent, but most of them still cannot make their own decision by themselves because they are under control of their parents. As a result, they are not so sophisticated and not responsible and not open. However, they are peaceful and friendly people.

Marriage: People get married at their twenties or thirties but some people get married at a very young age as well, around 16 to 20 , especially in the countryside. Women frequently set up the family around their twenties, men get married around their thirties in the city because they need to get education and find jobs first before they think about starting a family.
Most marriages are arranged ones because Khmer people are profound into tradition. They are not
only traditional, but also into belief. Before getting marriage they always go to the the fortuneteller to
predict about the both bride or bridegroom' s date of birth whether they both can live together for the whole life or not and they can be happy together or not and so on and the best time to get marriage. One in a while because of the fortune teller's prediction they both cannot get marriage, although they even fall in love.
The wedding is usually big with hundreds of guests and all the guests have to pay for the food owing to their standard of living. The rich are expected to pay more than the poor.

Baby: After they get married, it is time for them to think about having babies because most women stay at home and they feel a bit bored for some reason so they want babies to help to kill their time or because they love children. To have a baby normally is not planned as they are shy to talk about sex. For some families especially Chinese Cambodians, they want to have first child as a boy because they believe that he can bring the family prosperity and luck. After being born, a baby is named by their parents or from their grandparents or sometimes from a monk who they really believe in.

About a month they celebrate a so-called out month anniversary which the parents invite
relatives and close friend to join and enjoy meal and dancing sometimes.
Friends : Friends usually go out in big group which is likely mixed, girls and boys together. They seems to be close together in general. In facts, even if they sometimes go out together, boys and girls, they naturally think in different ways. Boys' behavior is likely to be superior to girls. Nevertheless, they cannot touch even hands and hands. If you touch a girl without their permission, it is considered rude or offensive. Hug a friend who is a girl is not absolutely possible at all, in the contrast women can touch men without permission and is considered friendly.
Women are always more respectful in public than men and women are considered weak
and pitiful gender but this is valid in some ways only ,especially something relevant to tradition and sex.
Graduated students: They don't really have big dream after high school as we can see they still wear white shirts while are going sightseeing because they don't believe in the government which is full of corruption, bribe, pro-family and all the time plays tricks to their own people and never has willing to make progress to the country.
However they just try to go to the university where they have the last hope for the unclear future or some of them give up hope and turn to find jobs or become motortaxis riders or waiters or waitresses or workers in factories.

Foreign Languages: English is absolutely the number one language in Cambodia as its role is necessary and magnificent in this country. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world and the government basically depends on foreign aid and foreign investment. Many international organizations flowed into Cambodia to help improve the standard of living and the lifestyle by using their budgets from charity around the world, especially from the powerful countries such as European countries, Australian, USA and Japan.
As a result, they have to learn English or French languages so that they can find a good job to make money for their family.