Posts Tagged ‘cambodia’

Video: Angkor Wat in 3-D

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Angkor Wat is considered to be one of the most significant archaeological sites in South-East Asia and dates as early as the 9th century. After time, neglect, and war damaged the site, UNESCO put the historical remains on its World Heritage List, as well as the World Heritage in Danger List to save it from further destruction and looting. Since then, there has been work to preserve the temples by both professional archaeologists and locals. To see the size and scope of this monument located in the Cambodian jungle, check out this 3-D digital interpretation.

Explore this and other UNESCO World Heritage sites on the Treasures of Angkor Wat and Vietnam tour.

What is your favorite UNESCO World Heritage site? Share Below

Moved by Music in Vietnam

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Hank Kenny is Senior Analyst and Studies Director at the Center for Naval Analyses, where he has directed projects on U.S. strategy for the past 13 years. Having first seen Vietnam during the U.S. war there, Dr. Kenny has been overjoyed to visit the region again and again, witnessing its dramatic progress during peacetime. For more on Hank and traveling with him, click here.

Vietnamese singers in Hanoi sing for visitors. Photo: Hank Kenny

Vietnamese singers in Hanoi sing for visitors at the Temple of Literature. Photo: Hank Kenny

Recently, on a Smithsonian Journeys visit to Vietnam, I was lucky to experience an amazing performance by some local students. When the group of young Vietnamese began to sing, I could not believe my ears. Was this Hanoi, the capital of the nation with which my country had fought a long, long war? The singers were young, mostly teenagers. They welcomed us with glee, and proceeded to sing “God Bless America.” I was amazed. When we clapped after each song they smiled, their eyes brilliantly radiating hope and joy.

My mind raced back to an earlier day, when Vietnam was “Nam,” and a young woman sang “I do not know why I am so sad tonight—because it rains or my heart is broken.” She sang for the many broken-hearted Vietnamese and American women whose love was gone, of sadness etched in the memory of Americans and Vietnamese alike.

But the concert of these Vietnamese youth symbolized a new day—a day of joy. It was in the faces of the young singers in Hanoi, and in teenage girls in beautiful ao dai dresses at the Temple of Literature. And there it was again in faces of the children we saw on our throughout our journey—in Hue we saw it in the peaceful countenance of young Buddhist monks. In Nha Trang, while visiting a preschool, we danced with little children who smiled with delight. In My Tho, young people weaved baskets and helped make coconut candy for our pleasure, and in Saigon they helped the shopkeepers who sold us bright apparel at phenomenal discounts.

Photo: Hank Kenny

Photo: Hank Kenny

The singers in Hanoi were blind. They stood in a row and followed the tunes of a piano player who was also blind. Some of those tunes were of Christmas, as it was that time of the year, and I wondered—in what sense is this a Communist country? Then, after a thoroughly enjoyable performance, they climaxed with “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Tears came to my eyes then, and again a week later when I left Vietnam with the words of that song still ringing in my ears—“mine have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Experience the evolution of postwar Vietnam on any of our tours to the region.

Or, see Vietnam through Hank’s eyes, traveling with him in October 2009.

Transported by Angkor: Dispatch 11 from Extraordinary Cultures

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Richard Kurin is the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture here at the Smithsonian Institution. He is a cultural anthropologist specializing in the study of knowledge systems, folk arts, museums, and development. He is currently Study Leader on our Extraordinary Cultures – An Epic Journey Around the World tour, and will be blogging periodically while traveling. This post is eleventh in a series. To see the other posts, click here.

Buddha faces grace Angkor Thom. Photo: Richard Kurin

Dateline: Cambodia

Siem Riep, Cambodia has grown exponentially with hotels, restaurants and markets to host some two million people a year who visit Angkor, one of the iconic World Heritage Sites and wonders of the world. On the positive side, the scale and quality of Angkor has attracted worldwide support for its preservation. UNESCO, the Chinese, Japanese, Indians, and others run one or another project to restore and conserve this special place. More challenging are the tourists themselves who touch the ruins and trod upon them—learning of Cambodia’s heritage to be sure, but also jeopardizing the site’s future survival.

People usually think of Angkor Wat as the whole of the ancient city, but actually, the wat or particular temple complex built in the 12th century is one part of a much larger series of cities. Indeed, the term “Angkor” is thought to be linguistically derived from the Sanskrit term negara, or city. This ancient urban site and capital for the Khmer, or Cambodian, people, grew and declined from the 9th to the 16th centuries, comprised an area equivalent to that of Los Angeles, and hosted about a million people.

This was far larger than any city or capital in Europe or Asia for its time. This was possible because of hydraulics—the management of the city’s water. Ancient Cambodians figured out how to move the water from surrounding rivers through rice paddy fields and the city itself. Reservoirs, canals, moats, and pools provided for irrigation, drinking water, plumbing, and sewage. Considering the size of the place and the huge annual rainfall, this was no easy task—especially with building materials of wood and stone.

But managing water was more than a matter of public works. It was part of a constructed sacred geography for the forms of Hinduism and Buddhism prevalent during the period. The temples and other precincts of Angkor were laid out in elaborate, symbolic ways. They formed mandalas, or sacred representations of existence. Visiting temples, climbing stone staircases, moving along colonnades, and circumambulating towers were all parts of spiritual journeys.