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An Eye Opener

CAMBODIA | Saturday, 29 November 2008 | Views [527]

Lotus blossom

Lotus blossom

Like a lotus blossom in the morning sun, each day unfolds in its own special way.  Plans discussed the night before are discarded over breakfast and a new itinerary is adopted.  That is how we happened to take the 20 mile “Grand Tour” of Angkor. The weather was cool and clear, just perfect for a long bike ride.

The lesser sites, though interesting in their own right, lack the impact of Angkor Wat and the Bayon at Angkor Thom; Ta Son is a perfect example.  We ate lunch at Neak Pean, an island temple completely surrounded by water.  Preah Kahn is falling prey to the ever encroaching jungle.  It was a Buddhist temple but has sections devoted to Shiva and Vishnu.  Faces of deities were chiseled off as the rulers – and their religions – changed.

We rode out again in the evening, our first night ride into Siem Reap, to the Kantha Bopha children’s hospital to hear Beatocello, a classical cello concert.  Dr. Beat Richner not only plays, he is a pediatrician and the hospital’s founder.  His concerts raise $5 million annually which goes towards the operation of the hospital.  He condemns the corrupt government which contributes only 8% of the money needed to provide free treatment for the area’s children.  He also has harsh words for his native Swiss government who have recently reduced funding and for all of the developed nations who could do so much more to help Cambodia’s children.  In fifteen years Kantha Bopha has treated nearly eight million kids.  Two-thirds of Cambodians have TB, much of it drug resistant while others come in for treatment of malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis, and the usual childhood diseases.  Even the World Health Organization says Kantha Bopha can’t do what it is doing, delivering the highest success rate for the lowest cost of any hospital, all due to Dr. Richner’s tireless efforts.  He is no YoYoMa but he may be another Albert Schweitzer.

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