Published: September 4th 2007September 4th 2007
Angkor Wat Itself
Mount Meru shaped cupolas of Angkor Wat
Most people who come to Siem Reap in Cambodia, come solely to see the temples of Angkor Wat. The name may is a bit misleading, however, because Angkor Wat is just one of more than a hundred stone temples in the area built between the years 802 and 1220. The temples were constructed by a long line of kings, each trying to outdo each other with bigger and more beautiful temples. What was left was one of the most impressive architectural endeavors ever accomplished. Each temple has its own personality and charm. While I was being whisked around the grounds by tuk tuk, I tried to imagine what the first French “tourists” saw from the backs of elephants when they came at the end of the 19th century. Most of the temples they visited were overgrown and inhabited only by a few monks. The peasants who lived on the edges of the jungle near Angkor Wat told stories of temples to the gods buried deep in the forest. They were discarded as legends until the temples really were discovered by a Frenchman in the 1860s. It was far from the well kempt sightseeing mecca that it is today.
Saffron Robed Monks
I love the contrast between the monks' orange robes and the weathered grey stone of the temple.
two loops that hit most of the important temples in the area. The smaller one contains the three highlights; Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Phrom. The larger one covers extra, equally impressive temples a bit farther from the center. Our first stop was the Angkor Wat (City Temple). The walk up to the building itself is breathtaking. The structure is supposed to represent Mount Meru, home of Hindu gods, with the copulas symbolizing the mountains and the moat embodying the heavenly lake. It is considered the most well preserved temple and the one with greatest religious significance. On the way up we stopped by one of the smaller temples to the side of the main thoroughfare. They were tiny compared to the main structure, but we went inside for a look anyway. There were a few kids roaming around, hiding behind walls and chatting with the visitors who came by. I thought this was strange for some reason. Perhaps it was the fact that these kids used these magnificent temples as their playground and that no one was kicking them out either. We went into the temple, trying desperately to steer clear of the Chinese tour groups. The Angkor Wat
With the wheel of life.
has a typical composition of the temples of its day; three levels around a courtyard. The corridors are cold and mysterious with Buddha statues every so often surrounded by offerings and incense. The light in the temples is beautiful, a photographer’s paradise. We walked around looking at the murals on the first level called the “Churning of the Sea of Milk”. There are demons on one side of a long rope, heavenly creatures on the other and Vishnu and Hanuman make cameo appearances in some parts. Some people describe it as a twisted game of tug-of-war. The theme of “Churning of the Sea of Milk” comes up often in other areas on the temple grounds. We decided to go to the top. The steps are incredibly steep, almost vertical and I could have done with some Alpine hiking cramp-ons to help me maneuver my way up (of course the locals manage in a few, confident steps.) The way down is worse for the fear of falling backwards. The view from the top is well worth the journey. On the way back we meandered through the halls trying to spot the thousands of Apsaras (dancers) that line the walls. Ale was
People come from all over to leave offerings here.
particularly excited as they are topless. I had to remind him that they were only stone statues.
There are more photos below