Ancient Angkor Wat


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June 23rd 2009
Published: June 24th 2009
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Angkor Wat


"One of these temples—a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo—might take an honourable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged."


By Henry Mouhot, a French explorer who visited Angkor in the year of 1858 - 60

The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand, ranging in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields to the magnificent Angkor Wat, said to be the world's largest single religious monument. Angkor Wat (or Angkor Vat) is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation—first Hindu, dedicated to Vishnu, then Buddhist. The temple is the epitome 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.

Okay, so there’s not a lot more I can add about Angkor, other than the whole place is pretty darn spectacular in scale and architecture and endurance. It is a sprawling area so we hired a tuk tuk driver for the day and he took us around the temples, with a itinerary of Angkor Tom (first day), Angkor Wat (second day) and Rolous and Beng Mealea (third day). Also, 'twas very (very) humid - (did I mention very?), so we sweated copiously as evidenced by the photos of me in a wet t-shirts! Sexy sweat. Ladies please leave phone numbers in the comments page.

Siem Reap is the town that has been built around the ruins and it was pretty cool as well, impressive European style nightlife with streets called "Pub alley" and "Restaurant alley", and the cuisine was very good Khymer food. Here’s a brief low down on what temples we saw and their significance, the photos are in group temple order. Did you think I was going to be able to outline this myself!?

Angkor Thom was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by king Jayavarman VII. It covers an area of 9 km², within which are located several monuments from earlier eras as well as those established by Jayavarman and his successors. At the centre of the city is Jayavarman's state temple, the Bayon, with the other major sites clustered around the Victory Square immediately to the north.

Angkor Wat (or Angkor Vat), is a temple complex at Angkor,Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation—first Hindu, dedicated to Vishnu, thenBuddhist. The temple is the epitome 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.

Roluos Group: The Angkorian period may be said to have begun shortly after 800 A.D., when the Khmer King Jayavarman II announced the independence of Kambujadesa (Cambodia) from Java and established his capital ofHariharalaya (now known as "Roluos") at the northern end of Tonle Sap.

Beng Mealea is a temple in the Angkor Wat style located 40 km east of the main group of temples at Angkor, Cambodia, and 77 km from Siem Reap by road. It is largely unrestored, with trees and thick brush thriving amidst its towers and courtyards and many of its stones lying in great heaps. For years it was difficult to reach, but a road recently built to the temple complex of Koh Ker passes Beng Mealea and more visitors are coming to the site.

The temple was built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. Smaller in size than Angkor Wat, the king's main monument, Beng Mealea nonetheless ranks among the Khmer empire's larger temples. Its primary material is sandstone. Surrounded by moats, it is oriented toward the east but has entranceways from the other three cardinal directions. The basic layout is three enclosing galleries around a central sanctuary. Structures known as libraries lie to the right and left of the avenue that leads in from the east. There is extensive carving of scenes from Hindu mythology, including the Churning of the Sea of Milk and Vishnu being borne by the bird god Garuda. Causeways have long balustrades formed by bodies of the seven-headed Naga serpent.

Beng Mealea was one definite highlight of the whole trip to Angkor, an overgrown temple complex where we clambered over stones and rooted around the insides of the temple. Very much like Indiana Jones, except we were sweating like beasts. It took ages to get to as well, over an hour by tuk tuk, but well worth it.

Anyway, we had a really good time, got annoyed at the vendors trying to sell you water and the usual shite, but then managed to laugh at the gauntlet they created and the scrum any time a Westerner showed their face at a temple. What created this bizarre ritual was the fact that they were restricted to the perimeter of temples so had to be quick to grab our attention.



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