Angkor Wat, Cambodia

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Angkor Wat is a temple in Cambodia and the largest religious structure in the world with the site measuring 162.6 hectares. It is about 6 km from the town of Siem Reap. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple and then gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. 20161107_140535.jpg

Angkor Wat is the reason most travellers visit Cambodia. Angkor means “city” and Wat means “temple”. It is an architectural masterpiece and  one of the most spectacular monuments in the world. It is featured on the national flag of Cambodia.

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Construction of Angkor Wat took nearly 40 years. It was built between 1113 and 1150 by King Suryavarman II in honour of the Hindu god Vishnu. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, within a 200 meter wide moat and an outer wall of 3.6 kilometres. There are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands 5 towers, shaped like lotus buds, symbolising the 5 peaks of Mount Meru, the walls and moat representing the surrounding mountains and ocean. One of the most prominent features of  Angkor Wat is its bas reliefs of feminine figures.20161107_135357

The monument was made out of 5  to 10 million sandstone blocks. The entire city used up far greater amounts of stone than all the Egyptian pyramids combined. Moreover, unlike the Egyptian pyramids which use limestone quarried  0.5 km  away, the entire city of Angkor was built with sandstone quarried 40 km away. 20161109_224820.jpg

A Portuguese monk visited Angkor Wat in the 16th century. He said that it is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it by pen. Global awareness of the temple started  in the mid 19th century. The site was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1992 .20161107_133858.jpg

I visited the Angkor Wat temple as part of the small circle tour of Angkor Wat Archaeological Park. 20161107_141356.jpg

 

Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat Archaeological Park

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Angkor Thom is huge, 9 square km huge. Inside it’s walls you will find The  Bayon, The Terrace of the Elephants, The Baphuon,  Preah Ngcoc and many more. It was the 4th site I visited  on the small circuit of Angkor. We entered through Victory Gate, drove passed The Terrace of the Elephants, parked near Preah Ngcoc and left through the South Gate. For me this ancient city was the most impressive and most beautiful of all the Angkor sites. The South Gate.jpg

Angkor Thom, meaning Great City, was the last capital of the Khmer Empire. It was built in a square, and was surrounded by a square wall, 8m high and 12km in length and further protected by a 100m-wide moat (now dry), said to have contained ferocious crocodiles. A gate opens exactly in the middle of each wall, from which a bridge extends over the moat to the area outside the city.The south Gate (7).jpg

Terrace of the Elephants is a two and a half-meter tall, 300 meter long terrace wall adorned with carved elephants. Legend had it that the King used this  platform to view his victorious returning army. It was also used as a giant reviewing stand for public ceremonies and served as a base for the king’s grand audience hall. terrace-of-the-elephants-1Terrace of the Elephants (2).jpg

The Bayon Temple is situated in the  centre of the walled city, it represents the intersection of heaven and earth. It is known for its smiling faces. Originally there were 49 towers, decorated with large carved faces looking into each of the four cardinal directions. Close to 200 faces, the largest ones being almost 2½ meters high, decorate the 37 remaining towers. This is one of the most famous buildings of Angkor.the-bayon-12

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The Baphuon, a temple built in 1066.The Baphuon (8).jpg

This three-tiered mountain temple was build in the mid eleventh century as a state temple to the king and dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. A Chinese Ambassador in the 13th century described it as a copper tower. This suggests that the temple may have been sheathed in bronze plates and must have been a truly  impressive sight.

There is an interesting, 200 meter, elevated stone pathway from the front gate to the temple.the-baphuon-10

It is a very steep  climb to the top of the temple, but you are rewarded with  panoramic views. Not so many people here.the-baphuon-1

Preah Ngoc

It is a small temple with a large seated Buddha under a pavilion. The pavilion is of recent times but the Buddha is from the 12 to 13 th century. Preah Ngoc (2).jpg

Angkor Thom is truly an impressive and astonishing site!!South Gate

I passed this group 0f disabled musicians with traditional instruments as I exit the park. They were all the victims 0f landmines.The Bayon (25)

 

Ta Keo, Angkor Wat Archaeological Park

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Ta Keo was the third temple I visited as part of the small circuit of Angkor. My Tuk-Tuk driver asked me to be careful, lots of steep steps, and indeed the steps were high and narrow. But you don’t have to climb all the way to the top. I didn’t, the steps were knee-high, and not large enough for a foot, and the steps are  different sizes! 20161107_111458.jpg

The pyramid shaped Ta Keo was build to represent Mount Meru, the mountain that is the center of the world in Hindu mythology. Around Ta Keo was a moat, that represents the oceans surrounding Mount Meru. 20161107_111802.jpg

Ta Keo  was never completed. Legend has it that the temple was struck by lightning during its construction, and  work was halted at a stage where the main structure was complete but no decorations had been added.20161107_111340

There were only a few people when I visited and I enjoyed having the place almost to myself.

Opposite Ta Keo is a small market selling clothes,  drinks and smoothies, a nice break in between temples.

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Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat Archaeological Park

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When I fist saw pictures of the Ta Prohm temple  I was in awe. I couldn’t believe that such a magical place exist….in real life!! And when I found out that I can visit this magical place, I started to make plans to visit Cambodia. The Ta Prohm temple was my inspiration for a month long journey through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.20161107_171821.jpg

Ta Prohm was built in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. It was used as a Buddhist monastery and university. At the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century, the temple of Ta Prohm was abandoned and taken in by the jungle. It was only centuries later that it was ‘discovered’ again.20161107_102243.jpg

And so I found myself in Cambodia at the Angkor Archaeological Park.  Ta Prohm was the second temple I visited  as part of the small circuit of Angkor. My driver dropped me off at the east gate.  20161107_095807I walked through the forest for a few minutes, entered the ruins, and had to pinch myself. Here I am, standing amongst the ruins, in  the Cambodian forest, my dream now a reality.20161107_102821

The beauty of the silk trees  and strangler fig trees and their giant roots climbing over the temple ruins are out of this world…. I was overwhelmed by the sheer size and scale of the roots.20161107_103415.jpg

But, Ta Prohm was not my favourite temple that day! The reason being the many tour groups, herding along like sheep, blocking paths and queuing to take pictures. So it was difficult to savour the atmosphere with so many people there. 20161107_103545

This was by far the busiest temple, but not to be missed. Truly spectacular!!

 

 

 

 

Angkor Wat Archaeological Park

I hired a Tuk-Tuk  Driver for the day, through my accommodation, and paid $15 for the small circuit.The South Gate.jpg

We started off at Banseay Kdei, which was my favourite temple.20161107_093259.jpg

Next temple was Ta Phrom. The movie Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie was firmed here.20161107_162107.jpg

Thereafter Ta Keo. The pyramid shaped Ta Keo was build to represent Mount Meru, the mountain that is the centre of the world in Hindu mythology. The temple was left unfinished.20161107_111340 (2).jpg

Time for a break and a  Coconut Smoothie. 20161107_112929

Then followed Angkor Thom, which was spectacular. It covers an area of 9 km². The Bayon, The Baphuon and Terrace of the Elephants can be found here.The south Gate (7).jpg

I ended the day  at Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world.20161107_044703 (2).jpg

The day I spend in this Cambodian forest visiting age old monuments was just magical.