Welcome to Angkor Temple Complex!
First a few words about the name. Angkor Wat refers to one
particular temple, but also is applied generically to the complex of
temples nearby, built over 300-400 years starting over 1000 years ago for two different religions
(Hindu and Buddhism) and the site of the ancient capitol of the Khmer
Empire. The temples cover a large area (wikipedia reports about
3000 sq kilometers) and require several days for a decent visit.
This pleasant face is one of 216 different-sized representations of the
same smiling face in the temple called Bayon. It's at the center
of the ancient capitol called Angkor Thom.
Here's Bayon, from a distance. You can't see the faces, but it does have a nice reflection.
The faces are on all faces of the many of towers and pillars in the temple.
The whole "city" of Angkor Thom is surrounded by a stone wall with five
gates. This is the south entrance (ie, the one closest to Angkor
Outside of the gates sit these good looking guys using a seven headed
serpent for a tug of war. Well, not a tug or war, really; they
are using the snake to churn an ocean of milk. The process
doesn't produce butter, though; it is thought to produce amrita (aka
ambrosia), which gives you immortality when you eat it. I can't
count how many different representations of this story we saw in
Cambodia, from hundreds of years old to modern (see the pictures of the
National Museum in Phnom Penh here
The temples all feature steep stairways. This is Angela working
her way down from the highest level of Phnom Bakheng. Phnom
Bakheng, by the way, is considered the
place to watch the sun set over
Angkor Wat, even though Angkor Wat sits east of it. But it is in
a pretty spot, on top of a hill, and provides beautfiul views of the
most famous Wat. See two pictures down:
Angela and Kyle sitting next to the highest point of Phnom Bakheng.
And now, the promised picture of Angkor Wat from Phnom Bakheng.
The sun came out just in time for us to get this nice picture. I
recommend bringing a telephoto lens for this sort of moment, because
Angkor Wat is a ways away.
This is the entrance to Angkor Wat, a causeway across the moat that
surrounds the entire temple. The first tower there is a little
the worse for wear. Luckily, Angkor Wat itself has remained
revered in this part of the world since it was built, so has never
been over grown by the jungle and therefore is in pretty good condition.
These two motifs are seen throughout the Angkor area. The columns
are seen from the earliest buildings in the area, and the fancy ladies
on the lower right are Apsaras, or celestial beautiful girls akin to
nymphs, muses or valkyries in other mythologies. And they're great dancers (or so I'm told).
This is the courtyard inside the outer wall. The towers look
pretty small, but they are just far away. No pictures can give
you the correct impression for the vast scale of Angkor Wat. For
example, see that small, insignificant looking building on the left,
sort of behind the people in the pink hats? After many more steps
along this walkway, it looks like this (below):
Across the courtyard is a similar building (above). They are
called libraries, though their actual purpose remains in some doubt.
These towers are the highest level of Angkor Wat.
The outer wall of Angkor Wat is hollow. Within is an artistic
achievement that can easily be overlooked with the graduer of the
architecture around you: a bas relief that's over 800m in length.
Each face tells a different story from Hindu mythology; above, you see
another representation of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk.
This is back inside the Angkor Thom complex. These elephants are on the aptly named Terrace of the Elephants.
Here's Angela standing next to the Terrace of the Leper King. The
bas-reliefs go around the outside and also are on the interior walls.
Another part of Angkor Thom is the Baphuon. It's approached by this raised walkway.
On the back of the Baphuon the wall has been reworked as a gigantic
bas-relief of a reclining Buddha, showing how this Hindu complex has
been reworked over the years as the prevailing religion in the area
Right next door is a pyramidal-like structure called the Phimeanakas. That's Kyle at the top of the stairs.
There are a number of interesting, smaller temples off the beaten path.
This small, sort of European-style building is in Preah Khan, which means the "Sacred Sword."
This hall of mirror-like photo shows how the narrow, criss-crossing corredors run throughout Preah Khan.
This temple is called Prasat Neak Pean. This central plaza was a
large pool; water was sent through fountains into the four smaller
pools on all sides. The site is thought to have been used for medicinal purposes, like an ancient health spa.
The fountains each had a different head spouting water. This
pool has the human head. The others had an elephant, a horse and a lion.
The last four pictures are from Ta Prohm. This temple was
completely overgrown by the jungle in the recent past, and there are
still a lot of trees growing in, on, under and through the walls.
In Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Lara wanders through this temple on her way to confronting evil and
mayhem. At this point, the trees are really holding up the walls
they are integrated into, so there's no way to separate them - which is
cool. It's a great combination of the man-made and natural, and
an indication of what the jungle would do to all these sites if given
half a chance.