Tuesday, March 23rd – Full Day Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm & Angkor Wat
EDITORS NOTE: In going back through my posts for 2016, while working on my “year in review” post to wrap everything up, I realized that this post never got published. So, to fill in a blank spot, I am going to share it now. This was from our time in Cambodia in March of this year.
Our first time to this complex occurred two weeks prior. That time we were with a different tour company, Intrepid Tours. This time we returned with our Gate 1 tour. After our first visit I hastily wrote a few words and posted some pictures, but only from the main site of Angkor Wat. You can review that post by clicking here if you are so inclined.
I never got around to posting pictures from the other temples we visited, so I am planning on combining pictures and information from both visits in this one post.
But first I want to try to simplify (if that is possible), some of the information about Angkor Wat.
The entire Angkor complex is known as Angkor Archaeological Park. It is massive and covers miles. Within this sprawling complex are different temples and sites, many of them are small, relatively insignificant.
“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 Angkor Wat, said to be the world’s largest single religious monument.” ~ Wikipedia
There are 72 major temples or other buildings within this area, and the remains of several hundred additional minor temple sites are scattered throughout the landscape beyond. Most of the minor sites are simply ignored my the masses when they visit.
Then there are the standouts. These would include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom with the Bayon Temple and of course Ta Prohm, made famous by the Angelina Jolie, Lara Croft movie.
“At its peak, the city occupied an area greater than modern Paris, and its buildings use far more stone than all of the Egyptian structures combined.” ~ Wikipedia
I had known that the complex was very large and that it could not be covered in a day, but I still had not grasped how spread out everything was. It might be better compared to several distinct cities, with their own walls, central complex, temples, time frames, ruler, history, religious beliefs, and architectural styles that just happen to be within driving distance of one another.
To put it in some perspective, the closest rival to Angkor, the Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala, was between 100 and 150 square kilometres (39 and 58 sq mi) in total size where Angkor covers roughly 390 square miles.
All lumped together, we often call it Angkor Wat, when in reality, Angkor Wat is just one of the cities.
“…the architectural masterpieces of Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat, are designated as one of the “Seven Wonders of the World”. This sprawling city, built by Khmer Kings was once home to more than one million people at the height of the empire” ~ Gate 1 itinerary
On this trip, we started our morning early at Angkor Thom.
Dating from the late 12th century, this was the newest of the major temple sites and has several features that allow it to stand out from the rest, markedly the entry gates, massive stone faces and the Elephant and Leper King Terraces, all adorned with dramatic bas-reliefs.
Lets start with the entry gates (some of the pictures are from earlier visit on 031116).
On either side of the bridge over the moat are giant stone statues. One side representing good, the other side evil. And of course at the start of the bridge, on either side are the enormous naga (snake or dragon heads).
Continuing to the mysterious Bayon Temple, highlight of Angkor Thom, replete with beautifully preserved bas-reliefs and more than 172 giant smiling stone faces.
The massive stone faces were the defining characteristic of Bayon.
And the Elephant Terraces.
Then on to Ta Prohm, where the jungle was left untouched, as it appeared to European explorers. Trees growing on top of ancient structures, roots strangling each other, trying to survive. This was the setting for the movie Lara Croft, Tomb Raider which helped put this fascinating place on the map.
The highpoint of the day is the visit to stunning Angkor Wat, a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. World-famous for its beauty and splendor, Angkor Wat has the longest continuous bas-relief in the world, which runs along the entire outer gallery walls, narrating stories from Hindu mythology.
Stay to experience the unforgettable sunset – a view that cannot be compared to anything you have ever seen!
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful to have had more time to explore this splendid site. It is enormous and there is no way to properly capture it all – whether in pictures, or spending extra days there. It simple is overwhelming in size, grandeur, historical significance, architectural and artistic accomplishments.