Today, I was able to visit four of the main temples within the Angkor Archaeological Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains the remains of the Khmer Empire from the period of the 9th to 15th centuries. The temples that I visited were Angkor Wat, Bayon, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm.
I travelled in style in a Cambodian Rolls Royce – Mr. Rock’s tuk-tuk. I was also accompanied by a professional guide, Mr. San Park, who shared his knowledge about the sites and pointed out features that I wouldn’t have seen if I had attended alone.
Angkor Wat is the largest monument in the Angkor group and the best preserved. It was built around the first half of the 12th century and is listed as one of the wonders of the world. It has been called one of the best monuments in the world.
The Bayon Temple is within Angkor Thom and was built around 1190. Bayon is a Buddhist temple but incorporates elements of Hindu cosmology.
Bayon is known for its huge stone faces of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, with one facing outward and keeping watch at each compass point. The curious smiling image, thought by many to be a portrait of Jayavarman himself, has been dubbed by some the “Mona Lisa of Southeast Asia.” There are 51 smaller towers surrounding Bayon, each with four faces of its own.
Preah Khan was built around 1191 during the reign of King Jayavarman VII. Preah Khan was more than just a monastery—it was an entire city enclosing an area of 56 hectares. About 100,000 farmers produced rice to feed about 15,000 monks, teachers, and students. The central Buddhist temple at Preah Khan included an image of the Boddhisattva Lokeshrvara, carved to resemble the King’s father. There were 282 sub-deities around the main statue, including Khmer heroes and deceased officials.
After visiting three temples, it was time for lunch. We stopped at a restaurant the claims to sell authentic Cambodian food.
Ta Prohm was built about mid-12th century to early 13th century (1186) by the King Jayavarman VII, dedicated to the mother of the king.
Ta Prohm is among the largest of the monuments in the Angkor complex, with the Sanskrit inscriptions giving an idea of the size of the temple. The complex included 260 statues of gods, 39 towers with pinnacles and 566 groups of residences.
It is known now for the trees that have taken over some of the buildings. It is perhaps best known as the filming location for Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider movie.
The above four temples are all within easy reach of Siem Reap by tuk-tuk and so tend to be the most visited (and crowded).
Tomorrow, we start the motorcycle riding and will visit a couple of temples that are harder to reach.