28th.February, Angkor 1 – Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat
Angkor was the capital city of the Khmer Empire and flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. Angkor was a megacity, supporting at least 0.1% of the global population during 1010–1220. The ruins of Angkor are located amid forests and farmland north of the Great Lake (Tonle Sap) near modern-day Siem Reap. 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. Many of the temples have been restored, and together, they comprise the most significant site of Khmer architecture. Visitors approach two million annually, and the entire expanse, including Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom is collectively protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The popularity of the site among tourists presents multiple challenges to the preservation of the ruins. In 2007, an international team of researchers using satellite photographs and other modern techniques concluded that Angkor had been the largest pre-industrial city in the world, with an elaborate infrastructure system connecting an urban sprawl of at least 1,000 square kilometres surrounding the well-known temples at its core.
I think that there about 25 temples in the immediate area, varying considerably in size. Each king was expected to build his own new temple and some built several. We first visited the temples in the Angkor Thom ( see first half of photos) complex entering via its South gate:
- Bayon temple with its huge faces was the one I liked most. The faces are extraordinary and it is very compact but still massive.
- Baphuon temple can be traversed via steep steps on either side, giving good views of the surroundings from the top level.
- The Phimeanakas temple was built at the end of the 10th century in the Royal Palace.
- The Terrace of the Elephants was used by Angkor’s king Jayavarman VII as a platform from which to view his victorious returning army.
- The Terrace of the Leper King was named after a 15th-century sculpture of the Hindu god Yama, the god of death.
Then we moved to the most famous and extensive temple just known as Angkor Wat ( see second half of photos) although wat only means temple and the name could be applied to any of them. I was pleased to be able to take some photos of a group of young monks in Angor Wat. They were just being tourists and taking selfies with their cell phones.
Finally the excursion to an insignificant temple on top of a small hill to see the sunset was not really worth the effort. No other temples could be seen from the top, only trees, so there was nothing special about the view. By then we had seen plenty and were ready to return to our hotel. The next day we would have another dose of more temples and had still only seen a fraction.