An April 2006 trip
to Siem Reap by baroudeur2004
Quote: Three days in the lost kingdom of Angkor.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 26, 2007
Attraction | "Angkor Wat"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 26, 2007
Siem Riep, Cambodia
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Thom, the great royal city was my next stop after Angkor Wat. It covers about 10 square kilometres and has many temples and monuments it is definitely worth a visit. If you do not have a guide to explain you the meaning and the symbolic of the temples and other monuments in Angkor, it is best to buy like I did, the book written by Maurice Glaize "Monuments and Temples of Angkor," you can find it on Siem Reap bookshops or on street bookstalls in Angkor. My first stop in Angkor Thom is the Bayon, an enigmatic complex with 216 stone faces of Avalokiteshvara directed towards the four cardinal points. This time, I read attentively the explanations in Maurice Glaize’s book in order not to have to come back again because I would have not noticed something. Bayon is less monumental but more mysterious than Angkor Wat. It is pleasant to sit down on the third floor terraces and meditate in front of the enigmatic faces, some of which seeming to impassively look at me. It would be great to come back at different times of the day since the sun enlightens each face one after the other. Then, I briefly visited the Baphuon, a temple being renovated since the 1960s (renovations were interrupted in 1970 until 1995 because of the civil war and the genocide). I could see how renovations were processed thanks to several explanatory panels. I noticed laterite stones among sandstones (laterite is used as a provisional support), and thousands of stones have been dismounted and stored on the ground close to the entry of the temple; each stone has its own number and will find its place of origin at the end of the renovations. As I was heading back to the exit of Angkor Thom, I was welcomed by two huge stone lions at the Elephant Terrace, next to the Baphuon. There is a long wall with relieves of elephants on each side of the stairs leading to a 350 metres long terrace used for public ceremonies. It was quite hard to take pictures there because of the crowd in front of the terrace. Behind that terrace, I could see the Royal Enclosure and the Phimeanakas, the Royal Palace (there is almost nothing left nowadays), but it is a nice walk in a shaded park and a great escape from the sun. The remaining monuments in Angkor Thom (Kleang, Prasat Towers, Preah Palilay, etc.) were less interesting for me and could be easily skipped if you do not have time or are already fed up with visiting temples.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 27, 2007
After Angkor Thom, I started visiting temples scattered throughout the ‘Great Circuit,’ a 27km long road. It is possible to visit about 20 temples on this road, but in order to avoid an overdose, it is best to limit yourself to a few of them. Here are a selection of the temples I was shown. My first stop was the Oriental Mebon, a lovely 10th-century Hindu temple where I got the opportunity to admire wonderful elephant statues (some of them are still in a perfect state) on the corners and carved relieves. It was the last temple built like a tower; the ulterior temples were built as a succession of galleries and halls. I then met a little girl who asked me in a good English to change euros into dollars but I did not have small change on me. I left her to visit Ta Som, a temple where lies one of the most picturesque temples of Angkor: a huge tree covers the East gopura. The 12th century Preah Neak Pean is an unusual place: four square basins surround a large central square basin. In the middle of the central basin, lies a small tower housing a Buddha statue. This is one of the few Buddhist temples in Angkor. The weather was now too hot so for me to go down in the (dry) basin to visit the temple. I was perfectly happy to sit down in a shaded area near one of the basins and meditate a bit in this peaceful place. Very few people come here. My last stop was at Preah Khan, a huge complex of corridors and galleries dating back to the 12th century. The site is immense but the temple itself is a 700m long and 800m wide rectangle. I was told to look for carved reliefs and I found some of them to be not too damaged. My legs were hurting more and more and I quickly visited that temple in order to be able to rest afterwards.For your information, after your visit of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the temples surrounding Angkor Thom, you will have an overall picture of the architectural evolution of the Angkorian temples. To sum up (and especially if I memorized well my history lesson), there are four main steps in Angkorian architecture: 1. Simple sanctuaries2. Simple sanctuaries built on a terrace (Sambor Prei Kok, near Kompong Thom) 3. Terrace with several levels (Bayong, Angkor Wat, Beng Melea), more and more elaborate through time4. "Galleries and corridors" sanctuaries (Ta Phrom, Preah Khan)To finish my visit of the 'Great Circuit', I went back to Angkor Wat for sunset to take a few more pics from the Phnom Bakeng, whose only interest is the view on the site of Angkor, and especially on the Wat hidden between jungle trees.