Those of you who have read my post on Project Hammer will know that I’ve been lucky enough to visit Cambodia on a couple of occasions. Now, I struggle to find anything about Cambodia that I don’t like. I just love it there. But the temples of Angkor would have to rate as one of my favourite places in that stunning country. Angkor Thom was the capital was of the Khmer empire, so it contains quite a lot of temples and cities. It’s located near the current day city of Siem Reap. The ruins (and I should say, not all are ruins, many have been restored) date from the 12th century and have been granted UNESCO World Heritage status, and deservedly so.
I first visited the area in 2005, so my memory is a little hazy but I believe I purchased a three day pass to access the sites. I made my way around to the various structures via a mini bus but if I had my time again, I’d opt for a bicycle I think. It’s such picturesque countryside that cycling around the area would be so relaxing. There was also a balloon (as in, similar to a hot air balloon, but tethered to the ground) that can give you a great aerial perspective over the surrounding landscape, with its buildings dotted throughout.
The first place I visited was the Bayon. It is located in the centre of Angkor Thom. A large temple site, split over three levels, a mixture of terraces and pillars, the predominate feature of which is the 2000-odd faces with look out from the many towers. They face all four compass points – North, South, East & West – surveying all of the Khmer empire. The walls of the lower levels of the Bayon are covered in quite beautifully preserved bas-reliefs.
There’s no doubt that Angkor Wat itself is impressive. You approach via a long pathway, leading straight to the building itself, with its 5 lotus like towers reaching approximately 213 metres from ground level. The complex is surrounded by water, similar to a moat, with lilies gracing the surface. Once you enter the complex, you will find a myriad of steep staircases, galleries, archways, and tiered levels. Engravings cover some of the walls and orange-clad monks roam the open hallways or sit and look out over the views. It couldn’t be more different to Ta Prohm, the next site I saw.
For people who haven’t traveled to Cambodia or who are unfamiliar with the sites to see there, Ta Prohm is probably going to be the most recognisable of the places in the Angkor complex. It was featured in the movie Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie. I have to say, I find it fascinating. Angkor Thom was all but abandoned in the early 15th century and with nature left to her own devices, the forest gradually reclaimed the area, swallowing up the buildings. It wasn’t until very early in the 20th century that restoration of the site by archaeologists commenced. The beautiful thing about Ta Prohm is that the buildings are still entwined with the trees, their large serpentine roots snaking their way through the structure. And these are no mere weeds … rather enormous trees! There are other temple structures equally as covered by the forest. Beng Mealea is one such site, but it is in more of a ruined state and at the time of my visit there were still landmines littering the surrounding land.
This post makes up part of my contribution to the A to Z Challenge for April 2016
Click Here for a link to all my challenge posts!