The ruins of Angkor Wat create a mixture of culture and nature that has rarely been achieved. The temples and ruins lie scattered amidst a huge area of dense, mysterious jungle that's always hot and humid. This surrounding makes for an unforgettable and honestly intense visit. The jewel in the jungle's crown is Angkor Wat, the world's largest temple, which is located inside a giant square area surrounded by a large moat. Y0ou have to cross a long bridge to get there. Angkor Wat is also home to one of the most famous sunrises in the world, but in the late afternoon and evening colors also add a golden glow to the ancient stones. Sit and watch as the sun sets over the front of the temple after a long day of visiting is a priceless reward.
I have visited few places in the world so magical and disturbing as Ta Prohm. As you approach a different atmosphere, you will enter into what looks like an unexplored and hidden kingdom. For a few minutes it seems you can recover the atmosphere and spirit of the explorers of the time, and if you're lucky like me, go off season, and the experience is sublime. It is deally situated in each of the corners and you can enjoy the communion between man and nature. Notice how every brick and every stone in place has remained upright by the grace and favor of invasive nature, or rather by re-conquering nature, which ultimately always tries to claim its own. The temple, which translates as Temple Granny, is our guide. It was a huge temple, because it could have held up to 3140 people. The idea of enormity is proven by the sheer numbers: 79,365 people were needed to maintain the temple, including 18 priests, 2,740 officials, 2,202 assistants and 615 dancers. Among the strange properties of the temple were 500 kilos of gold in the form of plates, 35 diamonds, 40,620 pearls, 4,540 precious stones, 512 silk beds and 523 parasols.
The Bayon is the most important building of Angkor Thom. The 4 gateways to the same end up in the Bayon. There is a crowd of figures representing Khmer origin, more than 200 cluster around its centric tower. The walls are decorated with gods and mythological figures tell part of the story of this culture and many stories and legends. Sometimes it gives the impression of being in a labyrinth and as you go up the building seems to grow more and more amazing . There is a jungle extension in vessels which are the set of Angkor. A must-see part of Cambodian culture is the centerpiece of the ancient city which acted as a temple, where the people spent time devoting their prayers to many gods stressing above all Buddha. The restoration of this monument or temple is due in big part to France and Japan which can be seen in his posters.
Angkor Thom was the royal city built by the Khmer Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, in the 12th century. Its name means "the big city." It has a square shape, 9 square kilometers, that you can explore on foot, but with the heat and the distances you'll be travelling to visit the temples, it can be a lot. It's most convenient if you only rent a bike for the day, worth 2 euros at most, and will be completely free. Also if you go with a group you can hire a cab with a driver that will take you around all day, but it's a bit more expensive, but avoids the cab drivers looking at you every time you want to change temples. The city has four doors, linked by two roads that meet in the middle, where the temple of Bayon is. The Bayon Temple is the temple of smiling faces you see in all the photos of Angkor. It's beautiful and famous, and my advice is that you to take a guided tour to understand a little more about the history and beliefs surrounding it. Each door has a bridge that's over a moat, which is a place where there's water that offered protection against invasions. Inside the enclosure is also Angkor Wat, the Terrace of the Elephants, and Bang Thom. It was an incredible visit!
In the Old Market area of Siem Reap you can find almost anything. One of the things that stands out are its craft stalls and souvenir stalls that compete with faux shirts and other garments. For those ve are discovering Southeast Asia we often find it difficult to distinguish crafts from different countries as they are often quite similar except for certain details. Despite this, in countries like Thailand, you can find Buddha figures carved out of wood, images of the spectacular temples of Angkor, clothes with bright colors and bright, lucky charms, fabrics, paintings, etc . The Old Market area is not too bright at night except for the area of pubs and restaurants where the neon lights are so bright. Although it is appreciated that in this city mosquitoes make an appearance and it is so hot at night that it still seems like it's daytime. A walk through these stalls will be fairly quiet and remember that in this country you pay with dollars or riels that is its official currency. (1 dollar = 5000 riels approx.) You can imagine that it is quite cheap to buy here compared to most tourist places like temples, etc where prices rise enough.
Preah Khan is a Buddhist temple that was built by King Jayavarman VII in the twelfth century. It's north of the royal city of Angkor Thom, in the ruins of Angkor. To get from Siem Reap, you have to walk a lot, so it's better find other means of transportation. It's quite warm, and this temple is located more in the jungle, not as open as the temples of Angkor Wat or Bayon, where you have almost no surrounding vegetation. For this reason, take a good insect repellent, and if possible, wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Night falls at 6 pm, so be ready a bit before to go back, since all of the tuc tuc go home early! The position of the temple also limits the amount of places to eat and drink compared to the rest of Angkor. The Preah Khan was a Buddhist monastery, which contained monk rooms, it's thought that they were made of wood because there aren't any ruins left. The temple was in the center, with a protective wall surrounding it, which is still there, but a huge tree broke part of the wall with its roots. It seems that nature is taking it over, it's very impressive.
This is the only temple in Cambodia made by women. It was built in the tenth century, dedicated to the god Shiva. It stands near the Phnom Dei hill, northeast of the rest of the temples of Angkor Wat, and was discovered by French archaeologists in 1914. It really is one of the jewels of the Khmer period, constructed in easily carved sandstone and decorated with floral detials, reliefs, and sculptures of Hindu deities. Apparently it was built by a Brahman, a priest from a high caste. It is so delicate that it seems more like a jewelry box than a temple. The cordon of the gateway and its beams are spectacular, changing tones from reddish to pinkish. You follow a staircase into an inner platform in the temple, where you're welcomed by an image of the goddess Indra with her three-headed elephant. The reliefs narrate scenes from Hindu mythology, and the central shrine is dedicated to Shiva.
This Khmer temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is more than 100 square meters with a Buddhist fifteenth century style. It is well maintained but it has a complicated structure, built in sandy soil meaning that it is not very solid. There are great efforts made to ensure its preservation and conservation. The long stone corridors that lead to the temple are surrounded by gardens that once were probably lakes. The nice thing about these temples is that they make you imagine what life was like many years ago.
Having the opportunity to visit the Tonlé Sap Floating Village was an enriching and unforgettable experience. The intense smell of the water, the sound of the people, the colors of the boats...life on the lake is very hard, especially during the monsoon season. Most of the people living in the houseboats are of Vietnamese origin and they make their living from fishing. The lake water is used for bathing, washing clothes and drinking.
The Bayon temple is in the center of Angkor Thom. The King Jayavarman VII had it built during the XII and XIII centuries. More than 200 faces are carved in 54 towers. The large number 54 represents the 54 provinces of Cambodia that existed in those days. Some say the four sides of the towers represent Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (future Buddha). But in general it's believed that the four sides of each tower are images of King Jayavarman VII and signifies the omnipresence of the king. Angkor Thom, or the big city was the capital. It's the ideal place to stop and think, to see and listen. There the pyramid shaped temple, Bayon, rose in the center as the temple of the state, and representation of Meru, the mountain of the gods and center of the universe. Out of the four gates of Angkor Thom the South Gate is the most well preserved. It's door is flanked by statues on both sides and leads to the tower door with four faces.
Kompong Pluk is about 2 hours from Siem Reap. You have to travel by road and by boat to get to this village on the Tonle Sap lake(the largest lake in Southeast Asia.) Is a charming and picturesque village, where the people are very friendly and always greet you with a smile. I've visited during the month of November when the lake has its highest water level. During this time, the houeses that are built on bamboo pillars up to 7 meters high, are fully surrounded by water, so it becomes a town on the water where all the activities enjoyed by its inhabitants are to do with boats. It is also worth visiting the mangrove swamp forest near the village.
We went to see the temple, with the peculiarity that the rains had just finished and we almost could not even pass by because the street was submerged in the water, which forced us to see the area from a different perspective from the entrance. We had to walk several feet above the walkway that goes over the water, being able to observe a strange landscape with trees coming out of the water.
There were quite a few things that attracted me to this temple. First, its atmosphere is very peaceful, further away from the tourist circuit than the other temples. Secondly, its structure is unique, surrounded by a moat filled with water. This moat enhances the feeling of isolation, and works aesthetically to produce a stunning mirror effect. Once inside, we found the main sanctuary, with four wings surrounded by libraries. The access bridges were made of stone, flanked by nagas and lions, and covered by wooden roofs.
It is precisely that, a 300 meter terrace extending from the Baphuon Temple to the Terrace of the Leper King. The main person who used this terrace was the king, because of the scenery, he could follow the military marches of his generals and soldiers after their victories in a battle. This terrace has 3 levels with well preserved reliefs. The main part of the terrace is the facade where you can see the heads of elephants with their trunks ending in a lotus flower. As Michelangelo said perfectly, it's a clear zone when the sun is beating down.
This Hindu temple was built on top of the mountain during the reign of Yasorvarman (889-910), at the end of the ninth century. It stands directly opposite the entrance to Angkor Wat, and is a famous place to go to watch the sunset. To get there, you can either walk or take an elephant; the road isn't too long, but the heat can be a bit of a problem. It's worth the walk and the heat of the climb, though, to see the spectacular sunset and the stunning views of Angkor Wat. We were lucky with the weather and it was really lovely.
The city is huge and one never ceases to imagine what it was like when it stood at its peak, proud and dominating the forest roads. Gigantic doors lead us to the next wonderful place. This time the surprise was Ta Keo. According to the guide, once finished, the temple became the most elegant and impressive of the entire complex. It has height of 22 meters which gives it a feeling of power and strength. It has 5 towers, all semi-destroyed and with ample room for the pilgrims ve came to worship the Brahma. The feeling of peace is noticeable among the structure.
This was situated opposite the temple of Banteay Kdey. There lies a wonderful lake of 700 by 300 meters wide. Several terraces around invite you to sit and enjoy the surroundings. It is curious that the lake has never been dry, so it is estimated to have an underground tributary or its bottom is waterproof. The terraces are adorned by frequent sacred snakes, lions and other mythical animals of the Jemer religion.
The name comes from the Sanskrit word apsarah, meaning celestial maiden. It is believed that this dance started in the ninth century in the temples of Angkor, and nearly disappeared in the 1970's under the violent Khmer Rouge regime. Today it has been revived, in part due to tourism, and there are Apsara schools in all the major cities. According to mythology, the apsarars were supernatural beings who appeared as beautiful maidens, who danced to entertain the gods and to honour heroes who had fallen in war. Today you can often see apsara shows in hotels and restaurants. The dancers wear silk clothes with elaborate headdresses.