Angkor Day 1

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350m causeway into Angkor Wat, after you pass the first gate over the moat.

Today we managed two temples, Angkor Wat, the largest religious structure in the world, and Ta Prohm, the jungle-covered temple made famous in the movie Tomb Raider.

Angkor Wat, the appropriately named "City Temple", was built in the first half of the 12th century, both as a capital and the State Temple dedicated to Vishnu.

As with most of the temples in the Angkor area, Angkor Wat is a representation of the Hindu heaven on Earth.  The main central tower represents Mount Meru, the Hindu Olympus and home to the gods.  The four towers around it represent the mountains which surround Mount Meru; the outer galleries and surrounding land the human Earth; and the 190 meter wide moat, the oceans of the world.

Angkor Wat was more than just the temple we see now, it was a city.

A small section of the 600m of bas relief carvings depicting major events in the Hindu cosmology.
  The temple itself stands on an area approximately 9 hectares, with its outer wall enclosing a total of 82 hectares.  The moat encloses an area of nearly 200 hectares.  All other structures, homes, other temples and even the palace, were apparently made of light materials and no trace of them exist today.

Some 2000 apsaras--guardian spirits or angels--are carved into the structure.  The outer galleries contain nearly 600 meters of bas relief carvings, 2 meters in height, that represent key events in Hindu mythology; from the churning of the sea of milk--representing the creation of the world--to mythological combats between the gods and demons.

As every tour book advises that you see Angkor Wat at sunset, we decided to go in the morning in the hopes that a few less people would allow it to have more of an impact.

The 'Tomb Raider' tree at Ta Prohm.
  We thought there were quite a few people there until, when we left at about 3pm, bus after bus of tourists arrived and hundreds, if not thousands of people came across the causeway.  I can't even imagine what it would be like during high season.

Ta Prohm held far more interest for both of us.  This temple-monastery was built after Angkor Wat, in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.  This temple was chosen by its French 'discoverers' to be left in its natural state, as an example of what most of the area looked like when they uncovered it in the 19th century.  Massive strangler figs and silk-cotton trees have infiltrated nearly every building, some of which have collapsed.  The temple may still have plenty of wilderness to it, but it is groomed so that people can easily access it.

The fact that whole books aren't written about this carving's existance boggles my mind.
  We would later discover a far more overtaken temple in Beng Melea.

The most bizarre and fascinating thing about Ta Prohm for me is the existance of a carving located on the west wall of the 3rd gopura (gate).  This carving is a pretty clear representation of a stegasaur.  Though Hindu myth is filled with unique creatures I have never read anything refering to a dinosaur-like animal.  It amazes me that the only line about it in the book I have is an off-hand remark stating: Stegosaur-like animal on the wall of Gopura III West.  As if it was a perfectly normal thing to find.  Why this hasn't blown people's mind is beyond me.

Though historically and theologically significant, Angkor Wat didn't do much for us.  Ta Prohm, though, is a must-see.

alexchan says:
Great photos of Angkor. Brought back many happy memories for me. Wish I had a digital camera many years earlier ... my photos then were bad :-(
Posted on: Aug 18, 2006
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350m causeway into Angkor Wat, aft…
350m causeway into Angkor Wat, af…
A small section of the 600m of bas…
A small section of the 600m of ba…
The Tomb Raider tree at Ta Prohm.
The 'Tomb Raider' tree at Ta Prohm.
The fact that whole books arent w…
The fact that whole books aren't …
Chest diagram on a naga in front o…
Chest diagram on a naga in front …
A naga and Khmer version of a Fu L…
A naga and Khmer version of a Fu …
Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat…
Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moa…
A small example of what to expect …
A small example of what to expect…
Cambodia.
Cambodia.
Our first view of Angkor Wat.
Our first view of Angkor Wat.
One of the libraries in front of…
One of the 'libraries' in front o…
View from one of the libraries t…
View from one of the 'libraries' …
This statue of Vishnu may have ori…
This statue of Vishnu may have or…
A wedding on the grounds.
A wedding on the grounds.
You will find signs all over the a…
You will find signs all over the …
View of the central towers at Angk…
View of the central towers at Ang…
Khmer Fu Lions before the main tow…
Khmer Fu Lions before the main to…
One of four pools in the Crucifor…
One of four pools in the 'Crucifo…
Another view of the Cruciform Cloi…
Another view of the Cruciform Clo…
The walls surrounding the Crucifor…
The walls surrounding the Crucifo…
Entrance to the upper most level o…
Entrance to the upper most level …
One of two buildings located in th…
One of two buildings located in t…
One of the old roads into Angkor W…
One of the old roads into Angkor …
I love her.
I love her.
2000 apsaras are carved into the w…
2000 apsaras are carved into the …
Low season, slow time of the year …
Low season, slow time of the year…
Luckily there are more than one se…
Luckily there are more than one s…
Ahh, my days on Yavin IV.
Ahh, my days on Yavin IV.
Monkeys at Angkor Wat
Monkeys at Angkor Wat
This critter went up Megans pant-…
This critter went up Megan's pant…
This monkey counted coups on me …
This monkey 'counted coups' on me…
One of the corner towers. Access t…
One of the corner towers. Access …
The central tower at Angkor, repre…
The central tower at Angkor, repr…
This was a small gopura, or gate, …
This was a small gopura, or gate,…
Close-up of the face tower.
Close-up of the face tower.
A goruda. These bird-men were alli…
A goruda. These bird-men were all…
Large male.
Large male.
Megs and monkeys
Megs and monkeys
The entrance to Ta Prohm
The entrance to Ta Prohm
Theyd never let you do this in th…
They'd never let you do this in t…
The roots of either a silk-cotton …
The roots of either a silk-cotton…
A collapsed hallway next to an int…
A collapsed hallway next to an in…
No kidding.
No kidding.
Siem Reap
photo by: genetravelling