Today we spent visiting several of the temples in the Angkor area. They were all made in the 10th-12th
century by the Angkor ‘God-Kings’.
The first we visited was Ta Prohm. This was a Buddhist monastery,
made by Jayavarman VII in 1186. Ig is unrestored, simply having most of the
Jungle cleared away. The ruins were massive and fantastic, with some gigantic
trees growing on the temples. There were hundreds of Buddha statues and
carvings, as well as carvings of celestial dancers, many of which had their
heads removed (sold to museums by the French discovers). One of the interesting
parts was the echo-chambers. If you hit your chest you got a resounding echo,
but the chambers were only designed for that, and would not echo the clap of
Next we visited Preah Rup, a temple founded by
Rajendravarman II in 961. This was a smaller temple of nearly solid rock, which
had been restored. There were five towers, giving it the appearance of Mt Meru,
the holy mountain
of India. The central
tower stood for spirit/heaven, with the surrounding towers standing for the
four elements of air, water, fire and earth. The temple was built with three
levels, with the base being hell, the middle earth and the top heaven. The
stairs up each level were very steep and narrow to symbolize that you have to
work to get to heaven. There were also two libraries, and from the top was a
distant view of Angkor Wat.
The next temple we visited was Preah Khan.
This was founded
by Jayavarman VII in 1191. The central tower wash Buddhist, with the outer
temples being Hindu (with shrines to Vishnu, Shiva and ancestor worship). Most
of the Buddha images were removed by the Hindu kings in the 13th
We had lunch back in Siem Reap, and then went shopping in
the central market, buying some gems for Mandy to use in her jewellery making.
Back at the temples, we spent the rest of the day at Angkor Thom, which was the
capital city during the Angkor period. Most of
it was built by Jayavarman VII c.1200, and it was predominantly Buddhist. At
the time, the capital held ~1 million people (bigger than any city in Europe). It was surrounded by a moat, with five causeways
The causeways were lined by a row of 54 gods and 54 demons, each
pulling on a ‘rope’ made of a Naga. This was from the legend of the churning of
the ocean of milk, where the demons and gods joined together to help Shiva
churn the ocean of milk to create holy water. The gods drank some and became
immortal, but most was stolen by a crazy demon. Shiva was angry and cut off his
head before he swallowed, so he became just an immortal head. Three-headed
elephants were also born in this churning, and all o these decorate the
Inside Angkor Thom were the Royal Palace,
Phimeanakas (a Hindu temple, with bathing pools for males and females), Baphuan
(another temples, mostly ruined with a giant reclining Buddha which was being
restored) and Bayon.
This last temple was the most magnificent, full of smiling
faces from each of 54 towers in the temple. Each tower has four faces, except
the central, which had 16. The smiling faces are thought to be a combination of
Jayavarman VII and Buddha. We also went to the Terrace of Elephants – a long
terrace carved with elephants to celebrate a battle victory, and the Terrace of
the Leper King, so named for the mounting statue, which showed a sex-less king
mediating. This is thought to be Kubera, the God of Wealth (who was a leper) or
Yasouarman I, who became a leper after being bitten by a cobra.
One interesting thing was the grass in this area, called
‘touch-me-not’, which folded up whenever they were touched. We also saw a troop
of monkeys by the side of the road playing. At every stop kids ran up to the
bus trying to sell us postcards, flutes, toys, film, books or anything else,
asking for “one dollar mister”. We ended up buying two flutes, two postcards
and a book.