Siem Reap - Day 2
Siem Reap Travel Blog› entry 2 of 2 › view all entries
July 8th, 2006 – by: Isabetlog
Entering Angkor once again, I went past Angkor Wat and Phnom Bakheng, and headed straight towards the South Gate of Angkor Thom.
The last capital of the Angkorian Empire, Angkor Thom was constructed in the late 12th century by Jayavarman VII after recapturing the capital from the Cham invaders. This royal city covers an area of 9sqkm and is fortified by a wall 8m high and a moat 100m wide. There are five gates to the city, and each gate is crowned with 4 giant carved faces that look north, south, east and west. Inside the city are some of the grandest temples in Angkor.
First stop, the Bayon. Looking like a petrified but spectacular forest from afar, this is the State Temple of Jayavarman VII. The massive stone mountain was constructed in a piecemeal fashion for over a century.
It must've been about 8am by the time i finished going around and photographing the Bayon so I decided to have breakfast at one of the eateries nearby.
Just northwest of the Bayon was my next stop - another gargantuan temple-mountain in the Royal Square, the Bapuon, the state temple of King Udayadityavarman II in the 11th century.
A few meters away is Phimeanakas, the State Temple of Suryavarman I during the late 10th - early 11th century. According to Khmer legend, the king would climb these stairs every night to lay with the naga, a serpent-spirit in the form of a woman that inhabited the temple, before meeting his wife and concubines.
Around the Royal Square are other smaller temples and sanctuaries in ruins and at the deep end is another causeway that takes you to the Elephant Terrace - a 300 meter long stretch of carvings across the Royal Palace which served as the base of the king's audience pavillions, and the Leper King Terrace - a double terrace with reliefs of nagas, demons & mythological beings. 25 meters long and shaped like a U, the Leper King Terrace was named after the statue that once occupied the platform. It was formerly thought to represent a legendary "leper king," but is now considered to represent Yama, the Lord of the Dead.
Across the Elephant Terrace is the Prasat Suor Prat - 12 nearly identical towers whose function is debatable, from being the Tower of Rope Dancers to viewing pavillions, to houses where legal and criminal disputes were settled. There's not much too see in there, they make a better view from across.
Hopping back on the tuktuk, I head on over to one of the Tomb Raider locations, Ta Prohm. A buddhist monastic complex, Ta Prohm was built by Jayavarman VII and dedicated to his mother in the form of Prajnaparamita, the 'Perfection of Wisdom'. The site was intentionally left in its 'original' state to somewhat exhibit what Angkor looked like in the 19th century when it was first discovered - shrouded in a dense jungle of fig, banyan and silk-cotton trees.
And finally, Angkor Wat! It's just as majestic up close as it is from afar, whether you're standing at the top of the bridge with a full view of the moat and the 3 central towers at the gateway, or 200 meters across the moat by the gateway overlooking the central compound and Angkor Wat itself, or another 300 meters down another causeway and right smack in front of it.
There are a lot more temples and ruins around Angkor though some of them were closed to the public at the time and I didn't have another day to explore the other, less commercial sites. But no matter, seeing the mother of them all was one of the best sights I have ever set my eyes on.
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