There are some places in this world, that I heard about as a child and that instantly fascinated me. Places which I never ever in my wildest dreams could have imagined being able to see with my own eyes. And the Temples of Angkor in Cambodia is one of these places. War was raging in this far away country during my childhood, a country so exotic in my mind, but so totally inaccessible.
Years, no, decades went by before I realized that I actually could go here, visit, and see the marvels of Angkor myself! And when that realisation hit my mind, it didn't take long before I started to plan a visit. The area is huge, the numbers of temples to visit is endless and the experience was even beyond the imagination of my childhood.
All the photos in the collage below are clickable, so you can view the larger photo.
Known as the ‘citadel of monks’ cells’, this Buddhist temple dates back to the mid-12th to early-13th century.
The Bayon, the temple of the many mystic smiles. It is early morning when we arrive here, the sun has just gone up, but enough so for the sun rays to light up the temple and the columns with the smiling faces in stone.
There is such a charm to the Bayon, which is hard to describe in words or even photos. Just take your time and wander through its complex maze of chambers, passages, and occasionally steep stairways, and discover the Bayon in leasure. You might end up in dead ends, where big beams block the entrance; come across one of the many Buddha statues dressed in orange, or simply see another pair of those mystic smiles but from a totally different but mesmerizing angle.
Unfortunately the Bayon is also a temple that almost everyone visits. So timing of your visit might influence your enjoyment a lot. There is sufficient shade in Bayon to make it pleasant to visit at any time of day, but if you wish to avoid the crowds a good tip is to visit in the afternoon. I visited both early morning and late aftenoon, and during late afternoon the crowds were far less.
In the photo to the left you can see a crowned devata is similar to her sisters at Angkor Wat. Note that she holds a “rooted bud” exactly like the sacred women surrounding the central sanctuary on the top level of Angkor Wat.
The East Mebon is a 10th Century temple, built during the reign of King Rajendravarman. In the photo you can see one of the two-meter-high free-standing stone elephants.
This 350m long terrace was supposedly used as a platform from which Jayavarman VII viewed his victorious returning army. The stairs are decorated with lions and garudas and life-sized images of elephants and their guardians are displayed on the terrace walls.
To be honest, this would be the temple that I would skip visiting, if I had known up front. It just didn't capture or mesmerize me as all the other temples in the Angkor area. Maybe I can blame my lack of enthousiasm on temple-fatigue, as I had seen quite a few temples by now. But in truth, for me, it just didn't have the charm during my visit. That the access was restricted to the edge of the complex, didn't help either. Having a nice full blue sky might have helped changing my opinion of this temple, as that would most likely would have created some beautiful reflections in the surrounding water.
The trademark of this Buddhist temple is that is built on an artificial circular island. It is a small temple, constructed by Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. It has a large square pool surrounded by four smaller square pools. In the middle of the central pool is the circular ‘island’ encircled by the two nagas whose intertwined tails give the temple its name. You can reach the edge of the complex via a wooden causeway, and a visit takes max. 30 minutes.
Steep stairs protected by lion statues lead to the top platform.
The Ta Keo is particularly massive appearance is due to the absence of external decorations, as carving had just begun when the work stopped.
Devatas in a corner panel depiction with two styles of skirts
Simone & Åke, 2009, Temples of Angkor, Cambodia
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