The Angokorian period began in 802CE (Common Era/AD) when the Hindu Khmer monarch Jayavarman II declared himself God King and lasted until the late 14th Centry (middle ages europe). According to Wiki, Angkor Wat is considered the world’s largest single religious monument, and the original Angkor (encompassing all the wats) was a megacity supporting at least 0.1% of the global population during 1010-1220.
The coolest thing I found out while writing this (Ok maybe i'm a bit nerdy!) was that Angkor is considered to be a "hydraulic city" because it had a complicated water management network, which was used for, storing, and dispersing water throughout the area.This network is believed to have been used for irrigation in order to offset the unpredictable monsoon season and to also support the increasing population. (Thanks Wikipedia). We saw this by the many lakes and rivers around the temples.
Because we are flash packers (or maybe just because we are awesome) and we do things in style, we opted to go for a private guide and air-conditioned car. Cushy? Well, we were glad we did. The heat starts in the morning at a cool 27degrees and rises to midday of around 40 degrees getting as high as 42 in the afternoons and only cooling off after sunset around 9pm.
On top of this, there are over 108 temples and over 2million visitors a year, so it gets very crowded and there are no information boards, having a guide is pretty essential to understanding the importance of each structure and how it fit in the Angkorian history, not to mention knowing how to avoid the crowds to get good pics!
Below is the sunrise over Phnom Baekeng temple; great views over the jungle and other temples. It was built in the 9th century and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
At the end of the bridge the triple headed god greeted us. The triplicate god is comprised of Brahma as Creator, Vishnu as preserver and Shiva as Destroyer - remember them as they crop up again at other temples.
We scrambled up eroding steps to visit the temple and libraries. And stared in wonder at the many giant faces of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.
In the early 10th century the Champa from Vietnam, (remember our trip to My Son? the Champa ruins) invaded and occupied the area. They held it for 4 years before the Chinese allied with the Angkorians and fought them off. You can see these fierce battles in enormous carvings that cover the length and width of the temple walls.
Key: Khmer are depicted by long ear lobes, the Cham have top knots and different costumes and Chinese have slanted eyes.
Click to make photos larger and see captions!
There is a long crumbling walkway to the temple and a steep climb up. We were silly enough to want to climb it, in 40 degree heat. Luckily our air con car was waiting nearby!,
Around the back (on picture below) you can just make out a giant reclining buddha in the back of the temple. Its head is on the left near the tree and its body lies to the right. Can you see it?
Blazing heat was slowly sapping the life out of us at this point, but we soldiered on and saw a few amazing walls along a long promenade, that was filled with carvings of animals and elephants. The triple headed elephants below are particularly wonderful sculptures.
It is the most crowded temple not just because Tomb Raider was filmed here, but it is one of the most beautiful that is being quickly taken over by the jungle. It's amazing to see how much more of the temple has fallen since the film. Come and see it quick before it is just a pile of large stones!
Originally it was a Hindu temple, but the Buddhists came into power and scratched out many Hindu carvings. Now both religions claim this holy place. View over the lake is normally amazing, sadly the lake was dried up when we got there! ; (
We arrived back at our hotel, hot sweaty and exhausted the only thing keeping us going was the thought of a swim in the pool!
Built in 967CE Banteay Sarai means the City of Women, and according to our guide, if you come from this area you're beautiful by default!
The sandstone is intricately carved with swirls, and myths, amazingly tiny figures on the lintels.
A Chinese tour group came up behind us and paid the police some money to go and view the carvings up close, so we were ushered in behind them. Whilst I was upset at the lack of conservation, the tourists were pretty good at not damaging the temple and the carvings were even more beautiful up close!
An older temple in a very poor farming district, we noticed many signs "XX sponsored this house/well". Not sure how the locals feel to have a sign in their front yard advertising, but they do get a house out of it. The temple use to be lovely but it has lots of damage now. Being the last day of school, the local school played techno at 9am which was our musical accompaniment to the temple. A group of local children turned up at the temple, dancing, and I danced with them. Sadly the video evidence wasn't quite as compelling - see below!
After this blissful excursion, we visited the poetically dishevelled Prea Khan Temple. Originally built to hold the sacred royal swords. Another beautiful temple in disrepair, slowly being reclaimed by the jungle. Gorgeous tree trunks entwining the temple walls.
It’s also a multi faith temple, two gates for Buddhists and two for Hindus. It was so serene and peaceful I couldn't resist taking a short video for you!
Speaking of blessings, I then got blessed by a toothless old lady after buying a bracelet off her (yep, I felt sorry for her), she then blew on my forehead and trailed her fingers from my head out my hands. We could have spent all afternoon here.....
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Next post, Siem Reap - the food, the festivities and everything in between. Plus I eat a cockroach!
See you next time,
Jade & Greg
If you do go to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, feel free to get in touch and we can tell you the details of temples and other things, which guide we took etc. It was amazing and whilst you can see the temples with a tuktuk I'd advise that for only wintertime - its pretty hot there!