Siem Reap airport, small but full of Cambodian ambience.
Tonle Sap lake (洞里薩湖)
Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and an important resource for Cambodian people’s food and living. Its size varies dramatically between dry and monsoon season because the water drains into Mekong River at Phnom Penh during the dry season, and it changes flow direction twice a year. The lake occupies about 2,700 square km most of the year. During the monsoon season, the water in Mekong River reverses direction and gets pumped into the lake, increasing its area to 16,000 square km and augmented its depth to about 9 meters. It thus floods nearby fields and forests, providing a perfect breeding ground for fish.
There are many water dwellings on Tonle Sap lake, including grocery shops, church, school, and resident “houses.”
Phnom Bakheng (巴肯寺)
Phnom Bakheng was built from late 9th century to early 10th century by Yasovarman I, the Angkorian king that time. It served primarily for the purpose of worshiping the Hiduism god, Shiva. It has 108 pagodas, with 5 of them on top of the temple, and the layout is strictly symmetrical. It is believed that it represents the universal harmony in Hinduism.
Layout plan for Phnom Bakheng :
The stone stairs on 4 sides have small steps but are quite steep, so people who decide to climb up to the temple have to use all 4 limbs. It is said that in order to worship the god and be blessed, the road is not easy and require a person to be totally devoted and penitent.
A bunch of people strived to go up to the temple…
The pagodas and stone lions are on the way up.
One of the 5 pagodas on the very top.
Sunset on Phnom Bakheng.
Sunset seen from the top of Phnom Bakheng.
The sunset seen on Phnom Bakheng, with the silhouette of pagodas and the hot air balloon.
Traditional “Apsara” dance. Apsara is a beautiful female spirit in Hindu mythology, like a “celestial nymph”, known to be skilful at art of dancing. Apsara was carved all over the temples in Angkor reservation. Even today, the image of Apsara is widely used in decorative sculptures and ornaments, and young women learn to dance to mimic the elegant movements of Apsara.
Angkor Thom (大吳哥城)
Angkor Thom, covered approximately 9 square km, was built by Jayavarman VII in 7th century as the capital of Angkor kingdom.
Layout of Angkor Thom:
South gate of Angkor Thom.
On both sides of the road entering through the gate are clans of God and Ashura engaging in a tug of war with using a dragon to be the rope. This is a Hindu story describing that clans of God and Ashura tried to find the medicine to immortality, then a dragon came out to tell them to engage in a tug of war by using the him as the rope; the medicine would be given to the clan who won. This story, known as “Churning of the Ocean of Milk” (乳海翻騰), is the genesis in Hindu mythology. This setup of the tug of war between God and Ashura were widely used at the entrances of the temples.
Closer view of the Buddha on top of the south gate.
On the other side of the gate is a 3-head elephant, called Airavata, which is the mount of one of the three Hindu high gods–Indra.
Bayon temple (巴戎廟)
Bayon temple was built between late 12th century and late 13th century by two kings: Jayavarman VII and Jayavarman VIII. It’s the last temple to be built at Angkor and also a temple primarily dedicated to Buddha. The distinctive feature of Bayon temple is the 216 massive stone faces representing bodhisattva of compassion. Jayavarman VII was also a pious Buddhist king; some scholars concluded that the 216 gigantic faces of on Bayon temple are actually Jayavarman VII himself. However, during Jayavarman VIII’s reign in 13th century, the empire reverted to Hinduism and the temple was altered accordingly, as some statues were taken off and new parts were added.
Layout of Bayon temple:
All the temples in Angkor reservation were found to be stacked up by stones first and then carved with status and deities.
The “Apsara” carved on the stone pillars; the lines on the pillar proved that the stones were first stacked up before any images and sculptures were carved on them.
The outer layer of the stone walls was carved with common people’s everyday lives and historical events. Inner layer of walls was carved with mythological stories. Although these galleries are highly informative and a lot of the images seem to coincide to the history, there’s no text on them so their accuracy is still uncertain.
The famous “Khmer’s smile.”
Baphuon was built by Udayadityavarman II at mid-11th century as the shrine to Shiva, located just northwest of Bayon temple. It’s roughly 120 meters east-west by 100 meters north-south. It’s approximately 50 meters tall from the base to the tower. This temple impressed the envoy, Zhou Daguan, from Chinese Yuan dynasty during his visit from 1296 to 1297, who commented it as “the Tower of Bronze…a truly astonishing spectacle…” However, it’s also due to its immense size and the sand land it’s built on, it was unstable throughout the history. In the late 15th century, the Baphuon was converted to a Buddhist temple. The temple was built on land filled with sand, and due to its immense size the site was unstable throughout its history.
Layout of Baphuon:
(Picture from Angkor Guide）
Phimeanakas was built in late 10th century during Rajendravarman II’s reign as a Hindu temple. There’s a tower on top of the temple, and the king was required to visit a Naga, a 9 headed snake girl, every night, else the disaster would fall upon the kingdom. (hm………………………….)
Prasats Suor Prat (審判塔)
Prasats Suor Prat was used for trial. There are total of 12 towers representing the 12 Chinese Zodiac signs so these are also called 12-Zodiac-Sign Towers. People in Angkorian period believed that it’s up to the god to judge a person guilty or innocent if it was difficult to recognize by human beings, so they brought the suspect to the tower corresponding to his/her Chinese zodiac sign. The person would stay one night in the tower; if he/she came out free of illness and any abnormality, that meant the god announced this person innocent, else he/she was guilty.
From Terrace of the Leper King looking at Prasats Suor Prat
Terrace of the Leper King (癩王台)
Terrace of the Leper King was built by Jayavarman VII. It got its name not until 15th century. There are several reasons it was called “Terrace of the Leper King”–the sculpture on the platform known as Yama, the Hindu god of death, was covered by discoloration which resembles a person with leprosy when it was found. Another reason is that one of the Angkorian kings, Dharmaraja, had leprosy, and his image was said to match the sculpture.
5-head horse, also the creature from Hindu mythology.
Terrace of the Elephants (鬥象台)
Terrace of the Elephants was the place rumored to be where kings chose his strongest elephants for mount.