Angkor Wat (小吳哥窟)
Angkor Wat locates at the south of Angkor Thom.
Angkor Wat was the capital city built for Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. It was dedicated to the Hindu god, Vishnu, when it was built and later changed to Buddhist. A moat and a 1024m-by-802m outer wall surround about 203 acres of space. The temple is not only the biggest in the world but certainly also a Cambodian pride that its image is used on the national flag.
Angkor Wat combines the two basic structures of classic Khmer temple architecture: temple tower and galleried temple. The 5 temple towers are on the highest platform of 3 layers of galleries on top of each other, representing Mountain Menu in Hindu cosmology. The 4 of the 5 temples are on the 4 corners of the platform, enclosing the last bigger one in the center.
Layout of Angkor Wat:
The front of Angkor Wat faces west and has moats on two sides. Since Angkor Wat faces west, most people like to come here in the morning to get some nice photos. It’s also a popular location to watch sunrise. I didn’t watch the sunrise this time because I was really fond of watching sunrise; the concept made me think of working overtime and losing sleep for whole night, haha. (I’m not an early bird anyways… )
The trees, sugar palms, in this photo are seen quite often in Cambodia. They produce sweet syrup that Cambodian people use to make sugar lump that tastes a bit like brown sugar. Although they are the national trees in Cambodia, people hardly grow them on purpose since it requires 10 years for them to contribute economically. Their leaves are quite sturdy so some Cambodian people use them to build the roofs and windows of their houses as well.
The outer wall.
On the left of the entrance of the outer wall, this is the only Apsara with teeth showing in Angkor reservation.
Rumor said that this particular Apsara was the image of a girl whom the stonemason had a crush on, thus he carved her differently from others. Another more plausible story said that the stonemason failed to carve a perfect mouth for this otherwise beautiful Apsara, thus damaged the embossment and could only carve teeth to cover up his mistake.
Approaching the temple.
The temple and its reflection in the water; this is the photo that must be taken by all the travelers to Angkor Wat.
The caving on the wall on 1st level depicts the wars between Angkorian warriors and invaders from Champa, known as Vietnam today.
The wall on the second level, carved with Apsaras.
3rd level and the tower.
Still on the 3rd level, these were pools before but the water had been drained out.
The sun was about to set… the afterglow gave Angkor Wat a warm reddish touch.
Photos taken from the 2nd floor of a western restaurant. This street is full of foreign restaurants and coffee shops invested by foreign owners.
Banteay Srei (女皇宮)
Banteay Srei is said to be “the jewel in Angkor art” due to its intricate embossments. Located 25km northeast from Angkor Thom, Banteay Srei was built in year 967 and dedicated to Hindu god, Shiva. Due to its petit size, pinkish hue, and delicate structure, it was first thought to be a temple commissioned by an empress, thus it’s given a name “Banteay Srei,” meaning “woman’s castle.” However, later research pointed that there’s no female ruler in Angkorian history, and Banteay Srei was most likely built by the king’s counselor, Yajnavaraha. In order not to offend the king, Banteay Srei was built smaller than other temples.
Layout of Banteay Srei:
The pinkish color came from the sandstones used mostly to build the site.
Sanskrit manuscript carved on the pillars.
Very delicate carvings on the lintel.
It’s amazing that the carvings on the sandstones could be this vivid. All the carvings also depict the stories in Hindu mythology.
The columns in the temple walls contain many carvings of devatas–Hindu temple goddesses.
Lolei locates in Roluos group that’s 15 km southeast from Angkor Wat. It is the most northern temple among the 3 temples in Roluos group. Roluos is known as the ancient city of Hariharalaya and the capital city before king Yasovarman I decided to move the capital to Angkor area in the end of 9th century.
Same as the rest of 2 temples, Lolei was built during 9th century, as the last temple to be established in Roluos group. Commissioned by Yasovarman I, Lolei was built as a Hindu temple on an island in the middle of the water as to correspond to the image of Mountain Menu. The water is now all dried, however.
(Map from Cambodia travel guides)
4 towers mostly built by bricks constitute Lolei, and they are decorated by motifs of devatas (goddesses), Indra the Hindu high god, and 9-headed snake girl, Naga.
Preah Ko (神牛寺)
Preah Ko, meaning “the temple of sacred bulls,” was built in year 879 by Indravarman I. Located in Roluos group, Preah Ko was a Hindu temple for worshiping Shiva. The name was derived from the 3 sandstone bulls, known as Nandi, in front of the temple towers. Nandi, the white bull, is the mount for Shiva.
Preah Ko consists of 6 brick towers, three towers in each of the two rows, with the front center tower the largest. It is also known for the intricacy of the carvings on the lintels.
Layout of Preah Ko:
On the bottom right corner of this photo is one of the sandstone bulls. All three of them are facing the temple.
Bakong is one of the three temples in Roluos group and the first sandstone temple in Angkorian period. Built in late 9th century by Indravarman I and dedicated to Hindu god, Shiva, Bakong was the state temple for only a few years until the end of the 9th century. When Indravarman I’s son, Yasovarman I, succeeded the throne, he moved the capital to Angkor area.
Bakong started to show the typical classic Khmer temple style, with several platforms stacked up on each other and the temple towers, one of them being the tallest in the center, on the top. This structure is much more similar to Angkor Wat built in 12th century. The site measures 900 meters by 700 meters and has moats around it.
Layout of Bakong:
The miniature stone models of Lolei, Banteay Srei, Bakong, Preah Ko, and Angkor Wat made by skillful stonemasons in the village. (I was wondering if they could make palm-sized ones. )
So, that’s all for my trip, and I sorted a note of all the temples I have visited and the kings who commissioned the projects:
–Capital was established in Kampong Cham
Jayavarman II: 802-850, the first king of Angkor kingdom
–Capital was set in Roluos (Hariharalaya)
Indravarman I: 877-889, Preah Ko, Bakong
–Capital was moved to Angkor area
Yasovarman I: 889-908, Lolei, Phnom Bakheng
Rajendravarman II: 944-968, Phimeanakas, Pre Rup, East Mebon, Banteay Srei (commissioned by the king’s counselor)
Jayavarman V: 968-1001, finished Banteay Srei, Ta Keo
Udayadityavarman II: 1050-1066, Baphuon
Suryavarman II: 1113-1150, Angkor Wat
Jayavarman VII: 1181-1215, Neak Pean, Ta Som, Ta Prohm, Preah Khan, Bayon
Indravarman III: 1295-1308, Zhou Daguan ((周達觀), from Chinese Yuan dynasty came to Cambodia for more than 1 year and wrote “”Zhen La Feng Tu Ji” (真臘風土記).
Nippean Bat: 1362-1369, the last king of Angkor kingdom before Siamese invaded.
Some of the pictures of the hotel I stayed at Siem Reap, called Pacific Hotel Siem Reap. It’s one of the nice hotels in the hotel area near Angkor reservation. The spa service is wonderful here.
It’s a pretty good and unique experience witnessing the glory of Angkor kingdom. Looking at the majestic temples built by stones and bricks and the delicate carvings decorating these temples, I was amazed by that the ancient people moved the stones from a mountain about 50 km away to build and emboss these buildings without advance technology and tools. The carvings on the temple walls tell stories of Angkorian people’s lives, and their belief of gods in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Angkor reservation is indeed a must for all the people who love to travel, have great fondness of history, or just simply enjoy the stories of Angkor kingdom.
P.S. I had the warmest Christmas ever–it was about 30 degree Cs during the daytime regardless it’s winter in Cambodia.