Angkor: Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei, Lolei, Preah Ko, Bakong (吳哥: 小吳哥窟, 女皇宮, 羅蕾寺, 比列科寺(神牛寺), 巴孔寺)

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 (羅蕾寺)
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.
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 (巴孔寺)
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.

Angkor: Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, Thommanom, Chau Say Tevoda, Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon, Pre Rup (吳哥: 塔普倫寺, 塔高寺, 塔瑪儂遺址, 周薩神廟, 寶劍寺, 涅盤宮, 塔頌將軍廟, 東美蓬寺, 變身塔)

Ta Prohm (塔普倫寺)
Ta Prohm was built by Jayavarman VII at late 12th century as a university and monastery. The god of wisdom worshiped in the temple, Prajnaparamita, was modeled on the king’s mother. Later, Srindravarman expanded the site until the end of 13th century. Ta Prohm was unique in that many big trees, known as Kapok, intertwined the site and bestowed it an aged and serene ambience. This is also the background used in many scenes in the movie, Tomb Raider.
Ta Prohm was originally built as a Buddhist temple when Jayavarman VII was the king, but it was converted to a Hindu shrine by Jayavarman VIII later on. Therefore, some embossments representing Buddhist features were destroyed.
Layout of Ta Prohm:
Pardon the big ol’ crane in the background; Ta Prohm is under heavy restoration now.

Look closely…there’s a smiling face of Apsara peeking out of the tree root…
The gigantic tree roots make it look like it’s a giant person sitting on the temple…
This tower is special because the sound of pounding of chest is echoed. When a person pounds his/her chest in the tower, an echo can be heard surrounding inside it. However, other sounds like talking or clapping are not echoed.
Ta Keo (塔高寺)
Ta Keo was built by Jayavarman V at 10th century with 5 towers consisting of overlapping terraces on the very top of the 5-layered pyramid to represent Mount Menu–the sacred mountain in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology.
Ta Keo is unique in absence of external decorations. Two theories explained the phenomenon–stonemasons found that the stones were too hard to carve the elaborated embossments thus gave up half way through it; but another said that the temple was stricken by the lightning and the people regarded as a bad omen, thus they stopped working on it. The second theory was more accepted since it was a bit implausible. Since the stone carvings were processed so widely in Angkor and it’s unlikely that the stonemasons realized that the stone brought to build this particular temple were too hard to be embossed.
Layout of Ta Keo:

Looking down from Ta Keo.

Thommanom (塔瑪儂遺址)
Thommanom was built from 1113 to 1130 by Suryavarman II as a smaller temple for Hindu high gods–Shiva and Vishnu. Some scholars also believed that Thommanom was also used to store scriptures. The temple was built with only one tower on a 2.5-meter tall base.
Layout of Thommanom:

This temple is known for having delicate Hindu goddess carvings on it.
Very beautiful goddess embossment.
Chau Say Tevoda (周薩神廟)
Chau Say Tevoda was built in the mid-12th century by Suryavarman II, and later expanded by Yasovarman II.
The temple was heavily damaged and now reconstructed by Chinese archeologists.
Layout of Chau Say Tevoda:
Chau Say Tevoda is just across the road, now known as Victory Road, from Thommanom.

Preah Khan (寶劍寺)
Built in year 1191 by Jayavarman VII as a Buddhist temple for Avalokitesvara, Preah Khan was later converted to a Hindu shrine by Jayavarman VIII. The name means the “holy sword” and it was indeed used to store the king’s sword. It was built to celebrate the victory of defeating Champa, known as Vietnam now. Similar to its counterpart, Ta Prohm, it was used to commemorate the king’s father, and coincidently left un-restored like Ta Prohm for centuries with old trees twirling around the site.
Layout of Preah Khan:
Entrance to Preah Khan. Preah Khan is about 138 acres and enclosed by an 800m-by-700m moat. Same as other temples, the entrance is adorned with “Churning of the Ocean of Milk”–clans of God and Ashura engaging in a tug of war.

It’s the 2-story building marked red on the layout. The true purpose of it is still unknown but speculated to be a granary.
Neak Pean (涅盤宮)
Jayavarman VII built several hospitals during his reign, and one of them was Neak Pean, established in late 12th century. The name was derived from the intertwined snakes on the base of the temple. The temple tower was built on a 14m-diameter circular base “floating” on the pond, symbolizing Anavatapa, which is a lake on Himalayas believed to have the power to cure illness. The herbs were grown around the tower and mixed with the water in the pond. When people came to ask for the medicine, they would be diagnosed and sent to one of the 4 chapels to get the holy water. The north chapel enclosed a stone elephant head, representing “water”; west chapel contained a stone horse head, meaning “wind”; a stone lion head in the south chapel, symbolizing “fire”; and finally a stone human head representing “earth” in the east chapel. The circulating system passed the water in the pond mixed with the herbs out of these stone heads’ mouths, so people could soak or drink the water as they were instructed.
Layout of Neak Pean:
One of the chapels of Neak Pean.
The center temple tower of Neak Pean.
Ta Som (塔頌將軍廟)
Ta Som was built by Jayavarman VII in later 12th century to honor his father, Dharanindravarman II, who was the king from 1150 to 1160. It’s also said the temple was dedicated to his sister.
Entrance to Ta Som
Like Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, Ta Som was also covered by the forests with numerous trees and vegetations grown on the site.
East Mebon (東美蓬寺)
East Mebon was built in year 953 during Rajendravarman II’s reign as a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. Different from other later temples constructed mainly with stones, East Mebon was composed mostly with bricks.
Layout of East Mebon:
Pre Rup (變身塔)
Rajendravarman II built Pre Rup in year 961. Same as East Mebon, also commissioned by Rajendravarman II, Pre Rup was largely built by bricks thus had this unique reddish tone. Pre Rup was a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva; the name translated to modern meaning of “turning the body.” It could be because the legend mentioned the king who went to the top to worship the god and came back looking young and refreshed. However, it was also believed that the temple was used as a funeral site for kings; thus meaning turning the body to ashes or souls leaving the body to become something superior than human beings.
Pre Rup was design with a 50-meter square base with three layers of platforms on top of each other, and there were 5 towers built on the very top–4 smaller ones on 4 corners of the platform and a big one in the center.
Layout of Pre Rup:
The temple wall built with bricks were difficult to carve since the bricks tended to break when embossed and the embossments would appear as vivid, therefore plasters were patched on the bricks so the walls could be decorated with elaborated carvings of deities.

Angkor: Tonle Sap, Phnom Bakheng, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Leper King, Prasatas Suor Prat, Tarrace of the Elephants (吳哥: 洞里薩湖, 巴肯寺, 大吳哥城, 巴戎廟, 巴普昂寺, 空中宮殿, 古代法院(癩王台), 審判塔, 鬥象台)

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 (巴普昂寺)
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 (空中宮殿)
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.

Witnessing the glory of Angkor Kingdom, Cambodia (12/23/2009-12/27/2009) 柬埔寨吳哥王朝的榮耀

Since my company had this big closure during Christmas week, I had a week of vacation. Originally I thought of getting out my dust-covered Playstation2 and digging out my Final Fantasy XII that I bought, but hadn’t even started, years ago…until my colleague told me that she would spend her vacation in Cambodia, I knew that my travel-bug had been tickled… there goes my being-a-lazy-bone-at-home plan…
Cambodia has the advantage of being free from earthquake, flood, and typhoon, but was ravaged by neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand in history. In addition, Cambodia suffered from one of the most notorious civil wars for 20 years and the famine caused by it. Not until 1998, Cambodia was finally able to recover.
Angkor Kingdom spanned through 9th century to early 15th century and was the most flourish period of Cambodian history. The world-famous Angkor reservation in Siem Reap contains the temples built in the time of Angkor Kingdom; these temples became dormant in the forests as Angkor Kingdom deteriorated, until they were discovered by French naturalist Henry Mouhot in 1860 and recorded as World Heritage in 1992.
Although Henry Mouhot claimed to be the first to discover the remains of Angkor civilization, Cambodians have been aware of its existence all the time. However, several reasons that Angkor reservation remained discreet: First, the temples and palaces in Angkor were solely served as worship sites for kings and nobles; the commoner were asked to retain a distance from those. Thus, the civilians rumored urban legends about the evil spirits in forests that surrounded the remains of Angkorian civilization, warning their descendants not to enter the sites or beasts and bad luck would fall upon them.
Yuan Dynasty Chinese ambassador, Zhou Daguan (周達觀), was sent to Cambodia (known as “Zhen La” that time) in year 1296. He stayed in Cambodia for more than a year. When he came back to China, he wrote “Zhen La Feng Tu Ji” (真臘風土記), which was consisted of 8,500 words depicting the Angkorian culture and the path to Angkor kingdom. Due to the weather and unstable politics, the records of Angkor kingdom was mostly lost, thus Zhou Daguan’s book served as a valuable reference for finding and reconstructing the Angkorian civilization.