Angkor Wat

Asia, Cambodia, RTW: 2007-2008, Southeast Asia — By on August 12, 2008 12:30 AM

The city of Siem Reap serves as the gateway to the temple ruins of the Angkorian-era Khmer Empire. The Angkor Archaeological Park encompasses dozens of temple ruins. We stayed three nights in town of Siem Reap which we found to be very touristy and felt extremely Westernized.

Angkor has come to refer to the capital city of the Khmer Empire that existed between the 9th and 12th centuries AD, as well as the empire itself. The temple ruins demonstrate the ancient Khmer architecture, art and civilization. ‘Khmer’ refers to the dominant ethnic group in modern and ancient Cambodia.

The Angkor Wat era was was the height of the Khmer Empire, a time when the capital area contained more than a million people when Khmer kings constructed vast waterworks and grand temples. During this time the empire was the most powerful and culturally advanced in Southeast Asia.

Hinduism made a comeback in the 13th century in which many of the Buddhist monuments previously constructed were defaced. Throughout the temples today one can see thousands of Buddhist images that have been removed or damaged severely. After the 13th century, Angkor suffered repeated invasions by the Thai eventually leading the King to move the capital to Phnom Penh in 1432.

Nicole and I met up with her friend Erin and Erin’s coworker Chris to explore the temples. Erin is from the US and working in Cambodia. The four of us woke up ridiculously early in order to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat, the massive temple that is the centerpiece of all the other temples in Angkor. Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat, and the temple itself consists of three levels. The walls of the temple are covered inside and out with bas-reliefs and carvings. It was quite a spectacular sight at 5:30 AM even though I was half asleep! It was cloudy in the morning when the sun appeared behind the temple so we didn’t get to see the beautiful sunrise we had hoped for.

Inside the temple….

Carvings on the temple walls…

Chris and Nicole standing in the elephant door

We returned to the temple in the evening for sunset.

We visited Angkor Thom, a fortified city marked by large gated and surrounded by tall walls. One of the most famous temples inside Angkor Thom is Bayon, known for the 216 faces that were carved into the temple. The temple was built around 1200 in the center of the city and some historians believe that the faces resemble the king at the time, Jayavarman VII.

Me face to face with a face…

I have never seen the movie “Lara Croft Tomb Raider” staring Angelina Jolie, but the rest of the group had and were eager to visit the ruins of Ta Prohm, where the movie was filmed. The temple is overgrown with trees, many of which have sprouted through the temple walls and high above the temple. We entertained ourselves with posing like “Lara Croft” which I had no idea how to do but just followed Nicole and Erin’s lead.

In front of the entrance to Ta Prohm

Tree growing through the temple…

We finished our long day with $1 margaritas at a Mexican restaurant in Siem Reap. Man I miss good Mexican food! The food was decent, the drinks not so good. I guess we got what we paid for…

To see photos of Angkor Wat CLICK HERE!

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