Departure for Angkor Wat
The long awaited moment for my visit of this magnificent temple finally came. Our driver was on time and was waiting for us at the hostel at 04.30 in the morning to go to Angkor Wat. As I had shared in the previous post, we had bought tickets in advance, so we would not lose time in the morning. We had a huge advantage because we were amongst the first there, we got comfortable place and waited for the sunrise. And it was glorious! I can honestly say that this was one of the most grand views and sunrise I had ever seen. It is hard to find words to describe what we saw.
After the sunrise the long tour of the temples started. Our itinerary was as follows: our driver took us with his tuk-tuk to each temple, we would go in, take a look around and then come back to the spot where he had left us. And so we continued the whole day.
Angkor Wat is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. Its beauty and magnificence are beyond compare. The temple complex is the masterpiece of Khmer architecture – stunning and amazing. It covers more than 400 square km, including a forest area. The complex contains the remains of different capitals of the Khmer empires from IX to XV century. Angkor Wat is part of the UNESCO world heritage. The temple is built during the first half of the XII century by the ruler of the Khmer empire Suryavarman II and is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. The temple has become the symbol of Cambodia and is depicted on the national flag, making every Cambodian proud. It is commonly known that Angkor Wat served mainly as a temple and tomb of Suryavarman II. It was built in the west, to match the symbolism of the setting sun and death. This idea is supported by the fact, that the amazing bas-reliefs of the temple were intended to be observed counterclockwise, a practice that has precedents in ancient Hindu burial rituals.
Bayon is built as a public temple by king Jayavarman VII, the last of the great Khmer rulers. This is the last public temple, which was built in Angkor and the only one that has been built as a Buddhist temple “Mahayana”.
Angkor Wat is famous with its more than 3000 apsaras (female spirits of the clouds), carved in its walls. Apsara is a female spirit of the clouds and water in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. According to mythology they appear as elegant young women, wives of the musicians Gandharva in the castles of the gods in the skies. The apsaras danced to the music of the gandharvas, usually in the castles of the gods to entertain them. That’s why in Cambodia the dance apsara is often performed in the lavish temple of Bayon.
The Ta Prohm temple is one of the most popular and photographed places in the complex. The temples date from the XII and XIII century. After the fall of the Khmer empire during the XV century, time in Ta Prohm has stopped. For hundreds of years the temple has been swallowed by the Cambodian jungle. The view is breath taking. Huge tree roots crawl through stone walls, ancient trees tower over our heads, making the place mystical and secretive. Even the magnificent temple has lost the battle with the forces of nature. The temple is famous for the Tomb Raider movie starring Angelina Jolie.
Terrace of the Elephants
This giant terrace had been used by king Jayavarman VII as a platform, from which he observed the triumphant army return. It was also used for public as well as royal ceremonies. The name comes from the carved elephants.
It was raised during the rule of Udayadityavarman II. The temple was built in honour of the Hindu god Shiva. In the end of the XV century Baphuon became a Buddhist temple. Part of the external galleries was destroyed, for the construction of a huge reclining Buddha statue, which was never completed.
This is just a small part of the grandiose temple complex Angkor Wat. There are hundreds of temples more, forgotten by time.
One of them is Preah Khan – it was built in 1191 during the rule of king Jayavarman VII. According to historians this was not only a temple, but a huge complex with over 100 000 people, including a big Buddhist university with over 1000 teachers at the time. Nowadays for the most part the temple needs to be restored and because of that I couldn’t visit it.
We stayed in the complex till working hours were over. The driver drove us to the hostel and I asked him to come back 2 hours later, to take me to the airport, which of course he didn’t mind. The airport is located about 7 km away from the city, but if you are going with a tuk-tuk taxi you need to keep in mind it would take about 30 minutes to get there. I was going to take a flight to Bangkok, where I was going to stay until the end of my trip.