Noisy Tourists and Cicadas
The sunset trip to the Angkor complex last evening was a bit disappointing. There were tons of chatty Korean and Japanese tourists and it was really too crowded to make it to the top of the hill to watch the sunset from other temples. It gets cool when the sun goes down and the temperature drops 15-20 degrees.
My tuk-tuk driver was a strict businessman trying to book tourists back-to-back his entire day. I will try a different driver and plan to go to the Angkor complex again several times. Bought a book that groups the temples and helps you better understand their significance and which ones to visit at the same time. The best views are at and just before sunrise. The noisy tourists seemed inappropriate at such a revered site, so hopefully I can find a quieter time of day to visit. Chatting tourists and the deafening song of the cicadas made a very loud noise!
The dance performances last night were fantastic! The dancers were from the Sangkheum (hope in Khmer) Center for Children. The organization houses 53 orphans and provides social, scholastic, and medical support to others. About 250 children participate in their socio-educational program. I avoided disrupting the performance and didn’t take photos of their dancing. The dances were well done and included a large number of girls and boys.
Below are brief summaries of just a few of the many impressive temples to visit at Angkor.
Angkor Wat is the most famous and majestic temple in the complex. It’s a temple Hindus dedicated to their god Vishnu. Angkor Wat construction began at the beginning of the XIIth century during the reign of King Suryavarman II and lasted 37 years. The name means the city pagoda in Khmer. The main tower of the central temple represents Mount Meru, the home of the gods and center of the universe for Hindus. During the war which began in 1970 the inhabitants of Siem Reap took refuge inside the temple.
Ta Prohm is one of the most romantic Angkor temples. Built in 1186, it’s partly collapsed from trees interlaced among the ruins where nature “resumed its rights and disrupted the work of men”. Luxuriant vegetation and trees intertwined among the ruins help create Ta Prohm’s magical atmosphere.
“Ta Prohm is loaded with emotion and poetry for meditation. It’s a magnificent temple in the sunset.”
There are two species of trees intertwined with the structure – silk cotton and strangler fig. “The plants take hold in a crevice somewhere in the superstructure of a building, usually where a bird has deposited a seed, and extends its roots downwards to the soil. In doing this the roots work their way between the masonry so that as they grow thicker they gradually wedge open the blocks.”
Preah Khan (sacred sword of the King) was a real city with over 10,000 people and a Buddhist Sanscrit university. It has magnificent sculptures. Originally it was a Buddhist convent. Brahmans (Indian priests) destroyed many of the sculptures and replaced them with Hindu representations. A single Buddha representation remains. To reach the center of the temple you pass by rows of galleries and doors which become lower and lower as you approach the center (to show respect). In the centre there’s a big stone stuppa brought in the XVth century. Small holes in all the walls in the center of the building contained gold and diamonds encasements later removed and resold by the Red Khmers.
Ta Keo has sandstone construction which took place between 968 and 1001. Ta Keo has five sanctuary towers built on the uppermost level of a five-tier pyramid surrounded by a moat. Its design depicts five-peaked Mount Meru. Its massive exterior has no external decorations. Carving had just begun when the works stopped, so decorations were never finished.
Terrace of the Leper King
The Terrace of the Leper King is one of Angkor’s mysteries. The name is from a 15th century sculpture discovered on top standing independent of the other structures surrounding the Royal Square of Angkor Thom. The statue represents King Yasovarman who died from leprosy. Another explanation is that the solitary statue represents Yama, the god of death, and the terrace would have been a royal crematorium. The highly rated terrace has a narrow and long trench with magnificent well-preserved sculptures representing Apsaras, geniuses, and monsters, and divinities. This long corridor was completely restored with every unsettled sculpture resettled on the new walls.
Terrace of Elephants
The Terrace of Elephants was built at the beginning of the XIIIth century. It borders the Jayavarman VIIth royal palace and was the foundation for royal reception pavilions and named for the elephant carvings on its walls. Experts say it’s best seen in the morning.
Prasat Kravan (cardamom sanctuary) was built in 921 and dedicated to the God Vishnu. It’s construction consists entirely of clay bricks, and the temple is famous for representations of Vishnu. The northerly towers with low reliefs represent the goddess Lakshmi, Vishnu’s wife.