Angkor What?

Posted: August 13, 2012 in Blog, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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ANGKOR WHAT?
Angkor, Cambodia
19 October 2009

Why ANGKOR WHAT?
While researching the Internet for Angkor in Google, I came upon a site with a URL named Angkor What Where it says that when ask about Angkor Wat many people, when they hear the word Angkor in a conversation, they would ask “Angkor What?”.

Angkor Wat (or Angkor Vat) is a temple complex at Angkor Cambodia (near Siem Reap), built in the early 12th Century for the King Suryavarman II as his state temple and capital city. It is the best-preserved temple at the site and only one to have remained a significant religious center since its foundation. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country’s prime attraction for visitors.

Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 square kilometers, including forested areas, Angkor archaeological park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 19th to the 15th century. They include the famous temple of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, The Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set-up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.

While early Angkor temples were built as a Hindu Temple, Jayavarman VII converted to Mahayana Buddhism and embarked on a prodigious building spree, building the new capital city of Angkor Thom including Bayon, Ta Prohm, Preah Khan and many more as a Buddhist structures. However, his successor Jayavarman VIII returned to Hinduism and embarked on an equally massive spree of destruction, systematically defacing Buddhist images and even crudely altering some to be Hindu again, but the (few) Buddha images in the temple today are later Theraveda additions.

Waking up at 0530hrs and preparing for our sunrise shots, got our day pass with image capture and headed for the entrance at Angkor Wat where it was still dark then picked our spot and waited for the sun to rise… then no sun!!! because it was cloudy (sigh) but never the less took pictures of Angkor Wat and its surrounding areas then headed back to our hotel for breakfast and waited for our guide for the tour.

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At around 0800hrs we started our tour with our guide Lean Bunna, and our first stop was Angkor Wat

The Temples of Angkor are highly symbolic structures. The foremost Hindu concept is the temple-mountain, where the temple is built as a representation of the mythical Mount Meru: this is why so many temples, including Angkor Wat itself; are surrounded by moats, built in a mountain-like pyramidal shape and topped by precisely five towers, representing the five peaks of Mount Meru. The Linga (Phallus), representing the God Shiva, was also critical and while the Lingas themselves have largely gone, Linga stands (carved, table-like block stone) can be found in many if not most rooms in the Temple.

Angkor Wat is located six kilometers north of Siem Reap, one of the largest Khmer monuments. Built around the first half of the 12th Century by King Suryavarman II, the Temple’s balance, composition and beauty make it one of the finest monuments in the world.

Wat meaning City (Angkor meaning Temple), the westward orientation of the structures is typical of Temples. Scholars believe that the architectures and sculptures are that of a Temple where Lord Vishnu was worshipped but it was also built as a mausoleum for the King after his death. With all of the Apsara adorning the Temple (Celestial Nymphs, always bare-breasted and usually dancing, representing an ideal Female Beauty) almost 2,500 of them which adorn the temple and only one Apsara showing her teeth.

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After eating our lunch at Angkor Reach Restaurant located just outside of the entrance of Ankor Wat, we headed for Angkor Thom (meaning large temple) which includes the Bayon and Baphoun Temples, The Elephant Terrace, The Terrace of the Leper King and the Five Entrance Gates, one at each Cordial Compass point and the Victory Gate in the east wall. The Western and the Northern Gate are free from tourists. Each Gate is topped with a face of Avalokitesvara. There is a path on top of the walls, and one along the outside wall, that can be followed to walk from gate to gate. The total walk is around 13 kilometers, about 3.5 hours long.

At the South Gate we were greeted by a huge structure with a Naga (many-headed mystical serpent) and which look like an army behind it. Our guide says that the left side represents GOOD and the right side represents EVIL, with elephants at the base of the structure toped by the head or face.

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After entering the gate, passing thru the huge structure, we arrive at the Temple of Bayon.

Built in the later part of the 12th Century by King Jayavarman VII, Bayon is one of the most recognized Temples in Siem Reap because of the giant stone faces that adorn the towers of Bayon. There are 54 towers of four faces each, totaling 216 faces. There is still a debate as to who is being depicted in the faces. It could be Avalokiteshvara, Mahayana Buddhism’s Compassionate Bodhisattva, or perhaps a combination of King Jayavarman VII and Buddha. We could not explore all of the Temple because it is closed due to some restoration work.

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Passing Thru Baphuon located to the northwest of The Bayon, the Baphuon is supposed to represent Mount Meru (sacred to Hinduism) and was one of the largest and grandest structures in Angkor, built into the western face of the Baphuon is a giant reclining Buddha, added in the 15th Century after the region converted from Hinduism to Buddhism.

Archaeologist had dismantled the Baphuon to perform a renovation when they were interrupted by the Civil War; the records for piecing the temple back together were subsequently lost or destroyed. Today it is undergoing a painstaking reconstruction work, so visitors can only walk across the long terrace leading up to the main structure and around the outside base.

Leaving The Elephant Terrace we headed for Ta Prohm (famous for its temples wrapped by tree roots).

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Ta Prohm built during the time of King Jayavarman VII and is best known ad the temple where trees have been left intertwined with the stonework, much as it was uncovered from the jungle. It might be considered in a state of disrepair but there is a strange beauty in the marvelous strangler fig trees which provided a stunning display of the embrace between nature and the human handiwork. This is one of the most popular Temples after Angkor Wat and The Bayon because of the beautiful combination of wood and stone, Black and White film photographers especially love this site because of this and most of the stunning postcard shots of Angkor’s trees come from here; pop Culture fans, on the other hand, may recognize a few scene from Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider. While the Temple is very popular, most visitors follow a central route and the sides of the complex can be surprisingly quiet. Note that large sections of the Temple are unstable rubble and have been cordoned off, as they are in real danger of collapse.

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Going back to our hotel to freshen up and rest a bit, then went out to do some shopping and souvenir buying then ate at a stall in the street then rested for our trip back to Phnom Penh.

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Where we would be seeing this!!!

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