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Angkor: The Bayon

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Siem Reap and its surrounded temples

The majestic temples of Angkor in north-western Cambodia belong to the classical period of Khmer art and civilization. The list below is not exhaustive, but provides general information about the main temples considered as an interest for today's visitor.
For visitors, with time and curiosity, you will find that the three days exploring this beautiful area will be sufficient. But a short tour including 2 days and 1 night would be suitable for those who simply require an overview of these architectural treasures.
A visit to the temples of Angkor is a profound experience, as only a few sights on earth can match. You will see nature take over at Ta Prohm or the mysterious faces of the Bayon. The temples of Angkor are located in the northwest province of Siem Reap. There are more than 1000 temples, built between the 9th and 13th centuries, and these remaining structures are the sacred skeleton of what was once the social, religious and administrative of the Khmer Empire.
The huge construction projects undertaken by successive Khmer kings were on a scale similar to the pyramids by the ancient Pharaohs of Egypt. Each new temple was made possible by approximately more than one million people who have lived at Angkor during the 12th and 13th centuries. As for the time, London had only a population of just 50,000 inhabitants.
Despite the dozens of temples that remain today, there is very little trace on the people living in one of the largest cities in the world at the time. This is because people, slaves to the king himself lived in wooden structures that have disappeared over the centuries. The stone buildings are reserved only for the Gods.
It is thought that Portuguese travellers were the first Europeans to gaze in wonder the temples of Angkor while exploring the area during the 16th century. However, there has been much of the "discovery" of Angkor by a French botanist,Henri Mouhot, The visit at Angkor in 1860 was posthumously documented in Paris in 1868. At the end of the 19th until 20th century, several French expeditions visited on site and work that was done to restore most of the monuments which the jungle had taken over.

 

  Koh Ker

The history of Cambodia is torn by dynastic quarrels and intrigue policy and one of the most memorable came in the 10th century when Jayavarman IV (928-942) fell with his family, stormed the northwest and established the rival capital of Koh Ker. Although the capital has just 15 years, Jayavarman IV was determined to legitimize his rule through a prolific building program that left 30 main temples inheritance. Prasat Thom is a seven-story pyramid, More Mayan than Khmer, with stunning views of the surrounding forest. Nearby is PrasatKrahom or Red Temple, named after the pink stone from which it is built. Prasat Bram has incredible strangler figs that choke stone, offering excellent photo opportunity.

 Pyramid 7 floors of Koh Ker temple in Cambodia 

360 degree view of the temple in the center of Koh Ker



   Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the largest religious temple in the world, with a stone volume equal to that of the Kheops pyramid in Egypt. It is different from all other Khmer temples because it was inspired by Hinduism and facing west to honour him. Designed by Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat took about 30 years to emerge. Well preserved, it was often said that it was a funerary temple for the same king. It was permanently occupied by Buddhist monks. The complex bas-reliefs surround Angkor Wat on four sides. Each tells a story. The most famous of these is the churning of the ocean of milk, which is located on the east wing. In it, the Naga serpent is twisted by demons and angels to produce the elixir of life. The light of the sunset shining on the ancient stones is the best time to wander through the two square kilometers of Angkor Wat, climb towers and meditate on its creators.
 

  Phnom Bakheng

Dominating the hill, 10th century temple built on the mountain is the most popular place in the area to attend the sunset over Angkor Wat and the surrounding forest. A winding path through the jungle, where there is the possibility of an elephant ride to the top. This temple is the place to see the sunset, so it can be very crowded. Please, notify the guide if you want to live this experience to a quieter place or when the crowds are usually fewer

 

  Angkor Thom

This huge walled complex was the center of the largest city in the world in 1200. After the occupation of Angkor by the Chams in 1177 to 1181, King Jayavarman VII decided to build an impregnable fortress in the heart of his empire. The scale is simply stunning and we are immediately overwhelmed by the boldness of Jayavarman VII on arrival at the gates of the city. The floor is lined by a complex bridge. Its vast walls, some of which are 6 m and 13 km wide, 8 m high length contain many monuments...

  Bayon

Surrounded on all sides by faces, visitors will never forget the enigmatic Bayon temple. At the exact center of Angkor Thom This is an eccentric expression of the creative genius and oversized of the most famous king of Cambodia. Its 54 towers are each topped with the four faces of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), which bear more resemblance to the king himself. These colossal heads stare down from every side, exuding power and control with a hint of compassion, just the mix belief required to keep a grip on a vast empire. Unlike his predecessors who had worshiped the Hindu deities of Shiva and Vishnu, Jayavarman VII adopted Mahayana Buddhism as the source of the royal divinity. This sets the Bayon apart from many other monuments of Angkor. The reliefs represent complex scenes of ancient battles here against the Chams and offer a wonderful insight into the daily life during the Angkor period.

 

  Baphuon

This perfect pyramidal temple, built by Udayadityarvarman II, was a real puzzle. Dismantled by the EFEO for restoration in the 1960s, the Khmer Rouge destroyed the archives of architecture in the 1970s when the French team returned in the 1990s, they had to work hard to put the feet 300,000 pieces of sandstone. From the remaining ruins, it is possible to see how this massive empire was at its peak. This temple was built and dedicated to Shiva, but in its reliefs many motives from Vishnu's life can be seen. Baphuon was kept as a partial ruin, with a huge reclining Buddha, added in the 16th century.

 

  Terrace of Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King

The first terrace is named the outstanding representation of elephants, and was used as a viewing gallery at royal events. The second terrace takes its name from the magnificent sculpture of King Yasovarman, popularly known as the Leper King. The original of this statue is now in the National Museum and is now regarded as Yama, the god of death, as is believed the site was used as a royal crematorium.

 

  Ta Prohm

This temple is perhaps the most atmospheric of all Angkor treasures. The temple was a monastery built by Jayavarman VII, dedicated to his mother. Ta Prohm has been left to the destructive power of nature by archaeologists to demonstrate the awesome power of nature.
It was largely overgrown by the jungle. When you climb through the dilapidated stone structures you see many giant trees that have taken root on the top of the temple itself. Each time, you expect to see Indiana Jones or Lara Croft out from behind a fallen pillar. It is one of the most visited temples regularly, with visitors often arriving in the middle of the day to enjoy under the protection of the forest canopy above the ruined temple. Ta Prohm seems to be one of the monuments that European explorers found separately in the set. We recommend a visit at dawn to soak up the unique atmosphere without the crowds.

 

  Preah Khan

Built in the same style as Ta Prohm, Preah Khan is in much better condition. Meaning: The Sacred Sword, this temple was also built by Jayavarman VII and is famous for its immensely long cruciform corridors and delicate carvings, including the spectacular hall of dancers. The curious two-storey structure that is almost Greek-inspired. This is one of the few temples dedicated to the origin of both Buddhism and Hinduism. The original entrance was to the Mahayana Buddhists, while the other cardinal points represented the Hindu trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.

 

  Ta Keo

King Suryavarman I commissioned this temple in the 10th century, but it was never completed and therefore has no elaborate decoration like its contemporaries. It is a pyramid on 5 levels and is dedicated to Shiva. Some researchers argue that this was due to an adverse thunderbolt during construction. Others suggested that the high quality sandstone was just too hard to carve in detail..

 

  Banteay Kdei

This temple was the first great Buddhist monastery in Cambodia, built by Jayavarman VII during the 12th and 13th centuries. Its system of galleries and vestibules that were added after the construction of the main towers makes it look like a cloister. It was built of sandstone, which was damaged. However, it remains very beautiful lintels and pediments. Although it is in a state of ruin, he often receives far fewer visitors giving it a serene atmosphere.

 

  Sras Srang

No bath will never be quite the same when you set eyes on this vast basin, once the exclusive use of the king and his concubines. Initially lined with sandstone steps, climb on the western terrace and meet children in the region who will invite you to jump in the water with them.

 

  Pre Rup

This temple was built in the 10th century by Rajendravarman. Pre Rup means turning the body and the Khmers believe this temple was used for cremations. This is a popular spot for sunsets and views of the Cambodian countryside.

 

  Mebon

The great temple Mebon in brick and stone was originally located on an island in the centerBaray. It is now dry. A low pyramid, temple elephant has big guards on every corner. This is one of the few temples where we can understand the ancient Khmer building techniques because there are still large soil ramps on each side of the temple, showing us how they move the heavy stones on site.

 

  Neak Pean ou Neak Poan

This temple is a very delicate moment of Khmer art. Built by Jayavarman VII, this temple is the perfect representation of heaven on earth. It has been said that this monument was dedicated to Buddha attained Nirvana, and ornamental lakes surrounding it were designed as places where pilgrims could wash and purify themselves before reaching perfection. At the center of these ornamental lakes there is a small temple surrounded by two Nagas.

 

  Banteay Samre

The 12th century temple of BanteaySamre was built by King Suryavarman II, the genius behind Angkor Wat, and was extensively restored. The temple is unique in that on-sandstone quarries have led to the use of laterite for covered corridors. The pediments above the interior doors here include some of the most accomplished sculpture of the Angkor period.

 

  Banteay Srei

This jewel of Angkor was built by a Brahman in the 10th century and dedicated to Shiva. The famous pink sandstone structure is a series of exquisite sculptures, lintels and friezes. These, they say, must have been carved by women as the detail is too fine for human hands. This gives the origin of the name Khmer women Fortress. Although it may be a small temple complex, the beauty of Banteay Srei is not in the balance, but in detail. Many believe that the intricate carving is the best example of classical Khmer art in existence.

 

  Phnom Krom

Built by Yasovarman I in the 10th century; this temple situated on a hill overlooking the Tonle Sap. The temple is in very poor condition, but its ruins are worth visiting for views. This is the perfect place for a quiet sunset.

 

  Barays

The East and West Barays are two huge reservoirs, both dug by hand. They were at the heart of the health and vigor of Khmer civilization. The East Baray is empty, while the West is half full. It measures eight kilometers long.

 

  Roluos (Le groupe des Roluos)

Roluos was one of the first capitals of Angkor, built by King Indravarman and originally called Hariharalaya. Today, there are three Hindu sanctuaries: PreahKo, Bakong and Lolei. Lolei was originally set on an island in the center of IndratatakaBaray (reservoir). This temple has some well preserved sandstone sculptures and vast stone doors are carved from a single piece of stone. PreahKo (sacred cow), named in homer of Shiva. This temple owes more to the sanctuaries of Chenla, first empire of Cambodia as sandstone behemoths that came later pre-Angkorian brick. Originally covered in stucco and painted, there are still some of the old plasters on the rear visible towers. Bakong was the first temple on the mountain, which was later to become the signature of Khmer kings. It is a giant pyramid, its cardinal points marked by giant elephants. You will climb to the top for a view of the surrounding countryside. All three temples are well preserved and worth a visit to offer the visitor a historical perspective of the development of Angkor.

 

  Kbal Spean

The origin of the 'Thousand Lingas' river, Kbal Spean is bed intricately and deeply carved in the foothills of the Cambodian jungle. The river flows into Lake Tonle Sap, and in ancient times its holy waters breathed life in the areas of the rice empire through its most complex irrigation system that the world has never seen. The Khmer worshiped its limestone bed with sculptures, including delicate deities Vishnu and Shiva with their wives. Lingams are sacred to Hindus phallic representations as symbols of fertility and hundreds, even thousands, are carved into the rock here. The sculptures were rediscovered in 1969, when a hermit showed the river French researcher Jean Boulbet.
A trip to Kbal Spean is one of the easiest ways to experience a short hike in the jungle of the Angkor region, as there is a steady but scenic climb to reach the sculptures of the river. The track pass through knotted and large rock formations and sometimes offers great views of the surrounding jungle. And there is a small waterfall below the bed of the river sculpted, perfect for cooling off after the hot climb..

 

  Phnom Kulen

Phnom Kulen is considered by Khmer people to be the most sacred mountain in Cambodia and is a popular place of pilgrimage. He played an important role in the history of the Khmer empire. In 802 AD, Jayarvarman II proclaimed independence from Java, giving birth to modern Cambodia. On the plateau, there is a large reclining Buddha carved into a sandstone boulder and beautiful views of the jungle. Nearby is a major waterfall and some sculptures of the bed so seen to Kbal Spean. For the more adventurous visitors, there are many old temples scattered across the mountain, but they are difficult to reach. Phnom Kulen is about 55 km northeast of Siem Reap.

 

  Beng Méaléa

The lost temple BengMealea is the most titanic of temples, a sleeping giant lost for centuries in the forests of Cambodia. It is the most accessible of the lost temples of Angkor, a mirror image of Angkor Wat, but completely overrun by the voracious appetite of nature. Built by Suryavarman II (1113-1150), the builder of Angkor Wat, the forest took over and it is difficult to get an idea of the shape and size of the monument in the ruins.
Here you can enjoy an experience at the Indiana Jones climbing in the great ruin. For those who want a gentle adventure, there is also a solid wooden footbridge in the heart of the temple. It is also possible to visit an Angkorian quarry near the place where the stone was cut to build these massive monuments.

 

  Preah Vihear

This temple atop the imposing mountain guards the border between Cambodia and Thailand. It is 600 m above the Cambodian plains below, and many consider his most spectacular locations of all the temples of Angkor. The road that winds up the mountain is very steep in some places. The final level of the temple clings to a cliff of DangrekMountains, towering hundreds of meters above the Cambodian plains below. The views from this mountain of the most mountainous of the temple are breathtaking, the foundation stones of the temple stretching the edge of the cliff as he plunges hurriedly away in the plains of the province of Preah Vihear below.

 

  Banteay Chhmar

Famous for its signature faces of Jayavarman VII, BanteayChhmar is an atmospheric place to explore. It houses the magnificent sculptures of Lokesvara with 32 weapons, Lok Sat-pee nicknamed (Mr 32) by the Khmer and the beautiful hall of the dancers, similar to the famous Preah Khan. It is worthwhile to explore the outer complex, including the gate of Ta Prohm, like a smaller cousin of the impressive Angkor Thom gates and protected by a moat. It is also possible to visit the enigmatic temple of Banteay Top.