Our recent trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia brought us to the ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat. The best preserved and well-known is Angkor Wat, but there are many temples within the area. According to some research, I read after our return, there are hundreds of temples in Cambodia. One of the largest complexes is a short drive past Angkor Wat called Angkor Thom. Within its grounds are many structures and temples hence the Khmer meaning of its name Big City.
Angkor Thom is unique with many of the gates and some of the temple structures not only having the intricate carvings, but faces pointing to the four cardinal directions. Another of the temples have a large sleeping Buddha camouflaged in the wall. A path and signs pointed us through the grounds where things were spread out amongst trees, small ponds, long walkways and open spaces. Walls and tree roots snaked around the temples adding to the atmosphere. In other areas rubble littered the grounds where parts of buildings lay in ruins. Much of this complex has had some restoration to allow tourists a view back in time to a great empire.
We tried to avoid some of the crowds and had an early start. Our driver, Rak, dropped us at a small temple outside the main gate and told us he would meet us on the other side. John climbed the steep staircase as I took pictures. Next we made our way to the gate and happened to see a naughty monkey knocking over bikes and trying to run off with guide books. As we walked through the picturesque gate we noticed an elephant coming along down the road. We went back outside the gate and snapped a few photos.
On the other side of the gate we got back into the car and drove down a long stretch of road to the first temple complex. I was surprised that cars were allowed inside, but soon understood when we drove fairly deep inside before we saw the first structure. I started to understand the size of this complex in comparison to Angkor Wat.
We started at Bayon, the temple with the faces. We wandered around the grounds where nothing was off-limits. Little piles of stones reminding me of the Inuit inukshuks littered the piles of rubble. We made our way higher and got some close up views of the large stone faces standing watch. From there we went to Baphuon where Buddha lay hidden. The sun was getting hot and this was the first day where the usual high temperatures made an appearance, so we stuck to the shade and didn’t climb the upper levels of the next few temples we saw. My shoulders were not covered enough, so a guard showing me a sign with the universal no symbol, had me sweating under my long sleeves and now double layers. Without a map and a loss of direction we continued to follow the path and people who lead us to a long stone walkway. It was surprisingly massive. I realised we had made our way through the complex, but we had missed the one thing I had hoped to see, the elephant terrace. From what I understood it was a small rectangular structure. After a few more steps I saw the elephant carvings and realised we were in fact on the terrace. People crowded and snapped photos of the elephants. We found a hidden staircase that led below the terrace to a narrow passage. I am not sure the purpose other than the many carvings that graced the walls. We led our way down the staircase to see more carvings. Our driver was waiting for us and as we drove along the road I could see just how immense the terrace was with carvings from top to bottom and along the entire length; it certainly wasn’t what I had imagined. Again Angkor left me in awe and wonder.
This is my fourth post about our recent trip to Cambodia. Two posts are about the site itself and the third is a response to a photo challenge. Want to read more check these out:
Stay tuned for more…