Surrounding the central temple are eight brick and sandstone towers, many of which are still covered with their original plasterwork.
The remains were reclaimed from the encroaching jungle from which the new monastery was built.
Originally surrounded by a moat, the temple is a five-tiered affair, with carvings of elephants (some still standing) on the corners of the lower three levels.
Equally impressive as the elephants are the lion statues, to be found at the base of the main stairwell leading up to the central sanctuary at the top.
Bakong is the biggest of the Rolous Group monuments, with an active Buddhist monastery on the site.
Built and dedicated to Shiva around 900 AD, Bakong served as the central temple. The sandstone central pyramid is some 60 metres square at its base, so a significant construction of its time.
On the other side of the highway from Lolei is Preah Ko.
It is known as the temple of the ancestors, and, although little remains of the whole enclosure, likely to have been part of the royal palace of Indravarman I. Preah Ko is believed to have been consecrated in 879 AD. It is a small temple - 6 sanctuary towers sharing the same base (front central tower being the larger).
About 15kms east of Siam Reap is the Rolous Group of monuments.
Older than Angkor (around 900 AD), Rolous was the capital of Indravarman I. Lolei is a small monument, usually the first to be visited among the Rolous as it is separated by the highway from the main group (on the left of the highway if approaching form Siam Reap).
Four brick towers, carvings and Sanskrit inscriptions, it's a perfect introduction to the temples of Angkor (I went here before going to Angkor itself) and Khmer architecture. The scale (and the fact it was deserted when I went there) allows a very close look.
A few miles outside Siam Reap is the Vietnamese Floating Village at Phnom Krom on Tonle Sap Lake (it is, in fact, the arrival point of the ferry from Phnom Penh). Lush green countryside, red dust roads all the way from Siam Reap, past a way of life that hasn't changed much for centuries. The Floating Village is also a way of life that has hardly changed in centuries.
The Village actually moves as the dry season encroaches. The main centre may well be found on the shores of the lake, but, over time, the village has gradually moved up river. But for a few months of the year, these new 'suburbs' move down river to join the main town on the banks of the lake (most of these homes were in the process of moving).
I wrote this description of my trip to Cambodia for two reasons. One, I could. I had recently bought a smartphone with a small folding QWERTY keyboard and it comes with a document processor. And second, because I had time as I had decided to take a bus, as I will describe below.
I decided I wanted to go to Cambodia, mostly because the idea of having Thanksgiving in Thailand was not appealing, especially after last years Thanksgiving in Iraq. Also, leaving Thailand allowed me to renew my Visa without question and mine was about to expire the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Anyway, I decided on a 3 day 2 night package trip because I had no idea what to expect. The trip was taking a bus all the way from Bangkok to Angkor, Cambodia. I wanted to go there because I had read about the ancient ruins.
The bus trip was interesting. I had never been on a bus trip like this anywhere in the world so it was a new experience in many ways (and it gave me time to write this). The way to the Cambodian border from Bangkok was uneventful, from there on is a different story. At the border, we had to wait while our visas were processed. There I was warned about Cambodian children being thieves, later i found out they are also annoying beggars. "Beware of the children" became my general theme for the trip.
The pictoral essay can be found on my website below:
Baksei Chamkrong is located about 250m from the south gate of Angkor Thom on the left-hand side of the road. The beginning of its construction is ascribed to Harshavarmam I, but it was probably finished by his successor Rajendravarmam II in 947 and dedicated to Shiva. Baksei Chamkrong is a relatively small monument at 42ft (13m) high on a square pyramid with a set of steps leading up 88ft (27m) on each side.
The name Baksei Chamkrong means "The Bird Who Shelters Under Its Wings" and comes from a legend. In it, the king tried to flee Angkor during a siege and then a huge bird landed and sheltered him under its wings.
This rather precarious looking tower stands just over the road from Angkor Wat, just off the road that heads north into Angkor Thom. It is one of 102 chapels of the hospitals built at the behest of Jayavarmam VII.
If you are not in good shape, you might want to consider skipping this activity. We were there last March and it is a long, hot and arduous climb uphill to get there, and we are reasonably fit for our age (mid-50's). We were told to stick to the path as it lies in an area that has not been cleared of landmines.
If you do decide to go, I would suggest you take lots of water (at least 1 litre per person), hiking boots and a walking stick. You will be climbing over rocks.
Crossing the stream - if you can see the lingas in the water, you know you are fairly shallow.
Most tourists don't go any further than Chong Khneas, the floating village, and that is ok. However, a trip to the Kompong Phluk village, 16 km south of Siem Reap, takes you to another world. Life here ebbs and flows with the seasons, and depends entirely upon the waters of the lake. The houses are built on stilts, within the floodplain of the Tonle Sap lake. The people are so used to life on the water that during the dry season, when their houses look awkward on their very high (6 meters) stilts, they go out onto the lake and build temporary houses there. The village is not yet spoiled by mass tourism, but does have a guesthouse, where we had a delicious lunch. People are incredibly poor and their life must be tremendously hard, but their smiles are all genuine.
Located just to the south of the main temple is the Buddhist monastry at Angkor Wat. This monastry will take in local children to train as monks and provide an education. At the east entrance you will see small stupas and shrines jsut before the main building. The outside walls are painted/decorated with buddhist images of heave/hell etc.
You may notice a buddhist shrine with statues and burning incence within the "hall of 1000 buddhas" inside Angkor Wat. Locals (and the occasional tourist) take time to worship and pray at this. There is a donation box located just to the right of the shrine. Procedes from donations go to support the running of the monastry.
If you have a chance to interact with the locals, take advantage of that opportunity. They are kind, charming and interesting. We happened across a pool game in action and asked if we could join. Definately a good time
What amazed me while I wandered the temple complexes was that Angkor wat and Bayan were busy, but there are approx. 10 other temples around Angkor Thom to be explored and for 2 or 3 hours my friend and I walked around and climbed and explored these temples all by ourselves! Don't be a lame-O, run through Bayan and leave Angkor Thom, that place has much to offer, wander around until you've seen every corner there are tons of interesting buildings to be seen.