This is by far the most impressive of the temples that make up the Roluos Group of temples, located some 15km south-east of the main group of temples at Angkor. Before its reconstruction, little remained of Bakong aside from a pile of rubble atop a small hill. Initial clearing work didn't commence until 1936 and took around seven years to complete.
Consecrated in 881 AD during the reign of King Indravarman I, the construction of the Bakong is believed to have been initiated by Indravarman's predecessor, Jayavarman III and became the state temple of Hariharalaya (modern-day Roulos). The layout of the site closely follows the principles of modelling Mount Meru with the moat surrounding the inner sanctum of five levels, with 10 small temples surrounding a tiered tower whose spire resembles the turreted, curved points of Angkor Wat.
These miniature models of famous Angkor temples are located opposite Preah Ko which forms part of the Roluos Group, located some 15km south-east of the main group of temples at Angkor. As well as a model of Angkor Wat, there are also models of the nearby Preah Ko, Lolei, and Bakong as well as the much further away Banteay Srei. They're good to look at in order to get an overall view of each site.
Preah Ko (meaning "The Sacred Bull") was the first temple to be built in the ancient and now defunct city of Hariharalaya (in the area that today is called Roluos), some 15 kilometres south-east of the main group of temples at Angkor. The temple was built under the Khmer King Indravarman I in 879 to honour members of the king's family, whom it places in relation with the Hindu deity Shiva.
What remains of it today are six small brick towers sitting on a sandstone base along with a handful of outlying buildings in various state of ruins. Each tower is dedicated to one of Indravarman's ancestors, including Jayavarman II (considered to be the founding father of the Khmer empire) located in the central tower. The tower to the left is dedicated to Prithivindreshvara, King Indravarman's father; the tower to the right to Rudreshvara, his grandfather. The three rear towers are dedicated to the wives of these three men.
Just across the Victory Way from Chau Say Tevoda, to the east of Angkor Thom, it underwent a major reconstruction in the 1960s and is now in remarkable condition. Like many monuments, this was originally a walled-in structure, but the outside wall has largely collapsed leaving the gopuras standing alone almost like mini-temples in their own right. Probably started by Jayavarman IV and continued by Dharanindravarman I, it seems to have been completed by Suryavarman II around the middle of the 12th century.
This is located just east of Angkor Thom, across the Victory Way from Thommanon (it pre-dates the former and post-dates the latter). Built in the mid-12th century, it is a Hindu temple and has recently benefited from a serious makeover funded by the Chinese government, with missing blocks replaced, walls consolidated and carvings de-mossed and cleaned up.
One of the most striking facets of Ta Keo is its almost nude, undecorated state. Although construction commenced during the reign of Jayavarman V (ruled 968 to 1001), work ceased just after the carving began due to a lightning strike.
This massive temple mountain, located between the Gate of Victory of Angkor Thom and the East Baray, is almost 50m tall and was the first of the Khmer monuments to be built entirely of sandstone. The upper levels of the pyramid are so narrow that it's almost impossible to walk around them. In contrast, the top level is refreshingly spacious and decorated with four corner towers and a larger central tower. The views over the surrounding forest, in all directions, are terrific but be careful when climbing up the narrow, steep and dangerous steps.
Pre Rup is a temple-mountain with the central pyramid comprising three levels atop a two-level base. It was completed in 961 during the reign of King Rajendravarman and was constructed as his state temple following the establishment of a new capital on the southern bank of the eastern baray — Pre Rup sat at the centre of this new capital.
Pre Rup means "turn the body", a reference to the funeral rite where a corpse is turned on the charcoal. This name supported theories that it was used for funerals — an opinion further backed up by the discovery of a small stone cistern to the east of the entrance thought to have been used for them.
The views from the top over the flat surrounding jungle are well worth the very steep climb up the narrow and dangerous steps, so take care.
Translated as Royal Baths, according to one source all creatures except elephants were allowed to bathe in Srah Srang, but today it is most popular as a spot for swimming by the local children.
Srah Srang is a mid-sized baray running out to the east of Banteay Kdei towards Pre Rup. Some 700m long and 350m wide, the baray was constructed during the reign of Jayavarman VII in around 1200 and has an almost sublime beauty to it. The western end of the Srah Srang remains in the best condition, lined by a long stone wall with a terrace and staircase at its centre. The stairs are flanked by nagas and fearsome lions as they run down to the water's edge.
Lying to the west of Srah Srang and to the southeast of Ta Phrom, Banteay Kdei (meaning "Citadel of the Cells") is a fusion of Angkor and Bayon styles. In its semi-ruined state, set on spacious, forested grounds, this temple remains one of the most underrated of Angkor's temples. A large site — the outer wall measures 500m by 700m — Banteay Kdei is believed to have been constructed as monks dwellings in 1181, during the reign of Jayavarman VII, atop a pre-existing site that dated back to the 10th century.
Banteay Kdei was a Buddhist monument and a pagoda remained active at the site until it was cleared of overgrowth. During the reign of Jayavarman VIII, the site was expanded, and many of the Buddhist statues were vandalised or destroyed. Similar in style to that of Ta Prohm but less complex and smaller, an inscription stone has never been discovered so it is unknown to whom the temple is dedicated.
These are the wonderful bas-reliefs that are found in the five squat brick sanctuaries of Prasat Kravan. The bas reliefs on the interior walls of the central tower are representations of Vishnu. There are three in all:
1. Four-armed Vishnu sits astride his vehicle Garuda holding his globe, conch, discus and baton.
2. Four-armed Vishnu, again holding his four standard appurtenances, takes a large step. This image illustrates the story of Vishnu in his incarnation as Vamana the dwarf taking three great steps in order to reclaim the world from the asura Bali.
3. Eight-armed Vishnu stands stiffly in the position of a statue. He is surrounded by hundreds of tiny devotees and surmounted by a crocodile or maybe a lizard.
The interior walls of the northernmost tower feature a pair of bas reliefs of Lakshmi, Vishnu's consort, flanked by devotees:
1. In one of the depictions, the goddess holds both the trident of Shiva and the discus of Vishnu, possibly marking her as the great goddess who transcends the duality of Saiva and Vaishnava worship.
2. A more traditional depiction of Lakshmi holding lotuses is on the opposite wall.
Set just off the road from the east gate to Angkor Wat to Banteay Kdei, with its five squat brick sanctuaries Prasat Kravan looks like a bit of a drab affair, but the real attraction is within. Meaning "cardamom temple" it was dedicated to Vishnu in 921, according to an inscription on a door.
Unique for Khmer art, the interior of the sanctuaries contain brick bas reliefs of an outstanding standard. At the time of construction, Khmer brickies didn't use mortar but a vegetable compound instead. This has allowed the bricks to sit very close together and further accentuates the appeal of the bas reliefs (see next top for more on them).
I'm not particularly fit - it took me an hour and a half to hike through the whole thing and back. For the most part you're hiking slightly uphill through some trails and some tree roots and rocks. The stream is not big and you probably won't be walking along the stream until you get there. I think most people get up there, take pictures of the carvings in the river, then go back down to see the waterfall. It is not a particularly difficult, just hot as it is a tropical country. If you wear the right shoes and have water with you, you should be fine. To get to the waterfall, you go down some steep wooden stairs but it's probably manageable for most. I saw an older gentleman and some kids do it. I don't think a tour is necessary unless you're interested in detailed explanation of the place. There are many tourists when i was there in late December, 2009 so I'm assuming it's pretty safe. Here are some pictures I took of the hike to Kbal Spean
The Terrace of Elephants is an approximately 300m long platform that is decorated with three-headed elephants - hence the name. But there are also numerous other reliefs and carvings, some of them showing circus scenes with acrobats. It was probably used as the king's balcony to watch parades and ceremonies on the wide meadows below. Standing there with one's eyes closed, you may try to imagine what the meadows looked like at the heyday of Angkor...
The right part of the Terrace of Elephants is called Terrace of the Leper King due to a statue of a king that doesn't have sexual characteristics. According to legends, many of the Angkorian kings were leprous. According to my guidebook, the statue doesn't show a leper king but was only devoured by lichens. In any case, the original statue is displayed in the National Museum in Phnom Penh, so not much to make a fuss about.
The Stung Thmei village of the Chams at Siem Riep located near to the old Market. These are the forgotten Chams' Malays from the long lost Champa Empire located in Central & South Vietnam. Most of them migrated to Cambodia and settled along Mekong & Tonle Sap. Their spoken language and even their daily clothing similar to the rural Malays of Malaysia. Infact most of them having relatives in malaysia! There are theory that the Malaysian's from the states of Kelantan & Trengganu are descendants from Champa.
This temple complex is not part of Angkor Complex & thus it is Free!! We are the only tourist to this ancient temple on our way to Tonle Sap lake. We booked our Tonle Sap package from thye hotel & requested them to bring us to the temple & also Phnom Krom hill temple near Tonle Sap.
Listed as incomplete temple similar to Ta Keo but we noted paintings of Apsara & also sankript scrip on the inner wall of the forgotten temple...Less touristic and not far from the main road on the way to Tonle Sap lake