Style and Dedication:
Temple-mountain in Khleang style, representation of Mount Meru, which was surrounded by a moat representing an ocean. The principal deity of the temple is Shiva.
Jayavarman V, around year 1000 CE
The temple, possibly the first to be built entirely of sandstone by Khmers, remains unfinished without much in the way of carvings. The temple itself has five towers on the on the top one out of the 5 levels of the pyramid.
A Word of Warning:
The stairs at Ta Keo a very steep, in fact I have found them much steeper than those at other temples - especially when it comes to climding up to the 5th terrace. And, unlike some of the more famous ones, Ta Keo has no wood stairs or railings to help you. I have still made it to the top though :)
Style and Dedication:
Temple-mountain, representation of Mount Meru, which was surrounded by a moat representing an ocean. The principal deity of the temple is Shiva.
Rajendravarman, around year 960 AD
As with Ta Keo, there are five towers on the on the top level of the pyramid temple, one at the centre of the platform and one in each of the corners. However, there are more decorations starting from gopuras and going through to the intricate carvings on the towers of the top platform.
- Pre Rup is a popular place for sunsets and sunrises, but watch those steps in the dark!
- The name of the temple means 'turning the body' which reflects the belief that, when built, it used to be a funerary temple
Kavindrarimathana, who was a minister during the reign of Rajendravarman II. It did not survive in its original shape though, having been modified by one of the most prolific builders - Jayavarman VII.
Not a temple this time around, but a reservoir of water with landings and some beautiful statues of nagas, garudas and a couple of guardian lions.
- An excellent sunset/sunrise place as you can always count on some nice reflections in the water. However, it can get crowded on the main landing stage opposite the Banteay Kdei temple
Style & Dedication:
Bakong represents the first application of the temple-mountain architectural formula on a grand scale, and featured all the same elements that have later come to characterise te temple mountain style (i.e., moats surrounding the pyramid).
Started by Indravarman I, Bakong was the work of a number of kings, with the top section and tower added much later in the 12th century.
Part of what is now known as the Roluos Group, Bakong sits at the center of the first Angkorian capital, HariharalayaSome of the lintel carvings, particularly on the outer towers, are in very good shape.
The Roluos Group as a whole is much less touristy than the main circuit of temples and provides a nice diversion if you would like to have a fairly large temple mostly to yourself (or maybe I was just lucky?)
Roughly meaning "coiling serpeants", this temple was built during Jayavarman VII's reign.
It is not a very popular or big site. The main site shows a temple perched on a circular terrace with 2 serpeants coiled at the base. This stands in the middle of a pool.
Around the pool are four smaller shrines dedicated to 4 elements (air, water, fire and earth). Each element is represented by the horse, elephant, lion and human repectively and there is a statue of the animals in each shrine. In the past, devotees of each element (something like zodiac) will pray at the respective shrines.
There are 4 smaller pools in front of the shrines which were supposed to fill up during the rainy season and excess water will be chanelled to the pool in the middle.
Infront of the main shrine is a statue of a horse. This is based on a legend that a God (I can't exactly remember) transformed into a flying horse to rescue mortals trapped in a flood, and lifted them to the gates of Heaven.
The road to the temple is off limits to vehicle and it is a short walk to the temple from the main road. The temple is not visible from the main road so look out for it if you're keen on visiting it.
It is east of Ankor Thom city.
The temple is quite a change from the regular architecture of the Bayon or Angkor style.
About 30 km North of Siem Reap, it was built in the second half of the Xth century, dedicated to Shiva. While some of the temples are impressive because of their sheer size, Banteay Srei stands alone in the quality of its construction and decoration. Its pink sandstone wall are decorated with what some consider to be the best carving of all and in an amazing state of preservation. Built in 967 and dedicated to Brahma it is located twenty five kilometres North of Angkor Wat.
The Small Circuit takes in several of the major and minor temples in the area. Beginning at Angkor Wat and running for seventeen kilomtres the circuit takes in the major elements of Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, and some of the minor interesting temples such as The Baphoun, The Terrace of the Elephants, the twelve Prasats, Spean Thma, and Sras Srang before returning to Angkor Wat.
The twenty-six kilometer Big Circuit is an extension on the little circuit but taking in Preah Neak Pean to the Eastern Mebon and ather various monuments like Ta Som, Preah Rup, before returning to Angkor Wat and is highly recommended to anyone spending three days or more in the complex. The Big Circuit encompasses a good representation of the rich variety of architecture here.
Style and Dedication:
Ta Prohm was built as a Mahayana Buddhism temple and university and as such is another one of the 'flat temples', with 5 retaining walls encircling a central sanctuary. Some of the structures have collapsed due to erosion/vegetation, but the layout is still fairly clear.
Jayavarman VII, in late 12th/early 13th century
Instantly recognisable (even if you have not seen 'Tomb Raider'!) , the temple has been left largely unrestored, with the walk up following a path through the jungle, and trees/plants covering the ruins themselves. This does mean you need to be a little bit more careful as you wander around, but the atmosphere it creates is unique in the by now touristy Angkor complex (to see another one like this, you'd probably need to go to the remote temple of Beng Mealea way outside of Angkor/Siem Reap).
Despite fabulous images, galleries, sculptures, halls, galleries, etc. - the tree roots are the most photographed feature, with queues often forming at the 'Tomb Raider' filming spot
Fans of the movie Tombraider will know that some scenes in the movies were shot at this temple.
When the Angkor area was discovered, Ta Prohm was left to its own devices to show the original state of the temples before restoration. The local trees, known as "spong" to the locals have roots that crawl all over the temples, holding together sections of the building whilst at the same time wrecking destruction by splitting open walls of the temple with the growing roots.
The spong tree itself is soft wood and only good for firewood. However, the strength of the roots wreck havoc on the sturdy sandstones by creeping into the nooks and cranny and forcing them bigger as the roots grow bigger.
Built during Javarman VII's reign, it is typical of the Bayon style of architecture.
There are so many different forms the roots take, so I've thrown them all into a travelogue.
Erected by Jayavarman VII at the end of XII century, The Bayon is located in the geographical heart of Angkor Thom. The fifty four tower temple is a quite remarkable sight. Initially the temple seems to be a shapeless
mass of grey and brown stone but as one approaches one realises that each of the towers is in fact carved and there are over two hundred huge enigmatic faces of Avalokitesharva bearing down on you wherever you turn. The Bayon is easily the most popular sight after Angkor Wat and no visit is complete without a trip to see this amazing and unique temple.
So many hands went into building this temple, but none were able to put the finishing touches to it. It started with Jayavarman V, then continued under Jayaviravarman and finally Suryavarman I.
The temple known as the "mountain with the golden peaks", was built as a depiction of Mount Neru, home of the gods. It was also located near the East Baray, making it a pretty scenic sight in it's day.
It was said that with the death of Jayavarman V, the following kings did nothing much to the completion of the temple.
My guide has his own beliefs. He learnt that since the temple was the highest building in its time, lightning struck it three times and with that, the kings deemed this place as more than a curse than a place to seek good health and fortune.
Originally known as Rajavihara, Ta Prohm is a must-see after Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. King Jayavarman VII built this temple as a dedication to his mother. This locale was used as a monestary and also a university.
In its heyday as listed in a Sanskrit inscription, the temple took about 80,000 people to maintain and it also came with priests and dancers. It is also said that the temple also housed many valuable items such as pearls, diamonds and precious stones.
These guys were rich!
As what one can see when visiting the castles of Scotland, moats prove to be very effective form of protection against the enemies. It slows down the progress of the intruders and make it difficult for them to enter the compounds of the area once the main doors are closed.
With the Khmer saying of "Where there's water, there's fish", I'd believe that this was also a place where the inhabitants can do their fishing.
Today, these moats have dried up and have been taken over by trees.
The temple had been abandoned since the fall of the Khmer empire in the 15th century and was only discovered about 500 years later. This allowed the Spung trees and other destructive trees such as Stranglers Figs to over-run the entire complex.
There are so many temples to visit and many a times I do not recommend tour groups is because they would just ship you off from one destination to another. If you really want to experience the temple to the fullest, travel by yourself. Hire a guide if you think you want to hear more abou the temples. If not, a visitors' guide may be good enough.
But one other good thing when visiting the temple is to also look at the locals who lodge around the temple area. This little girl was moving along Ta Prohm and she looked so accustom to the place that it is not difficult to bring yourself back in time and thinking that this little girl came from that era.
As the western saying goes, "Take your time to smell the roses", and you will be able to immerse yourself, albeit superficially, to the Khmer culture.