Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat
Trip Start Oct 23, 2011
22Trip End Nov 12, 2011
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Where I stayed
What I did
Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat
Angkor Thom means "the great city" in Khmer and this 12th-century royal Buddhist city has several sights of interest within its walls. Angkor's greatest king, Jayavarman VII who reigned from 1181 to 1219, founded the city of Angkor Thom and at its height may have governed a population of one million people in the surrounding area. It was built in a nearly perfect square, the sides of which run north to south and east to west.
The gates open exactly in the middle of each wall and a bridge extends over the moat to the area outside the royal city. Each gate is flanked with statues of 54 gods on the left and 54 demons on the right.
The vast area of the Angkor Thom ruins, contains many stone temples to explore. The Bayon (circa 1190) is a Buddhist temple but retains elements of Hindu cosmology and imagery. It is well known for its enigmatic smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara and its extraordinary bas-reliefs.
North of the Bayon is Baphuon, a temple built in 1066 and currently in the process of being restored to give visitors an idea of what original temple construction might have been like.
Phimeanakas Temple is another pyramidal representation of Mt. Meru. Most of the decorative features are broken or have disappeared, but it is an interesting structure and can be climbed for good views of Baphuon Temple. We were entirely too hot and tired to tackle the steep steps.
The Terrace of the Elephants served as a viewing platform for royal parties and depicts elephants and garuda (a mythical bird-like creature).
Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat are beautiful but the heat was quite a challenge, even before we arrived back at the hotel we were wiped out.
The hotel has a lovely little patio on the roof where we had breakfast so after a lovely cool shower and a short nap with our body temperatures back down in a normal range we sat on the roof and had a drink before walking to dinner. It was a very difficult day with a lot of walking and very few places to hide from the hot sun and nowhere to escape the fierce humidity. We decided that tomorrow a half-day excursion made much more sense.
Bond, our official guide was fantastic, a real history buff, he had our heads spinning with unfamiliar names and dates but it was nice to at least understand a little bit of the complicated history, the story of the wonderful bas reliefs of gain some understanding of the symbols. We arranged for them to join us again tomorrow. WIth the short time we are here it really was an asset to have Bond's narrative and at $10 a day each a remarkable value. Had I more time I would liked to have revisited at sunrise for the light. We did escape the crowds but the heat was overwhelming.