The temples to rule them all!

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Flag of Cambodia  , Khétt Siĕm Réab,
Monday, November 28, 2005

Wow. This is one of my main objectives for this trip and it certainly lived up to expectations!

To reduce the risk of exposing everyone to sensory overload I'm going to break this entry into two parts as well. Four days in temple territory saw me take over 400 photos and videos, so I'll let pictures do most of the talking. I will say however that Angkor lived up to all expectations, and although different to the other temple complexes I've visited around Asia, it is definitely the largest, with the most detailed craftsmanship and that happens to be the most well preserved through time to boot. Lucky Cambodia. This place is absolutely awesome - the Khmers should rightfully take their place at the pinnacle of architects and craftsmen we have known throughout time.

As with Bagan I'll break these up into specific temples and post the best photos from each. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate most of the time, bland overcast conditions prevailed. However, these spectacular temples and monuments transcend the weather so enjoy anyway.

Bayon temple - The Big Heads

From a distance this temple looks like piles of nicely stacked but well weathered rocks. Go inside however and meet some of the 216 mysterious faces that grace its walls. Undoubtedly a major highlight of any Angkor visit.

Ta Prohm

Made famous in guidebooks and Tomb Raider movies/games, this temple is slowly being reclaimed by the surrounding jungle of huge ficus trees that take root in its foundations and slowly break up the structure, as the tree grows. Massive root systems ooze over the temple in a variety of places, making this a must see of any visit. I started by circumnavigating the outer structure and spiralling my way into the centre, spending a couple of hours doing so in this deceptively large ruin. It seemingly kept getting bigger and bigger!. Amazing sights appeared around almost every corner, including a possibly rabid dog which was a little disconcerting (he looked angry enough for me to flee anyway).

Angkor Wat

Finally Angkor Wat, by far the largest and best maintained temple in the region, which is deservedly the centre of attention for the thousands of tourists that descend upon the area every day. Apparently the largest religous structure in the world, it is also unique in the world in that it is still a working temple.

I came here at the end of my first day so didn't give it the time that it really deserved (hard to do as there are people everywhere!). Still, I climbed to the top, talked to monks and ended up with a ride in the Angkor Balloon ($US15) to get a great eagle eye view of the massive complex.

I'll cut it here but check out the next entry as well because there's a bunch of cool but less well known stuff in there too!

For your info:

- the area is situated according to the high water level of the nearby Tonle Sap Lake (claimed to be the largest fresh water lake in the world), which expands to 4 times its original size in the wet season and allows the locals to grow rice all year round
- all sandstone used to construct Angkor was brought from over 50 kilometres away
- the middle of the five central towers rises over 55 metres in height
- the outer walls are each around 1km in length
- the surrounding 200 metre wide moat forms a giant enclosing rectangle 1.5km x 1.3km in size. Poor slaves digging that monster pool!

The result dwarfs anything you care to compare it with.

Next entry -> more funky temples, river-bed carvings and Siem Reap itself

Words from the Wise # 71

"Take only pictures, cast only shadows, leave only ripples of understanding as you travel the world."

David Bellamy
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