Phnom Penh | Ratanakiri | Sihanouk Ville
 
Visitors can travel to Siemreap either on regular domestic flights, overland or by speedboat along the magnificent Tonle Sap to explore new cultures, meeting local fisherman in their floating villages and tasting ethnic food fares. Angkor Temples are spread throughout the forest. Heading north from Siemreap, you first came to Angkor Wat, then the walled city of Angkor Thom. Further east are temples including Ta Prohm North of Angkor Thom is Preah Kahn and way beyond in the north-east, Banteay Srey and Phnom Kulen.
 
 
  ANGKOR WAT

The Angkor Wat Temple, the mysterious Hindu Temple built by King Suryavarman II at the height of the Khmer Empire in the 12th century is the world's largest temple complex. Consists of many sandstone temples, chapels, causeways, terraces and reservoirs, it is believed that the gods assisted the architect whose identity remains a mystery until today. The walls of the temple are covered with thousands of carving depicting scenes of confrontations between the gods and the demons of classical Hindu mythology. Yet on some are genial-dancing ladies known as "Apsara" and on others depicting royal processions with the king and other royalties riding on elephants. Whatever it is, the carvings are clearly masterpieces in the true sense. There is much about Angkor Wat that is unique among the temples of Angkor. The most significant point is its westward orientation. West is symbolically the direction of death, which once led many scholars to conclude that Angkor Wat was primary a tomb. This was supported by the fact that the magnificent bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat were designed to be viewed in an anticlockwise direction, a practice which has antecedents in Hindu funerary rites.

Vishnu, however, is often associated with the west , and it is commonly accepted nowadays that Angkor Wat was probably both a temple and a mausoleum for Suryavarman II.

 

  ANGKOR THOM

The fortified city of Angkor Thom, some 10sq km in extent, was built by Angkor's greatest King, Jayavarman VII (ruled 1181-1201). Centered on Baphuon, Angkor Thom is enclosed by a square wall 8m high and 12km in length and encircled by moat 100m wide, said to have been inhabited by fierce crocodiles. The city has five monumental gates, one each in the north, west and south walls and two in the east wall. In front of each gate stand giant statues of 54 gods (to the left of the causeway) and 54 demons (to the right of the causeway), a motif taken from the story of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk illustrated in the famous bas-relief at Angkor Wat. In the center of the walled enclosure are the city's most important monuments, including the Bayon, the Baphuon, the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas and the Terrace of Elephants.

 

  BAYON

The Bayon takes an easy second places after Angkor Wat. The smile of the four-faced Bayon has become a world-recognized symbol of Cambodia. The towering faces, reaching up to four meters in height, adorn the Bayon Temple at the exact center of Angkor Thom in Siemreap. As many as 216 faces on the 54 remaining towers, each represented one province of Khmer empire in the ancient time. The Bayon is now known to have been built by Jayavarman VII . There is still much mystery associated with the Bayon - its exact function and symbolism - and this seems only appropriate for a monument whose signature is an enigmatically smiling face.

 

  TERRACE OF ELEPHANTS

The 350m-long Terrace of Elephants was used as a giant reviewing stand for public ceremonies as well as a base for the king's grand audience hall.

The Terrace of Elephants has five extending towards the Center Square, three in the center and one at each end.
The middle section of the retaining wall is decorated with life-size garudas and lions; towards either end are the two parts of the famous parade of elephants.

 

  BANTEAY SREY

Banteay Srey was built in the late 10th century and is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. The temple is square with entrances at the east and west.

Of chief inter-east are the three central towers, which are decorated with male and female divinities and beautiful filigree relief work. Banteay Srey is 21km north-east of the Bayon and 8km west of Phnom Kulen. You can combine a visit here with a trip to the sacred mountain of Phnom Kulen.

 

  TA PROHM

The temple of Ta Prohm rates with Angkor Wat and the Bayon as one of the most popular attractions of Angkor . Ta Prohm is a unique other-world experience. The temple is cloaked in dappled shadow, its crumbling towers and walls locked in the slow muscular embrace of vast root systems. If Angkor Wat , the Bayon and other temples are testimony to the genius of the Angkor-period Khmers, Ta Prohm reminds us equally of the awesome fecundity and power of the jungle. Built in approximately 1186, Ta Prohm was a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of jayavarman VII. Ta Prohm is a temple of towers, close courtyards and narrow corridors. Many of the corridors are impassable, clogged with jumbled piles of delicately carved stone blocks dislodged by the roots of long-decayed trees.

Bas-reliefs on bulging walls are carpeted by lichen, moss and creeping plants, and shrubs sprout from the roofs of monumental porches. Trees, hundreds of years old - some supported by flying buttresses - tower.

 

  PHNOM BA KHENG

Around 400m south of Angkor Thom, the main attraction of Phnom Bakheng is the sunset view of Angkor Wat. Still, the sunset over the Tonle Sap lake is very impressive from the hill. It is also now possible to arrange an elephant ride up the hill and the location certainly makes for one of the more memorable journeys you will make. Phnom Bakheng is also home to the first of the temple mountains built in the near vicinity of Angkor . Yasovarman I (rule 889 - 910) chose Phnom Bakheng over the Rolous area , where previous temples have been built. Phnom Bakheng is a five-tiered temple mountain with seven levels. All of these numbers are of symbolic significance. The seven levels, for example, represent the seven Hindu heavens, while the total number of towers, excluding the Central Sanctuary, is 108, a particularly auspicious number and one which co-relates to the lunar calendar.

 

  PHNOM KULEN

Angkor Wat does not mark the start of the Angkorean Empire begun by Jayavarman II in the 9th century. At just about 42km north of Siem Reap Town, many visitors combine a visit to Phnom Kulen with a trip to the pink sandstone temple of Banteay Srei. But Phnom Kulen is also a change of scenery for those who have spent days looking at the impressive lowland temples and wish to see a different, rural Cambodia, waterfalls and forest. In 802 AD, the mysterious King Jayavarman II proclaimed this place and its surroundings as his empire and declared it free of the rule of Java, and Phnom Kulen was born as the new dynasty's first capital. The peak of Phnom Kulen opens out to a large flat plain. On either side, tall waterfalls crash down the mountain; clean, clear and cool water provide a wonderful place for tourists. Carvings of Brahmin yonis and lingas can be seen etched into the riverbed. A mountain peak temple houses a huge reclining Buddha, gazing serenely out from his peaceful mountain home. This is the largest reclining Buddha in the Kingdom. It is an unforgettable memory of this stunning and exotic Kingdom.

 

  TONLE SAP

This has become a popular excursion for visitors wanting a break from the temples and is easy enough to arrange yourself, get a preview as the floating village is near Phnom Krom where the boat docks. It is very scenic in the warm light of early morning or late afternoon.

On the Tonle Sap lake, there are 3 biospheres and an establish- ment of the bird sanctuary there makes it the most worthwhile and straightforward location to visit. If you are able to visit during the dry season (December to May), the concentration of birds is like something out of a Hitchcock film as water starts to dry up elsewhere.

 

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