Time Traveling towards Angkor Wat

Time Traveling towards Angkor Wat

Angkor Exploring Part 6 of 7: Over the next few weeks we will share our experiences visiting Siem Reap and the surrounding area while we are offline in Myanmar.  Articles may load slowly due to the number of photos, but it’ll be worth the wait.  We are presenting the sites in chronological order of construction, the same order in which we visited them.  After providing “Angkor Exploring” as a frame of reference, we will share tips on how to make the most of your trip to one of the world’s wonders.

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Seeing the Angkor Kingdom just like the Angkors themselves, in the order of construction, provides a window into the progression of art forms and construction techniques that led to increasingly impressive sights.  For visitors unsure of their interest in thousand-year old ruins and lacking background in the Angkor Kingdom, following the historical progression will lead you from pleasantly surprised at Preah Ko to blown away at Banteay Srei to astonished at Angkor Wat.

Here is a photo journal of the highlights outside of the main Angkor Archaeological Park that should be on any itinerary.  Banteay Srei and Beng Mealea, will be featured separately.

ROLUOS

In 802 the first Angkor King, Jayavarman II, established Hariharalaya as the capital.  Though it lies near Siem Reap (15 KM), the city began it’s fall from grace when the capital was moved to Angkor.  Now called Roluos, these temples are must sees as the artistry of the period is the basis for Angkor as we know it.

Preah Ko (Family Memorial, 879 AD)

Preah Ko is currently being restored and offers examples of the emerging artistic talents of the growing Angkor Kingdom.  Preah Ko will whet your appetite for the rest of your Angkor experience.

Bakong (State Temple, 881 AD)

North Americans will instantly wonder if they are in Cambodia or Mexico as they climb the “mountain” temple of Bakong.  Reminiscent of Mayan pyramids, it was the state temple.  Mixing size, engineering and artistic detail, Bakong stands tall long after it was abandoned, yet never lost it’s fine touches such as these carvings on each step.  With little protection, these carvings have survived footsteps for 1130 years.

Lolei (Dedicated to Shiva, 893 AD)

Unlike it’s brethren, Lolei is crumbling, standing only with the help of modern braces.  As it crumbles the stunning details of it’s carvings are finding their way into the National Museum in Phnom Penh or private collectors where they will live on, long after Lolei has turned to sand.

Challenging age and gravity, these braces hold one of the main towers from the fate of another tower on site.

Koh Ker (Capital City 928-944 AD)

Like many monarchs, each Angkor King tried to leave his own mark on the empire.  Jayavarman IV decided his would be to move the capital city 100 KM north, to Koh Ker.  Though short-lived, within 20 years he had overseen the completion of a major city.  Visiting Koh Ker is a full day activity due to it’s location, therefore it is difficult to see in chronological order with the others.

What remains today are ruins that have been pillaged or desecrated by the Thais, Burmese and Khmer Rogue.  Yet the centerpiece pyramid, Prasat Thom, has stood the test of time.  Visitors can no longer climb to the top (officially), though rock climbers can risk it.  Due to the tumultuous history in the area, many of the artistic centerpieces have been stolen and sold to collectors.  For example, we saw one of the main gate guardian horses for sale at a Bangkok antiques store for $166,000 USD.

Once a stunning covered walkway now lies in ruin.

Due to time and bullets, many of the bricks have turned to sand.  Visitors looking closely can see Khmer Rogue bullet holes.

After the return of the capital from Koh Ker to the Siem Reap area, the “golden age” of the Angkor Kingdom commenced, beginning with the pinnacle of Angkor art: Banteay Srei (aka Banteay Srey).  From an artistic perspective, this temple puts the others to shame, even the pious Angkor Wat.  Following the construction of Banteay Srei, the Angkor Kings focused within the confines of the main Angkor Archaeological Park, with two mysterious and enormous exceptions, Banteay Samre (below) and Beng Mealea.

Click on Banteay Srei or Beng Mealea to read articles specific to each.

Banteay Samre (Unkown History, ~1150 AD)

For unknown reasons, around 1150, Banteay Samre was built near Banteay Srei.  It is a massive complex that is reminiscent of it’s contemporary, Angkor Wat.  Due to it’s location near Banteay Srei and Landmine Museum, visiting it will probably require breaking from the correct historical ordering.  That said, even out of order, it is a great appetizer for following the Angkor progression into the heart of the Angkor Archaeological Park.

The striking parts of Banteay Samre are the details in addition to sheer size.  Here visitors can see textures, chisel marks and get close-up with the Hindu mythology that adorns the walls.

IF YOU GO:

  • Give it a day. The temples at Roluos, Banteay Samre and Banteay Srei can be visited during one comfortably busy day.  As you make the trip be sure to visit the Landmine Museum.
  • You need an Angkor Archaeological Park Pass to visit these temples with the exception of Koh Ker, which is $10 per person, paid separately.
  • These are worth your time. While your trip to Cambodia may be short, don’t skip these temples if you are interested in art, history and culture.
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Comments

» dad :
May 22, 2011

you would not “allow” me to comment on your final 7th installment, so will do so here……although we were there in Siem Riep for 2 days, this confirms we only saw the “chip of the old block”, so to speak……..we did realize we were in a world hard to visualize and describe, but you and your photos have done this area justice……well done you guys!!!!…..looking forward to your reports on Myanmar, where i am pretty sure i/we will never visit……be safe…..love you…….bka

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.
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