Cambodia reminds me a little of Saskatchewan. No really! They are both extremely flat. Except, instead of brown soil Cambodia has red, instead of wheat there is rice and instead of grain elevators there are huge magnificent temples. Ya know... same same but different.
Having traveled many months, seen many temples and taken many, many, many pictures, I thought I might be a little temple tired and photoed out. Thankfully, Angkor Wat and the sprawling area gave me new life and excitement. It's absolutely incredible how many temples there are here. I think I've achieved enlightenment just from the number of temples I went to.
Angkor is the best restored and most visited temple in the region and for good reason. It is the largest religious site in the world and absolutely marvelous. Angkor Wat was originally a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, then later changed to a Buddhist temple. Like many temples of this time it represents the 5 peaks of Mt. Meru, the home of Hindu gods.
As you walk through the outer gate you are taken over by the intricate and beautiful bas reliefs that surround the temple walls as they tell the story of ancient Hindu lore. The bas reliefs are very well preserved and cover all four outer temple walls, all the way around, top to bottom. Very impressive. Once instide you are treated to Buddha statues, hundreds of Apsara's (female spirits of the clouds) and the five towers of Mount Meru. This is one site I went to twice to make sure I absorbed as much as I could.
Ankor Thom (Great City) was the last capital city of the mighty Khmer. Covering nine square kilometers it is a vast collection of monuments. By far my favorite was Bayon and its 216 enigmatic faces smiling at you ever so gently. Built primarily as a Buddhist temple, it was dedicated to the Boddhisattva of compassion called Avalokitesvara. It's faces however bare a remarkable resemblance to the builder, King Jayavarman VII. It was common for the King to think of himself as a god. No matter where you are in the temple you have at least half a dozen faces looking over you.
My favorite temple at Angkor Park was Banteay Srei (Citadel of Women). This site has some of the most interesting and intricate carvings in the area. Stunning red rock, multitude of gorgeous carvings and its many small temples can keep you transfixed for hours. Even though it is much smaller than most temples in the area, I spent an equal amount of time here. It is said that only a woman could have made something so radiant and meticulous as this monument.
Ta Prohm is a temple that they have left almost the way they found it. All of the small vegetation is cleared away but the big trees are left as is and give the temple a very atmospheric and picturesque feel. As you walk through you see how the trees have wormed there way through stones and walls taking over the temple. You would feel like you just discovered it... if it wasn't for the 100 other people beside you. If you're a fan of the Tomb Raider movie (although I can't imagine who would be) then you will recognize it.
There were at least a dozen more temples I went to but these are the ones that stood out for me. The others are beautiful as well but would take to much time and space to mention them all.
The Angkor Park is a never ending site of monuments that can keep you busy for a solid week. I did three days and needed to catch my breath. One day off then it is off to Koh Ker and Beng Mealea.
Unfortunately I shot all my pictures in the RAW format and I need a special program to edit them. So, no pics of Angkor Wat just yet but soon.