Temples of Angkor: A Fallen Power

 

 

Riches to rubble

… A FALLEN POWER… 

  

 As you can probably imagine Cambodia’s road system is far from fantastic. There are no road signs anywhere other than for Phnom Penh. ‘Phnom Penh – 800km’ … ‘Phnom Penh – 650km’ … ‘Phnom Penh – 1,940,500 km’!!!! So, we had to go north to Siem Reap with the ever so slight detour of going 5 hours east to Phnom Penh first! We eventually reached Siem Reap & began exploring the city, wandering through the central market, scouring the stalls for any tangible goods. The markets & bars of Siem Reap are certainly interesting but there undoubtedly dwarfed by the main attraction. The temples of Angkor.

Siem Reap is the site of over 100 ancient temples built by the kings of the Khmer Empire between the 9th & 13th centuries. After our city stroll we headed to the temples for sunset, booking the same tuk tuk driver for a bigger tour the following morning. The sunset was not inspiring to be honest as it was pretty cloudy, but the temple & the views were exquisite. There was one scene that was particularly perfect. A monk, draped in his orange robe, smooth scalp, was perched atop a fallen pillar peering out across the verdurous landscape at the crown jewel of the Khmer empire, Angkor Wat… very poetic.

The next morning we left our hotel … yes, hotel, not guesthouse! … early & ventured to the temples of Angkor. The temples are set in the middle of the jungle, remaining facets of a fallen empire, untouched for centuries, left to the mercy of the tropical forest. The once awesome powers of the Angkorian people, these enormous stone structures, now immersed in crawling vines & sprawling trees. The French discoverers of the area in the 19th century were, quite obviously, gob smacked.

Breathtaking Bayon

Faces of Bayon

After entering the ancient city gates of Angkor Thom we stopped off at Bayon, an awe-inspiring feat of Angkorian architecture. The faces of Bayon towered above the upper terrace, once overlooking the mighty Khmer empire. Four faces carved into countless towers, facing the four points of the compass with a beaming smile. The lower terrace boasts yet more wonderment with bas-reliefs of Angkorian life carefully cut into the soverign stone walls. It was truly breathtaking.

Serpian senitals

Bas-releifs at Bayon

We left Bayon & walked along the Terrace of Elephants & the Leper King terrace … not the grandest title for a monarch !!… but a pretty cool terrace. Nearby was an Inca-looking temple which was pretty steep, & James & I stupidly decided that scaling up the side of it would be a fantastic idea … little did we know that there was a set of stairs up the damn thing around the back!! But to the amusement of all those clever folk who used the stairs we did it ancient stylee. 

Continuous corridors

 We got back in our tuk tuk & headed to the mazy temple of Preah Khan & wandered through the ruins for a while. Long corridors crossed & weaved, all leading to vast empty spaces that where once grand rooms. 

a resignation to roots

Our penultimate stop was Ta Prohm, where the wilderness meets civilisation. This once awesome temple has been almost completely taken over by humongous trees, which makes it far more fascinating. If it was immaculate I wouldn’t have been nearly as impressed. 

Reckless roots

Roots cracking through the stone structure, vines sprawling across the once wonderous construction of the Khmer. It is doubtful whether Ta Prohm was ever more magical in its prime than it is today.   

We rounded off the day with Angkor Wat… the diamond in the rough. Unlike the other temples Angkor Wat is in almost pristine condition & is BY FAR the largest of the temples, & is in fact THE largest religious building in the WORLD. Also dissimilar to the others it sits outside the grand gates of Angkor Thom, large enough to fend for itself. Angkor Wat is the epitome of grandeur, with concentric galleries spreading from the centre & bas-reliefs sweeping across the vast walls. The sun once again set through overcast skies & rain was looming large, but nothing could dampen spirits while in awe of Angkor Wat.

Moat around majesty

Awesome Angkor

 

Siem Reap was finished off in style with an awesome meal in a restaurant called ‘Dead fish Tower’, where we fed two crocodiles! … very random, but no joke … & a final, HEAVY night out with James & Jules as they went on to Vietnam, via Phnom Penh of course, & Nicky & I went across the border back into Thailand, returning to the backpacker mecca of Bangkok before heading south for the beaches.

 

 

 

 

~ Rhys ~

 

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