Monday, 31 March 2014

Angkor Wat

The reason for our visit to Cambodia was Angkor Wat, the ancient temple built in the 12th century and rediscovered by the French in the mid 19th century.  Restoration work continued (with interruptions) to this day and when we visited, parts of the temples are still being restored.  

It is considered the largest religious monument in the world and huge crowds visit throughout the year. February is the last month of the dry season so the place was packed but apparently not as bad as in the really high season from November to January.  Picture-taking under the circumstances was an interesting logistical challenge - it did take longer than if there were no crowds but I was constantly surprised by how patience was often rewarded - somehow there would always be a break in the crowd if you wait long enough.  Sometimes I had to weigh whether it was worth waiting for a people-less structure when in fact, the building could look more interesting with some people on the steps.  On the other hand, not every tourist would fit the bill for a suitable adornment for the stunning stones.

It helped that our guide knew every corner of the grounds and was able to take us via quieter routes to our various sights.  I mentioned to him my frustration of being unable to take a people-less shot of a long corridor and he found me a similar corridor in a less frequented part of the temple.  I was incredulous, ecstatic, when I saw the empty corridor and took several shots of it.  Ironically the one I finally picked was one that had a person appearing at the other end of the corridor (see below)!

Our first glimpse of Angkor Wat across the river.

A closer view through the window of the library building on the grounds
One of two libraries on the grounds of the main temple - it's a great spot for sunrise in Angkor Wat (which this crowd just finished watching)

Some of  the gorgeous bas reliefs on the walls of the temple - these depict Apsaras (supernatural female dancers)

The temple stands on terraces, each higher than the other above the city at ground level.  These steep steps take visitors up to the second level - symbolic of how hard it is to go up to the kingdom of god.  Once you get up there to the second level terrace, there are more steps going up to the highest level of the temple.  

The temple is active and appropriate attire is required of visitors.  The statues of the gods are dressed up for worship.  

A long list of things that are not allowed at the Angkor site

Looking up at the top of the tower on the highest terrace

Looking down from the top level at the two sets of walls that enclose the temple from the forests beyond
Lotus bud shaped central tower

The beautiful central courtyard on the upper level

Looking down on the tourists who chose not to climb the steps up to the topmost level

Detail of the decorative mouldings around the portals

Long corridor completely covered with bas relief frieze depicting Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata
The bas-relief of the Churning of the Sea of Milk shows Vishnu in the centre, his turtle Avatar Kurma below, asuras and devas to left and right, and apsaras and Indra above - tug of war using the snake.

The eastern aspect of the complex 

The temple is supposed to represent Mount Meru, the home of the Hindu gods: the central towers symbolise the five peaks of the mountain, and the walls and moat, the surrounding mountain ranges and ocean.  Sunrise over Mount Meru is a sight worth getting up for. Everyone in the crowd that started gathering at five o'clock when it was still dark seemed to think so.  It was quite a party and the hawkers were able to sell many coffees and pancake breakfasts, taking orders and delivering them to customers at their respective viewing spots at minimal costs.

Worth getting up for!

Next post:  Beyond the main temple


  1. Amazing sights. The weather was hot, but not unbearable!

  2. I like that long corridor with the person's figure at the very end. Good choice and very nice!
    For the Verboten sign - I have one symbol I can't figure out: from top to bottom, left to right:

    No video
    No smoking
    No guns, knife
    No walking stick, umbrella
    Use trash can
    No touching
    No spitting
    No food
    No drink (or no gas can)?
    Must wear clothes
    No talking
    No littering
    No dogs
    No indecent clothes

    Can you fill in the question marks?
    PS Good thing they didn't say No cameras

  3. H gotts, I think the last one is no shorts, no skirts, no bare arms.

  4. I would amend that to no bare chest and arms...