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Exploring Angkor (2)

CAMBODIA | Monday, 25 February 2008 | Views [542]


In attempt to beat the crowds at one of the most popular temples of Angkor, we left at 8am to venture to Ta Prohm. It seems we should’ve left earlier since there were buses already lined up outside the grounds! No wonder this temple is the most popular and was used in Tomb Raider. It is definitely impressive. The temple has been largely left untouched by archaeologists and the star attraction would be the century-old trees almost structurally holding the temple walls up. Also commonly known as the Jungle Temple, the original design was typical of ‘flat’ Khmer architecture however it is probably the most photogenic and visually stimulating temple in the Angkor group.

Next it was on to Angkor Thom. This magnificent ruined city was the work of no other than King Jayavarman VII. Nearly 80,000 people help to maintain and entertain the palace including 615 dancers! The entrance to this lost city is called Victory Gate. This tower shows Bayon architecture with the tell-tale sign of the four faces embedded in the top. The road leading up to the gate is lined with 54 god heads on the left and 54 demon heads on the right. You can tell which ones are gods by the almond shape of their eyes and the demons by the round shape.

We walked around the grand stage of the Terrace of the Elephants. The terrace was used by King Jayavarman VII as a platform to watch his victorious army returning to the Kingdom and also other entertaining ceremonies. Around to the right of the stage you stumble on a wall of carvings and a replica statue of Yama (the God of death) – an area known as Leper King Terrace. The statue was apparently called the Leper King because of the moss that was growing on it resembled leprosy and also to align with a Khmer legend telling the story of an Angkorian King with the disease.

We approached Baphuon but could not get too close as they are restoring this temple. It was a victim of the Khmer Rouge. Many of the 300,000 pieces required for this temple have been arranged on the grounds outside the temple and has been noted as a real life jigsaw. It was apparently supposed to be fully restored at the start of 2008, however things haven’t obviously gone to plan.

Next was the Bayon. This intriguing temple showcased many towers with faces on each of the four sides. There are about 200 faces in the complex and you can’t help but feel watched. It is said that the faces resemble that of King Jayavarman VII. This influential (and often accused as egomaniacal) king used this tactic to keep an eye on his people. To me, it rewrites the definition of ‘big brother’. A little disturbing but glorious to photograph! We didn’t stay long here however since the crowds were ridiculous and my camera battery went flat.

Tags: Culture

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