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Angkor Thom

CAMBODIA | Wednesday, 26 November 2008 | Views [1346]

Classic photo, Bayon, Angkor Thom

Classic photo, Bayon, Angkor Thom

What we usually refer to as Angkor Wat is more correctly part of the “Ruins of Angkor.”  Angkor Wat is just the five-towered temple although ‘just’ hardly applies.  Angkor Thom (Great Angkor) is a walled city another mile down the road.

We learned all this last night from studying the map and doing some research.  The problem with the map is the scale; they cover much more territory than we first realized.  Angkor Thom is three kilometers from Angkor Wat, across a 100 meter moat and through the impressive South Gate.  It is exactly what we imagined the complex to be.  The Bayon of Angkor Thom has nearly 50 towers each with four giant Buddha-like faces carved into the stone.  The walls are decorated with intricate carvings depicting daily life in 12th Century Cambodia; wars, dancers and festivals.  Some of the Bayon is undergoing much needed restoration conducted and funded by the Japanese while French archeologists are working on other parts of the complex.

Even after 800 years the jury is still out on the significance of much of the site.  Some “experts” theorize that the giant faces are of Vishnu while others claim they are of the Compassionate Buddha.  Either way there are more than 200 of them and they are spectacular.  The Terrace of the Elephants is aptly named with its elephant carvings but the Terrace of the Leper King is another matter although it too is beautiful.

Around 11:00 it was as if someone rang a dismissal bell and the tour groups dispersed.  The French strode off arrogantly towards their buses.  Germans marched with precision to theirs while the Japanese stopped for one last group photo.  Suddenly we had the entire place nearly to ourselves.  The noonday sun was hot but it was worth it.  We explored for another two hours before peddling back home for a well deserved beer and a swim.

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