Grand Tour

Grand Tour

Our second day in Siem Reap started in the wee hours of the morning. To catch sunrise at 6:18am and to get an unobstructed shot of the temple reflected off the Northern pond, we needed to leave the hotel at 4:40am to get to the Angkor Wat gate at opening at 5am. For those lucky ones who didn’t really care about getting the shot, and just want to be at the Wat at sunrise, they got to sleep in for an extra hour.

The heart marks the spot to take the photo.
Was this worth getting eaten alive by mosquitoes for an hour? Sure, as long as I didn’t return from the trip with Malaria.
Relatively thin crowd of photographers. The early birds got to stand on pieces of logs, while the late comers were stuck in the muck.

By the time we’d had enough, we decided to make a quick trip back to the hotel for breakfast before continuing on our day. By 9:30am, we were back at the park.

Tonle Ohm Gate, the southern gate leading into Angkor Thom.

A hundred and eight restored and unrestored sculptures flanking the bridge. Fifty-four devas (guardian gods) pulling the naga’s head on the right hand side of the bridge, and 54 asuras (demon gods) pulling on its tail on the left, symbolizing the Churning of the Sea.
Stone faces adorn the top of the gate.

Baphuon Temple, built in the late 11th century by Udayadityavarman II, is a 3- tiered temple mountain. It follows the Khmer architectural layout with a central shrine, a courtyard, an enclosing wall, and a moat. With it built on sandy terrain, the temple was never on stable ground. By the 20th century, the temple had largely collapsed. It took 51 years for the entire anastylosis – process of deconstructing and reconstructing the temple, to be completed. The “largest 3D jigsaw puzzle in the world” was finally open to public in 2011.

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Intricate carvings cover every available surface. Even on walls facing another wall separated by a foot of space. Makes you wonder if the “jigsaw puzzle” was incorrectly put together.
Bas-relief of a soldier with a kukri and hanuman.

Preah Khan Temple was built in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII dedicated to his father. Unlike his Hindu predecessors, Jayavarman VII was a Buddhist, and had Buddha carvings throughout. These were later destroyed by his son Jayavarman VIII who reverted back to Hinduism.

The bridge over the moat – a deva holding onto the naga body.
On the outer wall – a Garuda holding a naga. All the Buddha carving above it, destroyed.
The west entrance
Stupa in the center of the temple
Temple is left largely unrestored.

Neak Poan built during the time of Jayavarman VII sits in the middle of a lake.

Walkway leading to the island where the temple sits.
Temple ruins in the middle of a smaller pond.
As the Tanzanians would call it – “bush AC”, the natural breeze was a welcome change in between temple visits.

Ta Som, another temple built by Jayavarman VII in honor of his father.

A gopura carved with faces in the Bayon style.
Another temple left largely unrestored.

East Mebon, a 10th century Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, stands out with it 4 stone guarding elephants.

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Pre Rup, another Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva built in the 10th century, is a combination brick, laterite, and sandstone structure.

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Central prasat

By the time we were done, we were hot, tired, and “templed out”. Would a four-day itinerary have been better? Perhaps, but I think we did the best we could have given the circumstances that were out of our control. With that said, Angkor Wat was definitely the highlight of our brief South East Asia trip.

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