Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Seim Reap

Siem Reap

The temples at Angkor were built between the 9th & 13th century. At this time the Angkor empire covered a vast area, north to China and all the way west to the Bay of Bengal. At it's height over a million people are estimated to live in Angkor. However only the Gods were deemed fit to live in stone, so only the temples remain, the wooden houses & buildings long succumbed to the jungle. The temple were "discovered" by Henri Mouhot around 1860. From 1908, a French organisation has made the effort to reclaim the temples from the jungle and preserve them. The trees and plants slowly rip apart the stones, this is most in evidence at Ta Prom.

Ta Prom, a 12th century buddhist temple, has been left in the same state as it was when discovered. So trees sprout from the top of walls and inbetween the stones. Some areas are sectioned off, as they may collapse, bricks lay strewn about. Carvings are everywhere, in particular I liked a face nearly hidden by tree roots, smiling out at you.

Inside the fortified city of Angkor Thom, at the centre lies the Bayon. A temple with more than 200 strangely smiling faces staring down at you. Very odd!

The most famous temple though is Angkor Wat, the nearest temple to town. Surrounded by a huge moat, it sits on an island and is accessible across a long causeway. Then another wall surrounds the edge of the island. Outside the main temple is an 800m long series of baf reliefs. The central temple rises three storeys and 55m, so you get a good view!

Although one thing is, that to get up you have to climb some steep stairs. When you go down they suddenly look very steep! So, you have lots of people slowly crawling down from the top. I cycled around the temple a couple of days. By the third day I was pretty much 'templed out' but took a tuk-tuk out to see Angkor Wat for sunset one final time.

The next day it was off to the captial, Phnom Penh.

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