Saturday, December 10, 2011

Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

From Surin town in Isan, Thailand, theres an hours ride with bus to the Thai Cambodia border at Chong Chom. Its a pretty easy border to pass, but on the Cambodian side theres no buses, because of the bad roads, so the only alternative to get to Sieam Reap is with taxis, which are around 2000 Baht, and takes about 2,5 hours.

Siem Reap is about 15 minutes with Tuk-Tuk from the Angkor temples complex, and is Cambodias major tourist town. Here I stayed in february at Ancient Angkor, and managed to get the same room again, for only 12 dollars. Idid not go around the temples this time, I just wanted to see the elephants stables, so the pictures below are from the february visit.

The Khmer empire and the culture that initiated the temple complex Angkor is connected to the mekong river and the lake Ton le sap. On the map to the right, Mekong river, which starts in China and then flows through Laos, can be seen on the map of Cambodia to the right. During rain season peak, the delta close to Saigon in Vietnam, can not recieve the masses of water that runs to the sea, and something unique takes place: the river starts to flow backwards, and make Ton le Sap increase  several times, leaving nutrition on the banks along the lake, when it dries up again. This process gave the farmers optimal conditions to grow rice with minor work, comparable to the ancient river cultures along the Nile, Yellow river, Indus and Eufrat-Tigris. The overflow of food made this region strong, and was the engine behind the Khmer empire.

During the 12th century Angkor became the capitol of the empire, and king Suryavarman II started to build a temple complex, which was added by later kings, and became the worlds largest temple complex.

So in reality, its not one temple, but many, and one can easily spend a week and watch various parts of the complex, but the first temple you reach on the way from Siem Reap is Angkor Wat.

When I approached Angkor Wat, and took a photo, a moving object in the water moat captured my attention.

When using the camera tele, I saw some sort of floating plant was moving on the surface in distinct direction...

 Which with a closer view turned out to be a human head, someone was swimming secretely in the water, camouflaged by water plants.

The temple complex, first Hindu and then Buddhist, is highly influenced from India, and Ankor Wat itself has towers which are symbolizing Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology.

Its so rich of grand architecture and beautiful impressive stone art, that you can just walk around and admire just about everything for days. Typically, beatiful women carved in stone, callad Apsaras (Devatas in India), are to be seen, and as you can see, thousand of people could not keep their fingers from their breasts.

Mostly every temple has ancient Shiva Lingam statues, symbolizing the male Phallus and female Yoni, The lingam and the yoni have been interpreted as the male and female sexual organs since the end of the 19th century by some scholars, while to practising Hindus they stand for the inseparability of the male and female principles and the totality of creation. The Lingam is supposed to be the origin of the medevial and modern western worlds Maypole.

The last recorded period of Cambodian history at Angkor took place from the 1550s and 1560’s when restoration efforts were undertaken by a Cambodian king named Chan. By the 16th century, Angkor was no longer the center of Cambodian life, since the ports and Chinese maritime trade became more important. 

I will not go into any explanations of the temple, just let you view the power of nature, trees that has modified the stone walls during the last centuries, after Angkor was rediscovered by the french man Henri Mouhot. Henri Mouhot is often credited with discovering Angkor in 1860, although the location and existence of the entire series of Angkor sites was always known to the Khmers and had been visited by several westerners since the 16th century. 

 The carved stones also represent the different powerful kings during the Khmer empire.
For elephant interested persons the stone carving of war elephants from the so called Elephant Terrace may be of interest.
The southern gate
And close to the elephant Terrace, between the Angkor Wat, and the Southern gate, are the stables for the elephants...

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