Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Ancient Temples of Angkor

The four of us at Angkor Wat
The temples of Angkor Wat are the largest religious site in the world.  Eric, Alasdair, Aunt Jo and I visited Siem Reap, Cambodia to learn more about these ancient and sacred temples. We spent five days in Cambodia, exploring temples, eating delicious Khmer food, learning about history and religion, hanging out and indulging in $7 massages.

Aunt Jo, Al and I flew in two days before Eric who had to stay in Penang to work.  On our first day, we hung out in Siem Reap, had a nice and cheap massage and a fantastic vegetarian dinner! The next morning we had an early start in order to beat the hot Cambodian afternoons.  On day 1 we visited Banteay Srei, Phrea Khan, Neak Poh and the Temple of the Sacred Sword.  Our guide, Thy was amazing, sharing his extensive knowledge and passion with us.  There is no way that I can adequately tell all of the stories or share all of the history of these amazing sites. If you are interested in learning more check out the following links for Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.  Instead of going on and on about all of the temples, check out some of our favorite pictures.  Enjoy!

The Temple of the Sacred Sword

In the early 15th century, the King abandoned Angkor Wat for the safety of Phnom Phen.  The kingdom laid abandoned until it was rediscovered by the French in the late 19th century.  Many of the temples were looted by villagers and "tomb raiders" -- stealing sacred Buddhas, Hindu deities, wooden ceilings, gold and anything of value.  The temples, were then consumed by the surrounding forests, many crumbling by the weight of trees and time.
A temple entry way completely consumed by a tree

Ta Prom -- the temple that Angelina Jole made famous in Tomb Radier
The French and the Japanese have led efforts to restore the temples to their original stature, however, many of the historical plans and documents were destroyed during the rein of the Khmer Rouge, making restoration a very large puzzle.
Collapsed pillars at Ta Prom.  Restoration efforts are underway and the temple should be completed within 3 years

An Afternoon at Angkor Wat
Once Eric arrived, the four of us headed to the largest Temple, Angkor Wat.  Our guide Thy, suggested that we visit in the late afternoon, as crowds would be at a minimum and we could catch the sunset there.  Our experience surpassed my expectations, as we ended up being the very last tourists in the temple, thanks to our guide who is "friends" with the security there.  The shear size and craftsmanship is incredible and a true wonder of the world.
At the moat surrounding the great temple
Reclining Bhudda in the sacred upper level of the temple
Beautifully carved Asparas -- female spirits of the clouds and water in Hindu and Buddhist mythology
Descending the stairs from the top level known as Heaven
The intricit carvings that tell Hindu stories of Gods and creation surround the Temple
Sunset at Angkor Wat
Literally, the last ones at the Great Temple.  A magical experience!
A few more photos from our trip!
Child monks are very common in Cambodia.  Families will send their children to school as monks because they receive free housing, food and education.  We saw hundreds of little monks during our adventure.
Banteay Srei, is known as the pink temple.  This temple is older then Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, but has the most well preserved carvings in the temple system. 

Posing at Ta Prom

The Smiling Faces of the Bayon Temple

Terrace of the Elephants

We had a wonderful trip to Cambodia.  It's easy to see why Angkor Wat is ranked as a "must see" place in this world!

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