Tuesday, August 15, 2006


For easy orientation, please click for:

Map of Angkor
Kings of Cambodia
Chronology of Angkor Sites
Some Useful Terms

FIRST ~ The Pass 100806

It is 5.05am when we leave the hotel in darkness. The huge Angkor temple zone is just 6km north, and Angkor Wat is just one of the numerous temple complexes there. Soon we have to stop by a toll plaza to purchase entry tickets. Cambodians enter for free, but foreigners must fork out US$20 per adult (kids below 12 get in for free) for a one-day pass.

The back of the pass. Don't ask me why I'm paying good money to 'Sokha Hotel Co. Ltd.' Just read THIS and THIS.

Posted by Picasa

The Moat 100806

On a cool dawn morning, we arrive with our hired car (+ driver for US$25 a day), to what we think is a beautiful river. No, the friendly Khmer driver politely corrects us, that's Angkor Wat's moat. A moat?

With a full moon to our left, the moat is to our right, and we can't see anything beyond it in the darkness. We are ready for any surprises. That would be an oxymoron, wouldn't it?

The car leaves us at the head of a bridge, which turns out to be a long causeway leading to the main (western) gate of the great temple. The moat is the largest I have ever seen, larger than the ones I've seen in Europe, Japan and China, no contest at all.
Posted by Picasa

The Sunrise 100806

We enter the gate, and are pleasantly surprised to see a healthy crowd just inside the western wall, all sitting on terraces and stones, facing eastwards watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat! Sunrise-watching is definitely a popular daily ritual here.

And it sure beats watching grass grow ...

... or paint dry.
Posted by Picasa

The Sunrise 100806

And this is what everybody is waiting for.

Majestic Angkor Wat, built early 12th century by the Khmer king, Suryavarman II (ruled 1113-1150) as a temple and capital city of the Khmer empire. Started life as a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu, but converted to Buddhist a couple of centuries later. Read more HERE and HERE.

Lions (singha) guard the entrances. For centuries they stood and witnessed everything.
Posted by Picasa

The Faces of Angkor Wat 100806

The full moon sets as the sun rises.

And Angkor Wat begins to reveal itself. Western facade of the temple.

The courtyard, the space between the wall and the temple.
Posted by Picasa

The Inner Sanctum 100806

Inside the temple, a hall of important significance originally full of grandeur, but now made otherwise by the centuries of neglect.

In the hey-days, this place must have been awesome in its pomp and splendour ...

... with holy men and dignitaries shuffling along now-deserted corridors with their lonesome beheaded statues.
Posted by Picasa

Headless 100806

Statues of sacred icons (I can spot a lady there too), heads hacked off by plunderers to be sold off to antique dealers, probably ending up HERE. With or without heads, they remain holy and are treated as such. But still, it is a sad sight.

And the ones that got away are highly revered ...

... and worshipped.
Posted by Picasa

The Towers 100806

The lotus-shaped towers. Five of them in the centre of the temple. One can climb up, but requires some stamina with no fear of heights.

The steps are narrow and steep. A fall can be nasty.

Do not look down when going up or coming down, definitely not like these daredevils!

Posted by Picasa

View from the Top 100806

Looking west. See the faraway wall where the sunrise-worshipping crowd were earlier loitering at.

Not for the faint-hearted, this steep climb. Don't want to be air-flown all the way to Bangkok for a bad fall, right?

Some play it safe and give up right from the outset.
Posted by Picasa

View at the Top 100806

The terrace at the top of the stairs.

Inside, a surreal-looking Buddha, thanks to the flash.
Posted by Picasa

Temple Walk 100806a

The yard between the southern wall and the temple, which faces the west.

The lawn between the eastern wall and the temple, bathed by the glorious morning sun.

One of the towers, made yellow by the sun. Note the steep steps bottom right.
Posted by Picasa
Strolling along the eastern side of the temple.
Posted by Picasa

Temple Walk 100806b

Corridors of the Headless Guardians.

Posted by Picasa

Temple Walk 100806c

Exquisite reliefs of angelic devatas, surviving all these centuries for me to see.

Devatas are pretty. Definitely attractive, these heavenly nymphs.

Posted by Picasa