Friday, August 18, 2006


For easy orientation, please click for:

Map of Angkor
Kings of Cambodia
Chronology of Angkor Sites

FIRST ~ The Grand Entrance 100806

We head for the entrance to Angkor Thom, the most famous capital of the ancient Khmer kingdom. Located just north of Angkor Wat, it was built late 12th century by Jayavarman VII. The causeway leading to the main southern gate is flanked by rows of personalities from Hindu mythology.

To the left, the good guys, the 54 devas, and ...

... to the right, the bad guys, the 54 asuras.

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The Asura and the Moat 100806

Beady eyes of a mean-looking asura. You would not want to bump into this chap in the alleyways.

Asura's profile, against the morning sun.

Did I mention causeway? Then here's the moat, or what's left of it on the devas' side.

On the asuras' side, the moat still looks like a moat.
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The Gate 100806

The imposing entrance gate, with the 4 faces. Of whom? The jury is still out, though most say they are the faces of Jayavarman VII himself.

Another view of the gate, which faces south and the road leading to Angkor Wat.

Close-up of one of the mysterious faces. Please see a good write-up HERE.
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The Bayon 100806

A short drive past the narrow passageway at the main gate, we arrive at the Bayon, the flagship temple of Angkor Thom. Buddhist, built in early 13th century by Jayavarman VII, it is the state temple.

To the right, next to the Bayon's entrance, a pile of archaeological rubble. Still priceless, regardless.

Front right portion of the Bayon being put together.
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The Faces of the Bayon 100806

This is what the Bayon is famous for: towers of the four smiling faces, looking north, east, south and west.

There are 200 of these faces, in total (atop 50 towers, of course).

Almost 50m in height.
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Smiling Faces 100806

More towers with smiling faces.

Again a subject of debate. Faces of Avalokiteshvara or Jayavarman VII, or somebody/thing else?

But whatever they are, to come face-to-face with them brings a sense of wonderment and awe.

The serene faces look very much at peace, and so am I, as I gaze upon them. Fascinating stuff!

Quite wholesome lips too. :-)

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Inside the Bayon 100806

Buddhist priests (I am told they are nuns, but they sure look androgynous to me) waiting to offer prayers for visitors. One of them grabs me and shoves 3 joss-sticks into my hand. Facing the Buddha, he utters a prayer in Khmer, before asking me to stick the joss-sticks into a sand-filled container. One quickie prayer for me, done.

There is always something interesting to see at every nook and cranny ...

... that one can easily lose one's way in the maze of the Bayon.

Master jigsaw-puzzlers hard at work.
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The Apsaras, again 100806

Yes, the graceful dancing apsaras are here too.

Every one of these celestial characters is individually unique, in its physical form and expression.

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The Buddhas 100806

On the northern side of the Bayon, rows of Buddhas, and more apsaras.
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Exiting the Bayon 100806

We exit the Bayon through its northern entrance. It looks awesome from this side, with the late morning sun to the left. The towers with the faces look like sentinels on a long sentry duty.

Along the pathway, more huge stones to be reassembled back into the Bayon. Tedious task.

And here, the Japanese are in charge. Please click image for better read.
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Baphuon 100806

From the Bayon, it is a short walk under huge shady trees and through food and souvenir stalls, to Baphuon, a major Hindu temple built mid-11th century by King Udayadityavarman II (ruled 1050-1066), still located inside the Angkor Thom complex. No real harassment from enthusiastic vendors, so it is a pleasant stroll.

To the right, we see more loose stones, each one meticulously catalogued and numbered, hopefully to be reassembled back into Baphuon.

More stones littering the left side of the elevated path (another causeway?) leading to Baphuon's entrance. 3D jigsaw puzzle in its full glory.

Baphuon. Notice the cranes to move the huge heavy stones around, and more steps. We rest here to soak in the atmosphere and decide not to enter Baphuon.
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FINAL ~ Departing Angkor Thom 100806

We are done with Angkor Thom, and decide now to go to Ta Prohm, another major temple in the Angkor complex. We hear this place is spectacular in a unique way, and on the way we pass by more ancient sites, such as this one ...
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This place is a real wonderland and dreamland rolled into one, for all history buffs, amateur or otherwise. Definitely Indiana Jones territory. Possibly more ancient structures to be uncovered in the undergrowths and forests, just need to be mindful of the landmines!