Reap I don’t normally use this blog. First of all I don’t know what to write about and secondly, I don’t have much of a following. So whatever I post will be for me.
For 10+ years I’ve wanted to visit Angkor Wat. For me Cambodia was never really on the way to anywhere else. That sounds awful because it sounds as if I would have no other reason to go to Cambodia.
What more if left to say? It’s going to be an amazing experience. I would offer to the new traveler that when going to Angkor Wat to familiarize oneself ahead of time of the “must-see’s”. If you say you want to see the main temple you may only get the main temple and not Ta Prahn or Bayon. These are within the area but you’ll need an all-day pass which cost about $32 for 1 day. You can get the 3 day pass which I recommend if you want to see these places in depth.
Frequently I imagine a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard or Robert E. Howard. I suppose it depends on what your early influences are. Could be Kipling for others. I read a lot of V.S. Naipaul and Paul Theroux so I am often taken to romantic ideas of places that travel writers tell us about.
It is a lovely experience to try to imagine the people, names, the stories of those who came here. The area was built in the 12th and 13th centuries. To be sure it was originally built as a funerary so it faces west. It was originally built as a Hindu temple and later changed to a Buddhist temple in the 13th cent.
The original creator was Suryavarman II and later continued by Jayavarman II.
In the mid-19th century, the temple was visited by the French naturalist and explorer Henri Mouhot, who popularised the site in the West through the publication of travel notes, in which he wrote:
“One of these temples—a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo—might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.”
A lot of people will be quick to remind you the location in and of itself was never “lost” or undiscovered. That it was the French and Portuguese who popularized it is true. It enflamed the imaginations of the West not unlike how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did with the Lost World genre’s and popularized Mt Roraima in Venezuela.
I definitely believe this is a 3 day tour. People will be tempted to visit Pub Street – Siem Reap. That area is the most developed tourist trap I have ever seen in the world of tourist traps. It looks like Chili’s and TGIF’s had kids and exploded into several blocks of chili fries.
I did check out the area and was satisfied to see it only once.
Back to Angkor Wat and surrounding areas.
This was the route I took although to be honest I used a tuk-tuk open cab. It was faster and the driver was also a go-fetch kinda guy for minor things I needed or wanted. Saved me time. I actually went in a counter-clockwise direction but it was the exact same route depicted above. I suppose you won’t go wrong.
Bayon was another fascinating place. I think it’s the location where the final scene for Apocalypse Now as filmed. In fact I’m 99% sure. You’d recognize it from the bas relief’s seen there and the final scene where Marlon Brando’s voice can be heard saying, “The horror… the horror.” Despite Brando’s admonitions there is nothing horrific about beautiful Bayon and it’s temples.
One is often struck by the sheer beauty of the faces in Bayon.
According to Angkor-scholar Maurice Glaize, the Bayon appears “as but a muddle of stones, a sort of moving chaos assaulting the sky.”
What I enjoyed the most was how they were still carved but upon many stones. I wish I knew more about how this was all done. Were the stones hauled there first and then carved or carved somewhere below by master artists and re-assembled later. What was the order of operations?
I think I spent about 2 hours walking around Bayon. There is too much to see but it’s very mystical. I went there in January of 2018 and it was very cool in terms of climate. It wasn’t muggy or oppressively hot. I did that in Thailand in 2016 and visited Wat Arun and Ayatthuya and, my gentle readers, was hot. It was like standing inside of a red brick oven at 150 deg F.
By the way. For those that don’t know, the temples with the cones and narrow tops are called “stupas”.
The walls are covered with apsaras and devatas. In mythology these are female spiritual beings (the dancers) and various gods.
Here are some apsaras below.
If the women are dancing or about to dance they are apsaras. If they are stationary and standing they are devatas. Most devatas can be seen above the entry-ways and on every level of the temples as you go up the stone stairs.
Examples of devata below.
Carlo, thanks. Wonderful write-up.