Discovering the Major Temples of the Ancient Angkor City – Siem Reap, Cambodia Travel Guide
Angkor which means great city, was the capital of the Khmer Empire – an empire that once flourished and had a stronghold over Southeast Asia. The ruins of the ancient city are found in the province of Siem Reap, North West of Cambodia.
As a child I happened to watch an interesting documentary about the Angkor Wat on the National Geographic Channel, since then I was always curious about it and dreamed of seeing the structure that has been compared to the great pyramids of Egypt. Then of course there was the Tomb Raider series and I became a crazy fan of Lara Croft and the mysterious temples. Below are the beautiful temples I visited during my trip.
- The Angkor Wat Temple
The Angkor Wat is the grand attraction of the Angkor Archaeological Park. It was constructed in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II in honor of the Hindu God “Vishnu,” known as the Preserver. At that time Hinduism was the country’s main religion and on the temple walls are intricate carvings of deities and inscriptions from Hindu literature. On one of the walls of Angkor Wat the story of the “Churning of the Ocean of Milk,” is depicted wherein Devas and Asuras (opposing forces) are seen working together in a joint effort to acquire “Amrita” the elixir of immortality.
The Bayon Temple my personal favorite is known as the temple of many smiling faces. This was also one of the film sites of Tomb Raider. Constructed in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman II, it is at the heart of the King’s capital Angkor Thom. Unlike other temples, the Bayon was constructed to honor Buddha at a time when Buddhism had started to spread in the country. At present it is the dominant religion in Cambodia although Hinduism still has a strong influence on modern day culture.
- The Ta Prohm Temple
Ta Prohm is one of the major temples in the park. It was built in the 12th century by King Jayavarman II. It is within the forest and has become popular as the temple with giant trees growing out of its ruins.
- The Banteay Srei Temple
The one feature I loved about the Banteay Srei Temple were the intricate carvings on the shrines, arches and doorways. It was dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. The reddish color of its walls is due to the sandstone used to build it. Fortunately the inscriptions and carvings on the temple were preserved over the centuries.
Banteay Samre is one of the far-out temples. You can classify it as a mid-size temple with lesser visitors. Nevertheless, it has its unique features and impressive design which makes it worth a visit.
The Prasat Kravan is a small Hindu temple built in the 10th century.
- The Baphuon Temple
The Baphuon temple was built in the 11th century in honor of the Hindu God Shiva, “the destroyer.” It’s a short walk from the Bayon Temple. You can also have your tuk tuk driver take you there. It is actively used as a Buddhist temple although visitors are welcome. However, the dress code is strictly enforced and because of that me and my cotton shorts were not allowed inside. Lesson learned – carry a light piece of cloth that you can wrap around your waist or throw over your shoulders to cover you up. Men have to cover up as well.
- The Pre Rup Temple
The Pre Rup temple was my next favorite after the Angkor Wat and the Bayon Temple. It was built in the 10th century, dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. Like the Angkor Wat, this towering temple is ideal for sunrise or sunset viewing. It takes some will power to reach its summit, but the view from up there is worth the effort. Go for it.
There are many other temples within the Angkor Archaeological Park. How many you see will depend on the length of your trip and the time you spend at each temple. Go at your own pace, take in the marvelous scenes, appreciate the history and enjoy that magical feeling of being at the heart of this magnificent ancient empire.
Source: wikipedia.com, Angkor National Museum documentaries.
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