the former capital of the Khmer Empire
Around 2:00 am we arrive at our destination. We quickly find a hotel and go to sleep to regenerate our strength for the next day. We plan to visit the biggest attraction in this part of Asia, which attracts crowds of tourists from all over the world, namely the ruins of Angkor.
The historic city complex of Angkor is a remnant of the former capital of the Khmer Empire. In modern Khmer language, Angkor means "capital" or "holy city". The Khmer Empire is considered a continuation of Funan (1st century BC - 6th century AD) and the later Chenla kingdom (7th - 8th century), the earlier states of Indochina in the lower Mekong region, and is officially recognized as the state from which it was constituted today's Kingdom of Cambodia. The Angkor Monument Complex consists of many stone buildings, cities, temples, woodlands and water reservoirs covering an area of over 300 km², located a few kilometers from Siem Reap. It is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is considered the largest city in the world in the period before the industrial revolution. It is estimated to have a population of about a million, while at the same time London's population was 50,000.
We decide to spend two or three days on sightseeing. As we did not have much sleep last night, on the first day we move around the complex by tuk-tuk. Our driver, who had brought us to the hotel the night before, turned out to be a very nice and helpful person. He took us around places in the far corners of the complex, spending the whole day with us. First, we visit the ruins of a small temple of Prasat Kravan. Built in the 10th century, a group of five red brick towers was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. Then we go to the Buddhist temple of Banteay Kdei. It was built at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries during the reign of King Jayanarman VII. Another place is a Buddhist temple built in the 12th century, dedicated to the mother of the current ruler. It is one of the showpieces of Angkor, and it owes it to its unique appearance, as if from the Indiana Jones movies. Looking at this place, you have the impression that the jungle wanted to take over this building, growing its huge roots into the walls of the building, breaking it piece by piece. No wonder that the makers of the Tomb Rider movie chose this place for their movie set.
Another facility, we like it very much. It is the temple-hill Ta Keo. It resembles a little of the pyramids found in South and Central America. The possibility of going up the steep stairs and the view of the surrounding jungle provide many positive impressions. Just before the lunch break, we visit two more places, Chau Say Tevoda and Thommanon. These are Hindu temples from the 12th century dedicated to the gods of Shiva and Vishnu. They were built during the reign of Suryavarman II.
During a lunch break, we come across one of the monkeys living in this area. In addition to them, the whole stay here is accompanied by the sounds of parrots living in the surrounding trees. After lunch, we visit the temples of Bayon, built of 54 towers, on which there are 216 faces looking down on the surroundings. To wait until the sun goes down, we walk towards the pyramidal temple of Baphuon. Unfortunately, only one of us visits it, as Viola had been denied an entry. The reason is inadequate clothing, i.e. bare knees, and shoulders. To admire the sunset, we go to Phnom Bakheng, a temple located on a hill. After reaching the top, it turns out that we must stand in a queue of over a hundred people to get to a place from which you can see the setting sun. As not long ago we had the opportunity to admire a similar show on the Mekong river, we give up and return to the hotel.
In the evening we visit Siem Reap, which scares us a bit. The city is full of tourists, bars, restaurants, ladyboys and other things drawn from the world of the west. This is not what we want to see in Asia. Tomorrow we are taking a break from the ruins of Angkor, so maybe during the day, when the crowds are busy sightseeing, we will be able to find better sides of the city.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
NEXT: Coming next Wednesday ⇒