April 11, 2013

Taking on the angkors : Next stop - Angkor Thom

So here's next, after our trip to the well-known popular Angkor Wat. We headed up north to the 3km 2 (got no idea how to do the per square feet thingie)  walled and moated royal city, the last capital of the Angkorian empire, Angkor Thom (translated : Big Angkor). Unlike Angkor Wat, Angkot Thom is much bigger with a various building s and temples. There are 5 entrance leading to this city and each crowned by 4 giant heads

The moat. Oh so pretty.. 

We entered via the South Gate, which was so narrow that only 1 vehicle or animal can pass through at 1 time. The driver dropped us on the bridge to take some photos and waited for us on the other side of the gate. 

First stop, Bayon. Bayon is like the 2nd most popular temple to visit as its giant stone faces are the most recognizable images connected to the classic Khmer art and architecture. There are 37 towers and most towers has the 4 faces facing the 4 direction The faces are still being debated on who is represents. 

There was this structure, outside, with caved in ceilings but it was high enough to provide us a vantage point. However, the climb up and down was treacherous. It's about 1 1/2 story high. The steps are about 1 feet high and only 3-5 inches width, with worn out edges. If took all concentration and hands to do the climb. We were told that it used to the the library. 

I honestly didn't quite enjoy this as quite a large area was block of and there were too freaking many umbrellas. Oh, and its super duper hot. as its opened air. 

Next, we took a 7 minutes walk across to Baphoun. Baphoun is a large mountain temple, located in the heart of Angkor Thom. Alas, I was not able to enter as I was in shorts. Luckily, there were some trees-shaded area with large stones for seats just off the side, where I waited, played hide-and-sneak with some creepy crawlies and hopelessly trying to ignore some loud Chinese tourists. 

However, I was able to spot the fame reclining Buddha from the back. can you see it?  

From the back of Baphoun, we decided to take the back way to the Royal Palace area. The walk was peaceful as it was shaded with beautiful large trees but slightly scary at the same time, as we only spotted a couple of people during the walk. However, we were  hijacked by this young 11-years old Cambodia boy who spouted out stories after stories, histories, tales as we walked. As informative as a tour guide but with less finesse. 

Phimeanakas, a big laterite and sandstone pyramid, which served as the king's temple. Its uninteresting except for the fact that its the largest scalable temple in Angkor Thom. View is barely there. All I could see were tree-tops. However, legend has it that golden tower crowned the temple, which was inhabited by a serpent, who would transformed into a woman. The kings of Angkor were required to make love to the serpent every night, lest disaster befall him or his kingdom. 

From Phimeanakas, we walk across the cool shaded forest to Preah Palilay. It's a singular tower which mostly lay in ruins. Our young tour guide told some weird story about how people came to steal Buddha heads, which sparked my curiosity. So I climbed up the tower, where in the middle, lay a piles of stones, fallen in and maybe just a resemblance of a headless half body of a statue. 

We headed back away form the shade of the forest to the Terrace of the Leper King, where our driver awaits. Alas, no picture of the Terrance but here's a little background. 

The Terrace of the Leper King is deeply carved with nagas, demons and other mythological beings. The terrace was named for the stature of the 'Leper King' which sits at the top. Guide Book says "Why the statue is known as the 'leper king' is a natter of debate. Some argue that when the stature was found, its lichen-eaten condition gave it the appearance of leprosy. Others have argued that is it a stature of the leper king of Khmer legend, or that the condition of the stature inspired its connection to the legend. However, the stature display at the terrace is a replica. The original resides in the National Museum in Phnom Penh. "

We left Angkor Thom tired and hot, ready to head back to the hotel, but not before stopping for lunch. Hopefully, lunch will rejuvenate us for more temples before heading back. 

*Photos taken with ipad mini and Kodak Easy Share Z812 IS. 

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