Sunday, December 23, 2012

Siem Reap 2 Angkor Wat (12/23/2012)

Sunday, December 23, 2012
We boarded the buses at 8:30 to drive the short distance to Angkor Wat.
Angkor means capital city. Wat is a temple. Angkor Wat was the state temple of the then-capital of the Khmer Empire, built by Suryavarman II in the 12th century as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu. It was never completely finished since work was discontinued after Suryavarman II's death, although it continued to be used. In the 13th century it switched over to being a Buddhist temple. After the 16th century it was neglected, but never really abandoned. The French adopted Cambodia as a protectorate in 1863 and by 1901 the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient (EFEO) took responsibility for cleaning and restoring the site. In time, groups from several countries have sponsored restorations throughout the region. 
UNESCO listed the entire Angkor Archaeological area as a World Cultural Site in 1992 and has provided support for tourist safety by means of wooden steps over the eroding stone stairs and literal wood beam supports where needed.
One's impression of Angkor Wat relies on one's expectations. Some visitors expected a restoration of the scale of the Pyramids in Egypt. Others expected crumbling ruins still overrun by tourists and jungle. What is difficult to anticipate is the sheer size of the complex.
You approach Angkor Wat across a causeway bridging a moat:
Early morning snack opportunity:
The moat is 190 m/623' wide which certainly keeps out the encroaching jungle.

Along the causeway are cruciform terraces, platforms jutting out to each side creating a cross:
Once the entire causeway was lined with a naga balustrade/railing, the naga being a seven-headed serpent:
The naga heads are much eroded:
After crossing the causeway, you reach the outer wall which has five gateways; in the center is the main western gate with a gopura (entrance enclosure or building) in front and a tower above:
To the north and south of the main gate are two lesser gates:
There is an open gallery along the western wall.
Farther north and south are the elephant gates, large enough for an elephant to pass through:
Bullet holes were pointed out:
No area was completely safe from the Khmer Rouge.
Some detail of the stone carvings:
Apsaras are dancing figures:
We entered through the northern elephant gate and looked back along the gallery wall:
A large grassy area stands between the outer wall and inner wall. For the most part, few trees grow here, because the stone foundation is laid so tightly that roots cannot get a proper hold. This was the location of the city, of which there are no remains.
A pair of libraries are located in this expanse:
Along the outer wall are the workshops:
Local families of workers have set up souvenir and snack stands:
At the north pool of water, we took the iconic photo of Angkor Wat:
Now we were ready to see the temple proper on its raised platform. We climbed stairs to the outer gallery:
Around the outside perimeter of this outer gallery are bas reliefs carved in stone depicting Hindu fables or events in Khmer history. The reliefs have been covered with lacquer to protect from touching by visitors, but this has also caused them to turn black:
The reliefs on the northern half of the western wall show the Battle of Lanka from the Hindu epic Ramayama. The corner pavilion has detailed stone carvings as well:
Window balusters:
We followed the northern gallery from west to east:
The reliefs here depicted the battle between the Hindu gods and asuras (a different group of deities).
The Hindu god Shiva:
The Hindu god Vishnu?
We found monkeys along the north gallery:
Macaca fascicularis/Long-tailed Macaques:
A devata (female deity):
We turned the corner to follow the east wall to the east gate leading to the middle gallery, which looked like the one we just came from!
We had to climb those steps to reach the inner gallery. From there, the steps became steeper to reach the top gallery:
The monks managed these steps above, we tourists had handrails on our steps:
The view back down:
Now you could see that the temple proper was built to represent Mount Meru where the Hindu gods resided.
The topmost gallery was an axial gallery within a square gallery. There were towers on the top of the central gallery and each corner, representing the five peaks of Mount Meru.
Kent with the central tower:
Kent laid down on the ground to take this photo:
Here the devatas came in twos and threes:
The central gallery has since become a four-sided shrine to Buddha:
Although the stone carvings on the walls and columns were all of Hindu deities, the statuary was all Buddhist:
View down to the middle gallery, and out towards the western gate:
After we descended, we had photos taken.
Kent and Tamiko with the inner gallery and 4 of the 5 towers:
More devatas:
A section where the bas relief carvings were not completed:
We walked down to the Hall of a Thousand Buddhas where devotees have left donations of Buddhist statuary:
Some monks or monk novices:
Many boys in Cambodia are sent to a monastery for some of their education. If they plan on becoming monks, they have a two-year training, and can become a monk as early as age 15!
My camera was fogging up for some reason:
Monk novices with a camera-phone:
It was time to leave one of the Seven Wonders of the World and have lunch.
Continue with Siem Reap 3 Angkor Thom.

No comments: