Sunday, December 23, 2012

Siem Reap 3 Angkor Thom (12/23/2012)

Still Sunday, December 23, 2012
The afternoon tour began at 15:00, to avoid the hottest part of the day. Ha! Our motorcoaches took us back past Angkor Wat and beyond, into the jungle. The entire Angkor Archaeological Park covers 400 sq. km/154 sq. miles, but Angkor Thom is just beyond Angkor Wat. However, we had to change to smaller shuttle buses, since the larger buses cannot go through the gates of the city walls.
Angkor Thom was the royal palace complex of King Jayavarman VII (r 1181-1219). We were dropped off at Preah En Tep, an open Buddhist temple:
Across the street was Bayon, the state temple for King Jayavarman VII:
A much smaller scale compared to Angkor Wat, but the same idea of a "temple mountain" representing Mount Meru.
Similar stone carvings of devatas (female deities):
And dancing apsaras:
We examined the bas reliefs of the eastern half of the southern gallery:
A team from Japan is working on the restoration of the Bayon.
Stone carvings of the Khmer people:
Who battled the Cham people:
Including naval battles:
Other scenes show a chess game:
Smoking opium:
A crocodile grabbing a man who fell overboard:
And a hunter being stalked by a tiger:
Through the wall of the first gallery, we encountered the second gallery:
In this courtyard we were shown the interlocking of the building blocks:
The holes in the blocks which may have been for pegs for either securing the stones or moving them:
The remains of a drainage system:
We climbed to the central gallery for the highlight of the temple, the towers of four faces:
Once there were 54 towers, each with four faces, one on each side. Sources state it is still not known why there were 54 towers. Our guide said there were that many because there were 54 provinces of Cambodia.
It is also a mystery as to whose faces these are. They supposedly resemble King Jayavarman, but perhaps they are the faces of the Avalokiteshvara, Mahayana Buddhism's compassionate bodhisattva, or Buddha himself.
No one seems to have considered the Hindu god Brahma, who had four faces, one each for kindness, mercy, sympathy and impartiality. Instead the guide told us that they were the four faces of Buddha representing kindness, compassion, equality and simplicity.
The photo op was to stand nose-to-nose with one of the face profiles:
 Tamiko wouldn't stick her finger in a face's nose:
More devatas and apsaras:
There is barely any room between one gallery and another:
Deep in the central sanctuary, I decided to go ahead and take an incense stick to make merit, making a donation. It was Kent who put the $1 in the bowl, so he had a braided-yarn bracelet tied around his wrist:
Back in the shuttle buses to be driven to the Terrace of Elephants:
This terrace was used for viewing processions. Along most of the wall are carvings of elephants:
At the outworks are elephant structures where the trunks act as columns:
Garudas (eagle-man creatures) help to hold up the terrace:
The north wall of the stairs is noted for several bas relief carvings, including a polo game:
And wrestlers:
Just north of the Terrace of Elephants is the Terrace of the Leper King:
The terrace is so-named because of a statue that was covered with lichen, making one think the statue was of a king who had died from leprosy. However, the statue itself is marked as Yama, the god of death. This terrace may have been used for cremations.
This terrace had a double wall, and when you walked between them, the inside of the inner wall was covered with stone carvings:
Looking back at the amazing length of the Terrace of Elephants:
Our next stop in the shuttle buses was at the South Gate to Angkor Thom. We were first distracted by seeing a boy being bathed in the moat:
The bridge leading to the South Gate was at a scale to impress:

The balustrades were giants holding a naga (seven-headed serpent):
The figures on the right side were demons:
And gods on the left side:
All leading to the South Gate:
Next, Siem Reap 4 Markets.

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