Deep in the jungles of Cambodia, near the city of Siem Reap, lies the ruins of the Angkor temples. Considered to be one of hte wonders of the world, I have always wanted to see these ruins. Teresa and I took off pretty early from our house in Japan to get to the Tokyo International Airport. We then flew 6 hours to Bangkok Thailand where we changed planes to go to Siem Reap, a city in the Kingdom of Cambodia. That was just an hour long flight. Our friend Mike, who is in the Air Force, stationed in Korea got there a day ahead of us.
The city of Siem Reap has many water ways alongside the roads. There really are many houses all over the city and in the countryside made of bamboo frames and palmfrond walls/roofs. Cambodia is definetly a third world country. There were only a few paved roads in the city and to/around the main temples. Most people ride bicycles, or small scooters. The country is pretty low cost...most meals were about $3 to $4 for tourists, and I'm sure the locals could eat for a dollar a day or less.
Most of the downtown city streets were paved. Most of the vehicles were motor scooters, and scooters pulling passengers in rickshaw type devices. These were called "Tuk Tuk's", and were all over the place. $10 got you a driver for the entire day. There are hundreds of Tuk Tuks all over the place, and they seemed to be about the most popular form of transportation we saw. Siem Rep has alot of old French Colonialism influences, and alot of Chinese architecture as well.
We rode a taxi a to our hotel, which was called "GOLDEN ORANGE HOTEL, which is owned and run by an american gentleman who has settled in Cambodia. Our room was a bit on the simple side, but it was clean and had air conditioning. The shower was a bit fruity, as the water pressure was not very good..and the spray of the water got on the toilet and such. (No curtain). But it was only $20 a night, which also included a good breakfast and free internet.
We left the hotel early the next day to go on our first day of temple viewing. We had hired a van, driver and guide for the next two days. The three of us saw about a dozen temples that day, including the world famous (7 wonder of the world list) Angkor Wat. The weather was pretty hot, but not too bad, considering we were not that far from the equator. It was the humidity that we felt the most, but it wasn't too bad.
At all of the shrines, there were lots of little shopping plaza's set up. It was hard to get to these, as the moment you stepped out of your vehicle a dozen small children would come up to you and try to sell you postcards, books, hats and T-shirts.
If you wanted to, you could ride elephants from temple to temple. The trees you see are where you get on and off the elephants.
Here is a "Naga", a multi headed snake being held in place by one of hundreds of warriors. These lined the entrances to most of the larger temples, and are an integral part of the old Cambodian society and religions. A causeway spans the moat in front of each tower: these have a row of devas on the left and asuras on the right, each row holding a naga in the attitude of a tug-of-war. This appears to be a reference to the myth, popular in Angkor, of the Churning of the Sea of Milk.
These ruins date back about a thousand years. The statues are in remarkably good shape, considering how many centuries they have been in the rain, moonsoons, and wars.
This temple gate, to the Angkor Thom complex is one of 4, marks an entrance thru the large stone walls into an enclosure 40 square kilometers across. (About 30 square miles). Millions of people lived in these complexes. Angkor Thom was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by king Jayavarman VII. It covers an area of 9 km², within which are located several monuments from earlier eras as well as those established by Jayavarman and his successors. At the centre of the city is Jayavarman's state temple, the Bayon.

Angkor Thom was established as the capital of Jayavarman VII's empire, and was the centre of his massive building programme. One inscription found in the city refers to Jayavarman as the groom and the city as his bride.

It was not the first Khmer capital on the site, however. Yasodharapura, dating from three centuries earlier, was centred slightly further northwest, and Angkor Thom overlapped parts of it. The most notable earlier temples within the city are the former state temple of Baphuon, and Phimeanakas, which was incorporated into the Royal Palace. The Khmers did not draw any clear distinctions between Angkor Thom and Yashodharapura: even in the fourteenth century an inscription used the earlier name. The name of Angkor Thom — "Great City" — was in use from the 16th century.

The last temple known to have been constructed in Angkor Thom was Mangalartha, which was dedicated in 1295. Thereafter the existing structures continued to be modified from time to time, but any new creations were in perishable materials and have not survived. In the following centuries Angkor Thom remained the capital of a kingdom in decline until it was abandoned some time prior to 1609, when an early western visitor wrote of an uninhabited city, "as fantastic as the Atlantis of Plato" which some thought to have been built by the Roman emperor Trajan.
The faces on the 23 m towers at the city gates (which are later additions to the main structure) take after those of the Bayon, and pose the same problems of interpretation. They may represent the king himself, the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, guardians of the empire's cardinal points, or some combination of these.
Angkor Thom is in the Bayon style. This manifests itself in the large scale of the construction, in the widespread use of laterite, in the face-towers at each of the entrances to the city and in the naga-carrying giant figures which accompany each of the towers.
Within the city was a system of canals, through which water flowed from the northeast to the southwest. The bulk of the land enclosed by the walls would have been occupied by the secular buildings of the city, of which nothing remains. This area is now covered by forest.
The gateways themselves are 3.5 by 7 m, and would originally have been closed with wooden doors. The south gate is now by far the most often visited, as it is the main entrance to the city for tourists.
The city lies on the right bank of the Siem Reap River, a tributary of Tonle Sap, about a quarter of a mile from the river. The south gate of Angkor Thom is 7.2 km north of Siem Reap, and 1.7 km north of the entrance to Angkor Wat.
The walls, 8 m high and flanked by a moat, are each 3 km long, enclosing an area of 9 km². The walls are of laterite buttressed by earth, with a parapet on the top. There are gates at each of the cardinal points, from which roads lead to the Bayon at the centre of the city. As the Bayon itself has no wall or moat of its own, those of the city are interpreted by archaeologists as representing the mountains and oceans surrounding the Bayon's Mount Meru. Another gate — the Victory Gate — is 500 m north of the east gate; the Victory Way runs parallel to the east road to the Victory Square and the Royal Palace north of the Bayon.
Recently, it has been noticed that on one of the ruins, there appears to be a dinosaur carved into the wall. This is most intriging considering the site is centuries old and that the dinosaur carving is surrounded by animals of today, such as elephants, snakes, horses and various other creatures
Other than the Bayon, all the main sites are located west or east of the Victory Square. From south to north these are to the west Baphuon, the Terrace of the Elephants, Phimeanakas and the Royal Palace, the Terrace of the Leper King, Tep Pranam and Preah Palilay; to the east, the Prasats Suor Prat, the South Khleang, the North Khleang, and Preah Pithu.
The Naga is a race of supernatural beings usually depicted with both snake and human attributes, and is revered as the original ancestor of the Cambodian people.
One of the Bayon ruins we visited..which was called Mangalartha I think...
Here I am standing in front of a temple lion and a temple Naga
All of the stones for all of the thousands of temples were transported via canalas to this area from stone quaryies over a hundred miles away.
Most of the ruins were just left to the elements, although some government workers kept the vines and bushes off of them. Some however had international sponsors who have projects going to repair them.
The temples had almost a surreal quality about them. The stones that made the temples showed a tremendous amount of damage because of the elements, but a surprising amount of the carvings and statues are in pretty good shape.
The stone that is used in most of these temples is Laterite, which is a surface formation stone, in hot and wet tropical areas. It is enriched in iron and aluminium and develops by intensive and long lasting weathering of the underlying parent rock. The original color is a rusty red color, and weathers into grey and black.
Here you can see many images of dancers carved into the temples columns.
The temples were originally Hindu, and then Budhist. In both cases, female figures are very popular, both as representing Godesses, but also for fertility and life.
Large numbers of carvings showing the battles that the Khymer Kings won are on most of the temples. Here you can see soldiers using elephants going to war. The war banners are in the shape of crocodile tails, to represent fierceness.
Each king would build at least several temples during his reign, and of course it was natural to show his accomplishments and victories, so that the future would remember him.
Many different civilizations warred with the Khymers, so you can see very different styles of soldiers in the stone carvings.
More soldiers, and monkies are in the trees above them.
Temple dancers.
I think that this crew was not only doing restoration work, but also doing some archeological excavations deep into the temples ground. Deep under the temples were a popular place to bury gold and treasures during times of war. Which was pretty often.
Tall stone towers with the faces of Buddahs looking over the people. Each tower would have at least 4 faces on it, facing each of the four primary directions.
Temple Ruins in Angkor Thom
Temple Ruins in Angkor Thom
Temple Ruins in Angkor Thom
Temple Ruins in Angkor Thom
A very popular worshiping item in the temples are things called "Lingas". These are the stone representation of the "male" anatomy, and is a symbol of good luck and fertility. People would pour water over the "Linga" and the water running off of it would then be cupped by the hand and poured over the persons head. This was a way of blessing that person. Most of the Lingas have been stolen from the ruined temples over the past millenia.
Temple Ruins in Angkor Thom
Temples Godesses
Avalokitesvara or Avalokiteshvar, (In Sanskrit it means the "Lord who looks down") is the bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. He is the most widely revered bodhisattva in Buddhism. Avalokitesvara is also referred to as Padmapani ("Holder of the Lotus") or Lokesvara ("Lord of the World").
Here I am posing out of a temple window
And of course I got Teresa to pose as well. A true Godess!
The faces of Avalokitesvara
The faces of Avalokitesvara
The faces of Avalokitesvara
The faces of Avalokitesvara
Teresa in front of a ruined jungle temple
Each temple had a raised causeway that is used to get to the temple. This represented journeying over the ocean to the Three Mountains of Nirvana, or Heaven.
Almost all of the temples have lost the moats that surrounded them.
But when the temples were new and maintained, all of them had deep moats surrounding them, just like all of the cities.
Jungle trees have helped destroy and preserve ruins
Mike and Teresa posing for a picture at a temple complex gate
Temple Wall
Another temple gate surrounded by jungle trees and vines
The "Elephant" temple. Almost all of the stone elephants are gone now.
Two large swimming pools are in front of this gate. One is about a hundred feet across, and was used for the King. The other is about a thousand feet across and was used for the Queens. The Queens one is so much larger because the King had a large Harem, and so needed the space!
Stone carving on a wall near the Elephant Temple
Godds looking over the people, both to judge and help
A stone Naga surrounded by Gods and Demons
A ruined Khymer Temple
A stone Naga surrounded by Gods and Demons
A ruined Khymer Temple
A ruined Khymer Temple
A ruined Khymer Temple