Angkor Wat/Siem Reap

North Cambodia

September 2018

Regarding Cambodia I’ve divided my writings into two parts. This essay tells only about Angkor Wat and the other is about the whole other destinations I’ve visited in Cambodia.

Now I am going to take you to a mystical journey to the magnificent ancient settlement Angkor Wat. It is a highly respected archeological heritage as it is the largest religious monument in the world. It is located in northwest Cambodia, just 6km away from the city Siem Reap that is the gateway to this spectacular site.
My expedition to Angkor Wat started on an early morning. Watching the sunrise behind the dark silhouettes of the temples was a magnificent start for the day (above).

Stretching over 400 km², including forested areas, this archaeological park contains the magnificent remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire of the 9th to the 15th centuries. It is in Unesco World Heritage list.

Entrance fee is quite expensive. I chose the ticket for one day that was for 37 dollars! But then I found the price understandable after realizing that this massive sized archeological park needed support to be restored. It hosts almost one million visitors a year and I hope the collection of money will benefit for the well being of this great heritage. You can explore here by cycling. Since I wanted to see as much as possible in a limited time of one day, I chose to jump on the tour van of a group of Spanish people I met.

The whole site hosts almost 50 huge temples. While early Angkor temples were built as Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu, after the kingdom converted into Buddhism, Buddhist structures took their place in the whole area.

One of the causes for Angkor Wat’s fame is its extensive decorations, motifs, depictions of Hindu epics on pillars and walls.

Angkor Wat is an amazing blend of spirituality and symmetry, a great and unique example of humanity’s devotion to its gods. A young monk blessed me in the main temple. I was not only entranced by this magnificent massive structures but also having a mystical experience feeling the light of Buddha in my mind and heart.

One of the most spectacular temple is Ta Prohm (above). Its distinctive feature is that it looks like it has been swallowed by the nature. It has an abandoned feel to it.

Hundreds of years old huge trees spring from the structures and rise up into the sky. Walls are carpeted with lichen, moss and creeping plants.

Ta Prohm was in use until 15th century. After that it was abandoned and taken over by nature. Then it was rediscovered in the 19th century.

Bayon also known as the ‘Face Temple’ is one the most impressive temples in the whole area (above). It is a perfect monument with finely balanced elements and proportions.

Its 54 gothic towers are decorated with smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara that is a Bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.

As you walk around, numerous heads are visible at any direction, full face or in profile, sometimes in level with your eyes, sometimes staring down from above.

When I visit this type of ancient places I feel like I am on a journey in time. But here the temples were so mystical, even taking the notion of time away from the mind.

The site also has an enormous system of artificial canals, dikes, and reservoirs that are the integral part of the overall site design. This massive water system was providing the needs of about 750,000 residents in the world’s largest preindustrial city. The water was also used for irrigating crops like rice, which served the Khmer as currency.
If you take a one day ticket, it is allowed to enter the site a day before in the late afternoon. So I took this chance and cycled along some points realizing how massive the whole area is. It was amazing to catch the sunset near this reservoir.

Life goes on in its simplicity near the timeless structures (above). Farmers grazing their animals at the rural side of Angkor Wat.
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Now come join me to explore the other parts of Cambodia in my next essay. There you will get an introduction into the country’s history, culture, rural side, coastlines and islands.

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