November 26, 2013

The Magnificent Angkor Wat [Part 1]

            The splendour and grandeur of Angkor Wat is incomparable, unparalleled and unrivalled.

            Since my last post, I’ve been to Siem Reap twice. By my second trip, I was familiar with Siem Reap's surroundings and yet, the temples, especially Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, never cease to amaze me.

            I have lots of photos to show how beautiful Angkor Wat Archaeological Park is. Some, I’m proud to say, I've captured in its glorious rights but I’d say that most of them, I've failed to do justice.

            Before the detailed tour with pictures to Angkor Wat, here’s a short background of Siem Reap and Angkor.

            Siem Reap, meaning “Siamese Defeated”, is the main gateway of the world to Angkor. It is located in northwestern Cambodia. Also, it is the nearest major city in Thailand, with a travel time of approximately 2 hours to the Cambodia-Thailand border.

            About 8km of travel to the north of Siem Reap’s town center is the city of Angkor. Angkor or “Holy City” is the former capital of Khmer Empire. The empire started in 802 A.D. when the Khmer King Jayavarman II declared himself a “god-king”.

In 1113, Suryavarman II, started the construction of Angkor’s most prominent structure, the Angkor Wat. It took almost 4 decades to finish the temple.

The purpose of Angkor Wat remains indefinite up until today. Some say that it’s a mausoleum for Suryavarman II because it is facing west, while others say that it’s a temple built to worship the Hindu God Vishnu. But the general purpose accepted today is that Angkor Wat functions as both.  

From here on, I’ll be focusing on the architecture of Angkor Wat, so if I’m boring you, just scroll down for the pictures. :)

            Angkor Wat is the largest and most well-maintained temple in Angkor. The concept of the temple is to replicate the universe. The 5 towers of the temple symbolize the peaks of Meru; the moat represents the ocean; while the outer wall represents the edge of the world.

The grounds of the temple cover about 820,000 square meters, with the outer wall measuring at 1,024 meters long and 802 meters wide. It is then surrounded by a 200-meter wide moat with a causeway located in the center of the West fa├žade.

Also, the total height from the ground to the top of the highest tower is about 65 meters or approximately, a 20-storeys high building.

The main temple is divided into 3 levels, excluding the level of the temple grounds. To reach the last level, the sanctuary, expect to climb a LOT of stairs, at least 150 irregular steps, I guess.

Here goes the tour:

**Note: I’ve been to Angkor Wat a total of 5 times in dry (June) and wet season (November) and visited it both in sunrise and sunset and once in mid-morning ‘til noon. That’s why my pictures show different lights.

The start of your Angkor Wat experience will be from the tuk-tuk. Coming from the town center, the first thing you’ll see is the moat from the temple’s South Side. You’ll probably mistake it for a lake at first but because of its almost perfect shape, you’ll realize you’re in the temple’s vicinity.

When you turn right on the West side, you’ll see the 200-meter long causeway, and then the view of the entry tower.

As soon as you dismount the tuk-tuk, you’ll be greeted by a sculpture of a 7-headed serpent known as the Naga and a headless stone lion on either side of the bridge. These 2 sculptures act as the guards to the monument.

The bridge also known as the causeway is 12 meters wide and 250 meters long and is made up of huge sandstone blocks. The present causeway has been restored and reconditioned. The right side was restored completely but a part of the left side retained its original sandstone blocks hence the irregularity.

At the end of the causeway is the entry gate with 3 towers. The central tower is used for guests who are leaving the temple. So you have to enter either to the left or the right tower.

On the right tower, you will be welcomed with an 8-foot statue of Vishnu, which the Angkor Wat is dedicated to.

Take a look on your right. Here’s a view of a columned gallery with an intricate false door at the end.

After you pass the entry tower, you’ll see one of the best views of the main temple.

But before that, take a 180 degree turn so you can see the wall of the entry tower. Carved on these walls are numerous apsaras or celestial nymphs donning different headdresses and trinkets. There are also devatas or deities in Angkor Wat. To differentiate between the two, apsaras are dancing figures while devatas are just standing still.

Now, here’s a picture of Angkor Wat from the entry tower at 5:30am.

And here’s another view of Angkor Wat from the Walkway.

I was disappointed to see the green tent at first, but when the disappointment subsided, I realized that that green tent is a symbol of hope for everyone who loves culture and history because there are numerous restoration groups generous enough to fix the Archaeological Park.

Halfway through the walkway are 2 structures on both your sides. These are the Libraries. My guide tells me that these structures are not entirely for scholar use but it also acts as a temple and a sleeping quarter for visiting monks in the past.

In front of the libraries are the Basins. The Basins are 65 meters long and 50 meters wide.

On the right basin, you’ll usually see the flock of tourists, taking a picture of Angkor Wat with its reflection on the basin because the right basin is almost always filled with water. Whereas the right side is usually dry, except when it’s the rainy season.

Going back to the elevated walkway, just before you enter the main temple is a crucifix platform known as the Terrace of Honor. The Terrace of Honor was theorized to be the place where the King beheld parades and events.

Here are more pictures of Angkor Wat’s surroundings.

The wall of the Entry Tower
Central Tower of the Entry Gate
Sunset view of Library 
Sunrise view of Angkor Wat from the Right Basin

I’m going to cut the tour from here. The Main Temple will be for another post. J

Angkor Archaeological Park
Cambodia, Province of Siem Reap

Open daily from 5:00AM to 6:00PM

Admission Fees:
The Admission Pass or an Angkor Pass is needed to visit the temples in Angkor. There are multiple passes available categorized by days and can be purchased at the main entrance. 
1-Day Pass: $20
3-Day Pass: $40
7-Day Pass $60

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