Angkor Wat (Constructed: Early-Mid 12th century, King/Patron: Suryavaman II, Religion: Hinduism)
Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat and an exterior wall measuring 1,300 meters x 1,500 meters. The temple itself is 1km square and consists of three levels surmounted by a central tower. The walls of the temples are covered inside and out with bas-reliefs and carvings. Nearly 2,000 distinctively rendered apsara carvings adorn the walls throughout the temple and represent some of the finest examples of apsara carvings in Ankgorian era art. But it is the exterior walls of the lower level that display the most extraordinary bas-reliefs, depicting stories and characters from Hindu mythology and the historical wars of Suryavarman II.
The northern reflecting pool in front is the most popular Sunrise location. For sunrise, arrive very early, well before sunrise begins. The sun will rise behind Angkor Wat providing a silhouette of Ankgor’s distinctively shaped towers against a colored sunrise sky. Some of the best appear just before the sun breaks over the horizon.
Bayon Temple (Constructed: Late 12th century, King/Patron: Jayavarman VII, Religion: Buddhist)
The giant stone faces of Bayon have become one of the most recognizable images connected to classic Khmer art and architecture. There are 37 standing towers, most but not all sporting four carved faces oriented toward the cardinal points. Who the faces represent is a matter of debate but they may be Loksvara, Mahayana Buddhism’s compassionate Bodhisattava, or perhaps a combination of Buddha and Jayavarman VII.
Bayon was the Jayavarman VII’s state-temples and in many ways represents the pinnacle of his massive building campaign. It appears to be, and is to some degree, an architectural muddle, in part because it was constructed in a somewhat piecemeal fashion for over a century.
Ta Prohm (Constructed: Late 12th – Early 13th century, King/Patron: Jayavarman VII, Religion: Buddhist)
Intentionally left partially un-restored, massive fig and silk-cotton trees grow from the towers and corridors offering a “jungle atmosphere” and some of the best “tree in temple” photo opportunities at Angkor. Unfortunately, from the “Jungle atmosphere.” Ta Prohm is still well worth an extended exploration of its dark corridors and open plazas. This temple was one of Jayavarman VII’s first major temple projects.
Ta Prohm was dedicated to his mothers. (Preah Khan, built shortly after Ta Prohm in the same general style, was dedicated to Jayavarman VII’s father.) Ta Prohm was originally constructed as a Buddhist monastery and was enormously wealthy in its time, boasting of control over 3,000 villages, thousands of support staff and vast stores of jewels and gold.
Preah Khan (Constructed: Late 12th century, King/Patron: Jayavarman VII, Religion: Buddhist)
Preah Khan is a huge, highly explorable monastic complex. It originally served as a Buddhist monastery and school, engaging over 1,000 monks. For a short period it was also the residence of King Jayavarman VII during the reconstruction of his permanent home in Angkor Thom. Preah Khan means “sacred sword.” In harmony with the architecturally similar Ta Prohm, which was dedicated to Jayavarman VII’s mother, Preah Khan is dedicated to his father.
Features of note: like most of Jayavarman VII’s monuments, the Buddha images were vandalized in the later Hindu resurgence. Some Buddha carvings in the central corridor have been crudely carved over with Bodhisattvas, and in a couple of odd cases, a lotus flower and a linga. Also note the cylindrical columns on the building west of the main temple.
Banteay Srei (Constructed: Late 10th century, King/Patron: Rajendravarman, Religion: Hindu/Shiva)
Banteay Srei loosely translates to “citadel of the women” but this is a modern appellation that probably refers to the delicatie beauty of the carvings. Built at a time when the Khmer Empire was gaining significant power and territory, the temple was constructed by a Brahmin counselor under a powerful king, Rajendravarman and later under Jayavarman V. Banteay Srei displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art. The walls are densely covered with some of the most beautiful, deep and intricate carvings of any Angkorian temple.
The temples’s relatively small size, pink sandstone construction and ornate design give it a fairyland ambiance. The colors are best before 10:30am and after 2:00pm, but there are fewer tourists in the afternoon.
Kulen Mountain (Constructed: 09th century, King/Patron: Jayavarman II, Religion: Hindu)
This is where the 500-year long “Age of Angkor” began. Kulen Mountain is the mountain on which Jayavarman II initiated the royal “god of the king” linga cult in 802AD, declaring a unified and independent Khmer Empire under a single ruler and beginning what would later become known as the Angkor period (though the capital city would not actually move to the Angkor area for another century.) Soon after the ceremony, Jayavarman II moved his capital from Kulen Mountain to the area near the modern town of Rolous, where it was to remain for almost linga stands in the Siem Reap River. Waterfalls and active pagoda.
It’s a bit over 50km each way from Siem Reap so set aside at least a half day for the trip there and back. Regular admission ticket is not required. There is a separate entrance free of US$20.00 for Kulen Mountain.
The newly opened Angkor National Museum in Siem Reap promises eight chronologically ordered galleries of Angkorian-era artifacts and multi-media presentations of Angkorian history and culture. The Museum had just opened its doors and was not quite completed at time of printing, but should be very soon. Admissions price: US$12 (for foreigners). $2 for a camera. Daily Operation Hours: 8:30AM - 6:00PM. Located in town, on the road to the Angkor Park.
The construction of Cambodian Cultural Village (CCV) started in mid year of 2001, opened to the public in September 24, 2003, with total area of 210,000 meter-square, CCV assembles all the miniatures of famous historical buildings and structures, local customs and practices of all races. There are 11 unique villages, which represent different culture heritages and characteristics of 19 multi races.
At each village, the tourists will be able to enjoy the excellent wood houses, carving, soft skill in stone, traditional performances in the different style such as: Apsara Dancing, performance of ethnic minorities from Northeast of Cambodia, traditional wedding ceremony, Circus, Popular games, Peacock dancing, Acrobat, elephants shows, boxing, and more...
Unique new addition to the Angkor area. Take a tethered helium balloon ride 200 meters straight up for an amazing aerial view of Angkor Wat, Phnom Bakheng, West Baray and other ruins amongst the surrounding jungle and rice paddies. Bring a camera and binoculars if you have them. The big, yellow balloon is based on the road from the airport to Angkor Wat, about a kilometer from the front gates of Angkor Wat.