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Angkor Wat History:

Contracted Late 8 to Early 11 century C.E, Religion Hindu ( Shiva ) King/Patron: Suryavarman II, Style Angkor Wat.   Extent. Two wonderful temples, as Banteay Srei and Ta Keo were built. The whole Angkor period spans for more than VI centuries, and more precisely from IX till XV century.During this  period the Khmer empire reached its maximum splendor as one of the most powerful southeast asian kingdoms. In this period the whole area of Angkor was buit. We can consider Jayavarman II  as the man that started everything. He define himself Devaraja (good king) and he established the Khmer empire in 802. After him, Indravarman, a king considered by many of its time an usurper: we prefer to remember him for starting building the Baray, a complex irrigation system to bring waters in the area of Angkor. He also started to build the Bakong and the Preah Ko temples. His son Yasovarman went further in his father's project: he built the Phnom Bakheng and the Lolei temples, and with him, Angkor become the new capital of the kingdom. These two king further extent the Baray's system too. Then the capital was moved to Koh Ker for a short period, under the kingdom of Jayavarman IV, an usurper, but after only 14 years Angkor become again the capital under Rajendravarman II. His son, Jayavarman V, was instead a great king, and with him the empire expanded to its maximum After him, Udayaditavarman II built the pyramid of Baphuon and the western Mebon (we are now at the half of XI century), and here we are really close to the very peak of the Khmer civilization, two great king the left once forever their footstep in the history of this planet and they are Suryavarman II and Jayavarman II. The first king built Bang Melea but it also the one that built Angkor Wat. The second king has built Preach Khan, Ta Phrom and Angkor Thom. As you will see with your eyes these last temple are traces of a high level civilization, with an exquisite taste for art. An enormous job that involved not only an army of thousands workers doing the hard job,  building, moving rock and materials and so on. There was another parallel army of thousands of artists and artisans. Angkor Wat is also them. We will never know their names, or their faces, but what they left us fulfill our hearts with something magic. The walls of Angkor, they also speak about their lives, their customs, their salaries: Angkor was not only a religious place, but a capital crowded with a million people.

Angkor Wat Temples:

The great temples of Angkor Wat are situated in the province of Siem Reap. This area is considered the biggest temple complex of the world and revealed itself after being hidden in the Jungle for many years. The whole area is about 400 km² that also includes the surrounding forest, so you will need good shoes to make it around that area by feet. Never the less you can also visit the temple complex with a “remorque” motorbike which is a small motorbike where you can sit side by side in two behind the driver. This is a great way to visit the area as it is very cheap and the driver can tell you much about the temples and history. Taxi are available too, as well as motor and bikes for rent. For those who love to see from the top, you can rent an hot air balloon, or even an helicopter. There are two ways to visit this area and still see the main attractions, the little circuit and the big circuit. The little circuit is 17 km and brings you to the main temples of Angkor. The big circuit takes 26 km and is an extension of the little one but continues on east side of the area. To visit Angkor you have to pay quite a high entry fee, you have choice of three different passes which you can buy at the entrance boot. A one-day pass cost US 20 dollar, a three-day pass cost US 40 dollar and a one-week pass cost US 60 dollar. Remember to have a photo with you if you desire to buy a pass for more than one day. There are more than a 100 temples in the whole area, more than you can see on your visit but the most famous ones you will discover during both circuits trough the temple area

Angkor Wat Temple:

This temple is 1,5 km² x 1,3km and built by Suryavarman ?? and is considered the biggest Asian pyramid. It is 65m high and divided in several layers. The central part has on the four corners four towers in the shape of a lotus flower. This temple is the largest and most breathtaking temple of the whole complex. The most famous decorations of Angkor are the heavenly nymphs (Apsara), there are more of 300, each one is unique and in total we can group them in 30 different styles. The central temple complex is an 800 meters long bas-reliefs, includes the Battle of Kurukshetra, the Army of Suryavarman II, Heaven and Hell, Churning of the Ocean of Milk, Elephant Gate, Vishnu Conquers the Demons, Khrisna and the demon King, Battle of the Gods and the Demons and the Battle of Lanka.

Bayon Temple

Contracted Late 12 century C.E, Religion Buddhist, King/Patron:  Jyavarman VII, Style Bayon  The Bayon is a well-known and richly decorated Khmer temple at Angkor in Cambodia. Built in the late 12th century or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King jayavarman VII, the Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman's capital, Angkor Thom. Following Jayavarman's death, it was modified and augmented by later Hindu and Theravada Buddhist kings in accordance with their own religious preferences. The Bayon's most distinctive feature is the  multitude of serene and massive stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak The temple is known also for two impressive sets of Bas-relifs, which present an unusual combination of mythological, Historycal, and mundane scenes. The main current conservatory body, the JSA, has described the temple as "the most striking expression of the ' baroque' style" of Khmer architecture, as contrasted with the 'classical' style of Angkor Wat,

Thommanon Temple

Contracted Late 11 Early 12 century C.E, Religion Hindu,   King/Patron: Suryavarman II, Style Angkor Wat. Small, attractive temple in very good condition, built at the same time as Angkor Wat. The Angkor Wat style is most easily seen in the style of the towers and carved devatas. Thommanon seems to stand in conjunction with Chau Say Tevoda across the street, but was built decades earlier. Thommanon is currently in much better condition than Chau Say Tevoda, in part because archaeologists heavily restored it in the 1960's. But even before restoration, Thommanon was in better shape than Chau Say Tevoda due in part to the lack of the stone-enclosed wood beams in Thommanon’s super-structure that were used in Chau Say Tevoda’s construction. Many of Thommanon’s carvings are in excellent condition. The colors of the age stained sandstone against the jungle are very photogenic, particularly in the wet season.

Chau Say Tevoda Temple

Contracted Early 12 century C.E, Religion Hindu,   King/Patron: Suryavarman II, Style Angkor  Wat. Chau Say Tevoda is a small temple of similar design and floor plan to that of Thommanon located across the street (except for additional gopuras and library), but for years appeared as Thommanon’s neglected sister, languishing in significantly worse condition than Thommanon, which had been restored back in the 1960s. Chau Say Tevoda is now undergoing an extensive restoration project, for the moment allowing the visitor a close up look at the restoration process. The small section of the temple pictured to the left is currently in the process of being reconstructed. Chau Say Tevoda seems to stand in partnership with Thommanon, but in fact was built much later in Suryavarman II’s rule. Chau Say Tevoda displays some well-executed carvings that are in still fair condition, especially those on the eastern gopura. Though most carvings are Hindu-themed, there are also some Buddhist-themed reliefs. The eastern walkway from the temple leads to the Siem Reap River a few hundred meters away

Ta Keo Temple

Contracted Late 10 to Early 11 century C.E, Religion Hindu (Shiva) King/Patron:Jaryavarman V, Style Khleang. Towering but plainly decorated temple-mountain dedicated to Shiva. Known in its time as ‘the mountain with golden peaks.’ The first to be constructed wholly of sandstone, this temple employing huge sandstone blocks. Constructed under three  kings, begun by Jayavarman V as his state-temple and continued under Jayaviravarman and Suryavarman I. When Jayavarman V first constructed Ta Keo, he part ways with previous kings, constructing his state temple outside of his main capital area. Construction on Ta Keo seems to have stopped particularly early in the decoration phase as evidenced by the lack of carvings. Ta Keo is well worth a visit, but if you are pressed for time, see Pre Rup instead.

Ta Prohm Temple

Contracted Mid 12 to Early 13 century C.E, Religion buddist,  King/Patron: Jayavarman VII, Style Bayon.  Ta Prohm is undoubtedly the most atmospheric ruin at Angkor and should be high on the hit list of very visitor. Its appeal lies in the face that, unlike the other monument of Angkor, it has been left to be swallowed by the jungle, and look very much the most of the monuments of Angkor appeared when European explorers first stumbled upon them. Well, that’s the theory, but in fact the jungle is pegged back and only the largest trees are left in place, making it manicured rather than raw like  Beng Mealea.still,a visit to Ta Prohm is a unique, other_ world experience. the temple is cloaked in dappled shadow, its crumbling towers and walls locked in the slow muscular embrace of vast root systems. If Angkor Wat, the Bayoun and other temples are testimony to the genius of the ancient Khmers, Ta Prohm reminds us equally of the awesome fecundity and power of the jungle, there is a poetic cycle to this venerable ruin, with humans first conquering nature to rapidly create, and nature once again conquering humans to slowly destroy. Built from 1186 and originally known as Rayavihara (Monastery of the king),Ta Prohm was Buddhist temple in the Angkor region where an inscription provides information about the temple’s dependents and inhabitants. The numbers quoted really are staggering, although possibly include an element of exaggeration to glorify the king. close to 80,000 people were required to maintain or attend at the temple, among them more than 2700 officials and 615 dancers, Ta Prohm is a temple of towers, close courtyards and narrow corridors. Many of the corridors are impassible, clogged with jumbles piles of delicately carved stone blocks dislodged by the roots of long decayed trees Bas-reliefs on bulging walls are carpeted by lichen, moss and creeping plants, and shrubs sprout from the roofs of monumental porches, trees, hundred of years old some supported by flying buttresses_ tower overhead, their leaves filtering the sunlight and casting a greenish pall over the whole scene. the most popular of the many strangulating root formations is that on the inside of the easternmost gopura (entrance pavilion) of the central enclosure. However, there are several other astounding growths including the famous Tomb Raider tree where Angelina Jolie picked a jasmine flower before falling through the earth into ….Pinewood Studios.it used to be possible to climb onto the damaged galleries, but this is now prohibited to protect both the temple and visitor. many of these precariously balanced stones weigh a tonne or more and would do some serious damage if they came down.   Because there’s such a maze of rubble and vegetation, there are predictably some children who manage to duck the security and want to guide you through the temple. Some readers don’t like this idea, some do. Either way, the fact of the matter is that these are mostly poor kids from poor families looking for the chance to make some money. it is easy to say that it is somehow wrong and that they should be at school or doing a traditional job, but some westerner have never experienced poverty in a Cambodia sense, and the desperation it breeds. some of the kid will certainly make more money than they are parents ever kid, struggling in the rice fields. if you don’t want them to follow you around politely tell them so, but try not to be rude or aggressive, as they are only young. if you want help to fine some photo spots and the like, try and agree on a price in advance. throwing around dollar bills is not much a good idea, as it breeds expectancy and contempt.

Banteay Kdei Temple

Contracted Mid 12 to Early 13 century C.E, Religion buddist,  King/Patron: Jayavarman VII, Style Bayon prawling, largely unrestored, monastic complex in much the same style as Ta Prohm. It was originally constructed over the site of an earlier temple, and functioned as a Buddhist monastery under Jayavarman VII. As with other works of Jayavarman VII's era, it is a tightly packed architectural muddle, which like Bayon, suffered from several changes in the plans at the time of construction. It was also built using an inferior grade of sandstone and using poor construction techniques, leading to much of the deterioration visible today. A restoration project is underway on many of the towers and corridors, and some areas are blocked off. The foundation stele of the temple has not been found so there is no record of to whom it is dedicated. The 13th century vandalism of Buddha images that is seen on many Jayavarman VII temples is quite apparent on Banteay Kdei. Combine with a visit to Srah Srang, which is just opposite the east entrance.

Srah Srong

Contracted Mid 10 to Late 12 century C.E, Religion buddist,  King/Patron: Jayavarman VII, Style Bayon. Picturesque baray opposite the east entrance of Banteay Kdei. Originally constructed by the same architect that built Pre Rup. Remodeled in the 12th century as part of Jayavarman VII's massive building campaign. A multi-tiered landing platform on the west edge of the baray is adorned with naga balustrades and guardian lions. The very sparse remains of an island temple can be seen poking out of the middle of the lake during the dry season when the water is low. Srah Srang offers a pleasant, much less touristed sunrise alternative to Angkor Wat.

Kravan Temple

Contracted Early 10 century C.E, Religion Hindu (Vishnu),   King/Patron: Harshavarman I, Style Bakheng.   East-facing brick towers containing unique bas-reliefs of Vishnu and Lakshmi rendered in brick - the only example of brick bas-reliefs in the Angkor area. Prasat Kravan was originally  constructed by noblemen rather than a king and has a twin  sister in Takeo Province south of Phnom Penh, Prasat Neang Khmau, which contained painting rather than bas-reliefs, some of which still survives. Prasat Kravan was reconstructed by archaeologists in the early 20th century. Look for modern replacement bricks labeled "CA."

Phnom Backeng

Contracted Late 9  to Early 10 century C.E, Religion   Hindu (Shiva), King/Patron: Yasovarman I, Style Bakheng.  Around 400m south of Angkor Thom, the main attraction of Phnom Bakheng is the sunset view of Angkor Wat. Unfortunately, and inevitably, the whole affair has turned into something of a circus, with crowds of tourists gasping up the steep slope of the hill and jockeying for space once on top. Coming down can be even worse as there is nothing at all in the way of lighting. still, the sunset over the Tonle Sap lake is very impressive from the hill. To get a decent picture of Angkor Wat in the warm glow of the late afternoon sun you will need at least a 300mm lens, as the temple is 1.3Km away. Phnom Bakheng is all so home to the first of the temple_mouintains built in the vicinity of Angkor. Yasovarman I (r 889_910) chose Phnom Bakheng over the Roluos area, where the earlier capital had been located. The temple mountain has five tiers, with seven levels ( including the base and the summit ). At the base are _or were _ 44 towers. Each of the five tiers had 12 towers. The summit of the temple has four towers at the cardinal points of the compass as well as a central sanctuary. all of these numbers are of symbolic significance. while the total number of towers, excluding the Central Sanctuary, is 108,a particularly auspicious number and one that correlates to the lunar calendar. it is now possible to arrange an elephant ride up the hill (U.S$ 15 one way per person ) and the location certainly makes for a memorable journey, if you are O.K the idea of elephants hauling themselves up the steep hill day after day. It is advisable to look in advance, as the rides are very popular with tour groups.

Preah Khan Temple

Contracted Late 12 century C.E, Religion buddist,  King/Patron: Jayavarman VII, Style Bayon  Preah Khan is a huge, highly explorable monastic complex. Full of carvings, passages and photo opportunities. It originally served as a Buddhist monastery and school, engaging over 1000 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. It is one of the only examples of round columns and may be from a later period

Neak Pean Temple

Contracted Late 12 century C.E, Religion buddist, King/Patron: Jayavarman VII, Style Bayon.  A small island temple located in the middle of the last baray (the Preah Khan Baray or Jayatataka) to be constructed by a Khmer king in the Angkor area. The central temple sits at the axis of a cross or lotus pattern of eight pools. Originally known as Rajasri, Neak Pean took its modern appellation, which means coiled serpents from the encoiled nagas that encircled the temple. The temple is faced by a statue of the horse, Balaha, saving drowning sailors. Though originally dedicated to Buddha, Neak Pean contains several Hindu images. Neak Pean may have served an absolution function, and the waters were thought to have healing properties. During the dry season when the water is low, check out the animal and human headwater spouts at the outside center of each pool. Neak Pean is most photogenic in the wet season when the pools are full.

Ta Som Temple

Contracted Late 12 century C.E, Religion buddist,  King/Patron: Jayavarman VII, Style Bayon. Small, classic Bayon-style monastic complex consisting of a relatively flat enclosure, face tower gopuras and cruciform interior sanctuaries much like a miniature version of Ta Prohm. Many of the carvings are in good condition and display particularly fine execution for late 12th century works. Take note of the devata carvings which show an uncommon individuality. A huge tree grows from the top of the eastern gopura. It is destroying the gate but it is a photo classic. Best photographed in the afternoon. Ta Som is the most distant temple on the Grand Circuit.

 

East Mebon Temple

Contracted Late 10 century C.E, Religion Hindu  (Chiva), King/Patron: Rajendravarman II, Style Pre Rup. East Mebon is a large temple-mountain-like ruin, rising three levels and crowned by five towers. Jayavarman IV, a usurper to the throne, moved the capital from Angkor to Koh Ker in 928AD. Sixteen years later Rajendravarman II returned the capital to Angkor and shortly thereafter constructed East Mebon on an  island in the middle of the now dry Eastern Baray. The temple is dedicated to Shiva in honor of the king’s parents. Inscriptions indicate that it was also built to help reestablish the continuity of kingship at Angkor in light of the interruption that occurred when the seat of power had been moved to Koh Ker. There seems to be some scholarly debate as to whether East Mebon should be categorized as a temple-mountain. Inscriptions record activity at the temple as early as 947AD, but East Mebon was not consecrated until 952AD.

Pre Rup Temple

Contracted Late 10 century C.E, Religion Hindu (Chiva),  King/Patron: Rajendravarman II, Style Pre Rup. Architecturally and artistically superior temple-mountain. Beautifully carved false doors on upper level, as well as an excellent view of the surrounding countryside. Richly detailed, well-preserved carvings. Traditionally believed to be a funerary temple, but in fact the state temple of Rajendravarman II. Historically important in that it was the second temple built after the capital was returned to Angkor from Koh Ker after a period of political upheaval. The artistically similar East Mebon was the first to be constructed after the return to Angkor, less than a decade earlier.

 

Banteay Samre Temple

Contracted Mid 12 century C.E, Religion Hindu  (Vishnu),  King/Patron: Suryavarman II, Style Angkor Wat.  Large, comparatively flat temple displaying distinctively Angkor Wat-style architecture and artistry. The temple underwent extensive restoration this century by archaeologists using the anastylosis method. Banteay Samre was constructed around the sametime as Angkor Wat. The style of the towers and balustrades bear strong resemblance to the towers of Angkor Wat and even more so to Khmer temple of Phimai in Thailand. Many of the carvings are in excellent condition. Banteay Samre is a bit off the Grand Circuit, near the southeast corner of the East Baray. The trip there is a nice little 3km road excursion through villages and paddies. Combine a visit to Banteay Srey with a stop at Banteay Samre on the way back.

Roluos Group

The Roluos Group is a collection of monuments representing the  remains of Hariharalaya, the first major capital of the Angkorian-era Khmer Empire.  It has become known as the ‘Roluos Group’ due to its proximity to the modern town of Roluos. The ancient capital was named for Hari-Hara, a synthesis of the Hindu gods Shiva and Vishnu. Though there was an existing settlement in the area before the rise of Angkor, Hariharalaya was established as a capital city by Jayavarman II and served as the Khmer capital for over 70 years under four successive kings. Setting the pattern for the next four centuries, the first great Khmer temples (Bakong, Preah Ko, Lolei) and baray (reservoir) were constructed at Hariharalaya. The last king at Hariharalaya, Yasovarman I, built the first major temple at Angkor, Phnom Bakheng, and moved the capital to the Bakheng area in 905 C.E. With the exception of a 20 year interruption in the 10th century, the capital would remain at Angkor until 1422 C.E., 12km southeast of Siem Reap.

Preah Ko Temple

Contracted Late 9 century C.E, Religion Hindu (Shiva),  King/Patron: Indravarman I, Style Preah Ko.  Roluos Group. Six towers displaying set on a platform, all beautifully preserved carvings . Originally surrounded by walls and gopuras of which only vestiges remain. Preah Ko was one of the first major temples of the empire at the early Khmer capital of Hariharalaya. Preah Ko (Sacred Bull) derives its name from the statues of bulls at the front of the central towers.

 

Bakong Temple

Contracted Late 9 century C.E, Religion Hindu,  King/Patron: Indravarman I, Style Preah Ko  Roluos Group: The most impressive member of the Roluos Group, sitting at the center of the first Angkorian capital, Hariharalaya. Bakong stands 15 meters tall and is 650x850m at the outer wall. Constructed by the third Angkorian-era king as his state-temple, Bakong represents the first application of the temple-mountain architectural formula on a grand scale and set the architectural tone for the next 400 years. The temple displays a very early use of stone rather than brick. Though begun by Indravarman I, Bakong received additions and was expanded by later kings. The uppermost section and tower may have been added as late as the 12th century AD. Some of the lintel carvings, particularly on the outer towers, are in very good shape. Picturesque moat and vegetation surround Bakong.

Lolei Temple

Contracted Late 9 century C.E, Religion Hindo, King/Patron:  Yasovarman I, Style Preah Ko/Bakheng.  Roluos Group: Ruins of an island-temple built in the middle of a now dry baray, Indratataka, the first large-scale baray constructed by a Khmer king. Lolei consists of four brick towers on a double laterite platform. It was the last major temple built at Roluos before Yasovarman I moved the capital to the Angkor area. Though the towers are in poor condition, there are some lintel carvings in very good condition displaying the distinctively detailed Preah Ko style. An active pagoda has been built amongst the ruins. Of the Roluos Group ruins, allocate the least time Lolei.

 

Banteay Srey Temple

Contracted Late 10 century C.E, Religion Hindu  (Shiva), King/Patron: Rajendravarman, Style Banteay Srey.  Banteay Srei is considered by many to be the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art. A Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, it is cut from stone of a pinkish hue and includes some of the finest stone carving seen anywhere on the planet. It is one of the smallest sites at Angkor, but what it lacks in size it makes up from in stature. It is wonderfully well preserved and many of its carvings are three dimensional. banteay Srei means “Citadel of the Women“ and it is said that it must have been built by a woman, as the elaborate carvings are too fine for the hand of a man. Construction on Banteay srei began in 967 and it is one of the few temples around Angkor not to be commissioned by a king, but by a Brahman who may have been tutor to jayavarman V. the temple is square and has entrances at the east and west, the east approached by a causeway. Of interest are the lavishly decorated libraries and the tree central towers, which are decorated with male and female divinities and beautiful filigree relief work. Classic carvings at Banteay Srei include women with lotus flower in hand and traditional skirts clearly visible, as well as breathtaking re-creations of scenes from the epic Ramayana adorning the library pediments ( carved inlays above a lintel ) However, the sum of the parts is no greater than the whole_ almost every inch of these interior buildings is covered in decoration. Standing watch over such prefect creations are the mythical guardians, all of which are copies of originals stored in the National Museum (p81). Banteay Srei was the first major temple restoration undertaken by the EFEO in 1930 using the anastylosis method. The project, as evidenced today, was a major success and soon led to other larger projects such as the restoration of Bayoun. However, it was not the first time the temple has hit the headlines, Because in 1923 frenchman Andre’ Malraux was arrested in Phnom Penh for attempting to steal several of the site’s major statures and pieces of sculpture. Ironically, Malraux was later appointed minister of culture under Charles de Gaulle. When Banteay Srei was finish rediscovered, it was assumed to be from the 13th or 14th centuries, as the refined carving must have came at the end of Angkor period. It was later dated to 967, from inscriptions found at the site. However, some scholars are once again calling for a revision of this date, given that the style of this temple and its carvings are unlike anything else seen in the 10th century, New theories suggest that like the great cathedrals of Europe, some Angkorian temples may have been destroyed and than rebuilt, or altered beyond recognition, and that the inscription stele at Banteay Srei relates to an earlier structure on the site, not the delicate flower of a temple we see today. Banteay Srei is 37Km northeast of Siem Reap. it is well signposted and the road is good all the way the trip from Siem Reap should take about one hour depended on how you get there the driver will as for a bit more money to came out there so agree on a sum first, it was so busy on the morning but it is quiet on the afternoon but it so hot,   

Kbal Span

Contracted 11 to 13 century C.E, Religion Hindu/Buddist.  A river of 1000 lingas’ is at Phnom Kulen. There are also carvings of Buddha and Buddhist images in the rock that date from a later period than the lingas. Entrance to the area closes at 3:00PM. Combine with a visit to Banteay Srey and allow a half-day for the two. Take the road straight past Banteay Srey about 12km. Look for the sign and parking area on the left side. Requires a moderately easy 45-minute uphill walk though the woods.

 

Phnom Kulen

Contracted 9 century C.E, Religion Hindu, King/Patron:  Jayavarman II, Style Kulen Phnom Kulen is considered by Khmers to be the most sacred mountain  in Cambodia and is a popular place of pilgrimage during weekends and festivals. It played a significant role in the history of the Khmer empire, as it was from here in 802 that Jayavarman 2   proclaimed independence from Java, giving birth to modern-day Cambodia. There is a small wat at the summit of the mountain , which houses a large Buddha carved into the sandstone boulder upon which it is built. Nearby is a large waterfall and above it are smaller bathing area and number of carvings in the riverbed, including numerous linga. The bad news is that a private businessman bulldozed a road up here in 1999 and now charges a US$20 toll per foreign visitor, an outrageous fee compared  with what you get for your money at Angkor. None of the toll goes towards preserving the site. You can buy a cheaper ticket for US$12 from the city Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap, surprise, surprise, owned by same businessman! The new road winds its way through some spectacular jungle scenery, emerging on the plateau after 20km ascent. The road eventually splits, the left fork leading to the picnic spot, waterfalls and ruins of a 9th century temple, the right fork continuing over a bridge and some riverbed carvings to the reclining Buddha. This the focal point of a pilgrimage here for Khmer people, so it is important to take off your shoes and any  head covering before climbing the stairs to the sanctuary. The views from the 487m peak are tremendous, as you can see right across the forested plateau. The waterfall is a an attractive spot, but could be much more beautiful were it not for all the litter left here by families picnicking at the weekend. Near the top of the waterfall is a jungle-clad temple known as Prasat Krau Romeas, dating from the 9th century. There are plenty of other Angkorian sites on Phnom Kulen, including as many as 20 minor temples a round the plateau, the most important of which is Prasat Rong Chen, the first pyramid or temple-mountain to constructed in the Angkor area. Most impressive of all are the giant stone animals or guardians of the mountain, know as Sra Damrei ( Ele-phant Pond).These are very difficult to get to, with the route passing through mined sections of the mountain and the trail impossible in the wet season. The few people who make it, however, are rewarded with a life-size replica of a stone elephant – a full 4am long and 3m tall –and smaller statues of lions, a frog and a cow. These were constructed on the southern face of the mountain and from here there are spectacular are views across the plains below below. Getting here requires taking a moto from Wat Pre Ang Thom for a bout 12km on very rough trails through thick forest before arriving at a sheer rock face. From here it is a lkm walk to the animals through the forest. Don’t try to find it on your own; expect to pay the moto driver a bout US$6 ( with some hard negotiating) and carry plenty of water, as none is available. Before the construction of the private road up Phnom Kulen, visitors had to scale the mountain and then walk a cross the the top of the plateau to the reclining Buddha. This route takes more than two hours and is still an option. About 15km east of the new road up kulen, the trail winds its way to a small pagoda called  Wat Chou, set into the cliff face from which a tuk chou (spring) emerges. The water is considered  holy and Khmers like to bottle it up to take home with them. This water source eventually flows into the Tonlé Sap lake and is thought to bless the waterways of Cambodia. Phnom Kulen mountain is a huge plateau around 50km from Siem Reap and about 15km from Banteay Srei. To get here on the new toll road, take the well-signposted right fork just before Banteay Srei village and follow this, going straight ahead at the crossroad. Just before the road start to climb the mountain, there is a barrier and it is here that the US$20 charge is levied. To walk to the site, head east a long the base of the mountain at the major crossroads .After about 15km, there is a wat-style gate on the left and a sandy trail.Follow this to a small community from where the climb begins. It is about a 2km climb, including a new staircase up the final cliffs, and then an hour or more in a westerly direction a long the top the plateau. This route of the pilgrims of old should cost nothing if you arrive after midday, although it takes considerably longer. Moto drivers are likely to want about US$15 to bring you out here, and rented cars will hit passengers with a surcharge, more than double the going rate for Angkor; forget coming by remorque as hill climb is just too tough.

Beng Mealea

Contracted Early 11 century C.E, Religion Hindu,   King/Patron: Suryavarman II, Style Angkor Wat.  Beng Mealea is a spectacular sight to behold. It’s one of the most mysterious temples at Angkor, as nature has well and truly run riot here. Built to the same floorplan as Angkor Wat, exploring this titanic of temples is Angkor ultimate Indiana Jones experience. Built in the 12th century under Suryavarman 2 ( r1112-52). Beng Mealea is enclosed by a massive moat measuring 1.2km by 900m, much of which has dried up today. The temple has been utterly  subsumed by jungle, and standing just a few metres away from the trees it is hard to tell what lies beneath.Entering from the south, visitors wend their way over piles of masonry, through long dark chambers and between hanging vines to arrive at the central tower, which has completely collapsed. Hidden away among the rubble and foliage are several impressive carvings, as well as a well preserved library in the northeastern quadrant. The temple is a special place and it is worth taking the time to explore thoroughly. There is also now a large wooden walkway to the centre, constructed during the filming here of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Two Brothers(2004). Beng Mealea is at the centre of an ancient Angkorian road connecting Angkor Thom and Preah Khan in Preah Vihear Province. A small Anhkorian bridge just west of Chau Srei Vibol temple is the only remaining trace of the old Angkorian road between Beng Mealea and Angkor Thom; between Beng Mealea and Preah khan there are at least 10 ridges a bandoned in the forest. This is a way for extreme adventures to get to Preah Khan temple ( p231); however , don’t undertake this journey lightly. It now costs US$5 to visit Beng Mealea and there are additional small charges for cars and motorcycles – make sure you work out in advance who is paying this. It is best to undertake  a long ay trip combining Beng Mealea, Kbal Spean and Banteay srei. At the very least include BanteaySrei, as you almost pass it a long the way. Beng Mealea is about 40km east of Bayon (as the crow flies) and 6.5km southeast of Phnom Kulen. By road it is about 80km from siem Reap and is a two-hour trip. There are two routes to Beng Mealea,but the shortest and fastest is currently via the small town of Dam Dek on NH6 towards Phnom Penh. Turn north immediately after the market and continue on this road for 25km. The main road bears left towards Phnom Kulan but take this road, go straight ahead.you will eventully come to a T-junction. For the second, longer route,take the road towards Banteay Srei and follow the right fork to Phnom Kulen , continuing right at the major crossroads along the base of the holy mountain. Follow this route for about 35km until you leave Kulen behind and come to a T-junction. This T-junction is where the two different routes meet. Veer left at this junction; it is another 10km or so northeast to the village of Beng Mealea and the temple is to the main intersection in town. The final 10km or so used to be a mess of miserable sand and mud, but there is now even some tarmac- this is another of these private roads and partly privatized temples, where profit takes precedence over preservation. It usually costs US$2.50 for a car, US$1for a motorbike, but that is each way, believe it or not!

Koh Ker Temple

The temple complex at Koh Ker, northeast of Siem Reap, represents  the remnants of the capital of the Khmer Empire from 928 AD.
- 944 A.D. - a very unique period in the Age of Angkor. From the time the Khmer capital was first moved to the Angkor area in the late 9th century, it would remain there for almost 500  
years, with one brief interruption. Just a few decades after the establishment at Angkor, there was a disruption in the royal succession for reasons that remain a matter of academic debate. What is known is that in 928 A.D. King Jayavarman IV, possibly a usurper to the throne, created a new capital 100km away at Koh Ker, either moving the capital city from Angkor or creating a rival capital. Obviously a king of much wealth and power, he raised an impressive royal city at Koh Ker of Brahmanic monuments, temples and prasats, surrounding a huge baray (reservoir) Rahal. Jayavarman IV reigned at Koh Ker for 20 years before he died in 941 A.D. His son Hashavarman II would remain at Koh Ker for another 3 years before returning the capital to the Angkor area. The monuments of Koh Ker are now on a road loop around the baray past the most important temples. The premier ruin of the complex is Prasat Thom, an imposing 7-tiered pyramid and temple complex. (Best photographed in the morning and offering a bird’s eye view from the top.) As you round the loop, there are several nicely preserved ruins sit just off the road, impressive prasats and small temple complexes. There are lingas still in place in some monuments such as Prasat Balang and Prasat Thneng. For the enthusiast, there are also dozens of other, more remote ruins in the area. A good guide can be most helpful at Koh Ker. A trip to Koh Ker takes the better part of a day out of Siem Reap and is usually combined with a visit to Beng Melea. To get there take Route #6 east from Siem Reap to Damdek. Turn north and follow the signs. Part of the way is a toll road. Check road conditions before leaving Siem Reap, especially in the wet season. $5 entrance fee to Koh Ker.

Banteay Chhmar Temple

Contracted Late 12 Early 13 century C.E,   Religion Buddist, King/Patron: Jayavarman VII, Style Bayon.  Like Angkor Thom, the temple of Banteay Chhmar was accomplished during the reign of Jayavarman VII in the late 12th or early 13th century. One of the temple's shrines once held an image of Srindrakumara rajaputra (the crown prince), probably a son of Jayavarman VII. The long Old Khmer inscription found at the site (K.227), and now on display in the National Museum, Phnom Penh, relates how this prince or a king (samtac) was protected on two different occasions by four royal servants, all of whom lost their lives in his defense. The inscription lists the names of these officials and informs us that their respective images were once placed in the four corners of the shrine

The Siem Reap Old Market(Phsar Chas)

The nearby Pub Street, Pub Street  alleys and Night Markets are 'must sees' when visiting Siem Reap. Very popular, the whole Old Market area stretching from the river across to the night markets on Sivutha Blvd has become the tourist center of town. Of the various traditional Cambodian markets in Siem Reap, the Old Market is the most visited by tourists, offering the deepest selection of souvenirs and curios of any of the traditional markets. There are souvenir vendors on all sides off the market and into the interior, especially on the south (river) side - offering silks, silverworks, carvings, statuary, art and handicrafts as well as t-shirts, post cards, boot-legged DVDs and books. The 2 Thnou Street side of the market is a mix of local and tourist vendors, some offering souvenirs, others specializing in clothing, shoes and hats aimed more at the local consumer. The opposite Street 11 side is also a mix, with many vendors offering handicrafts, puppets, musical instruments and basketry and local food and dried fish vendors toward the other end. The north side of the market along Street 9 caters more to the locals than tourists, vending fruit, vegetables, meats, clothes, hardware and such. There are several interesting local spice, tea and coffee vendors on this side and a number of inexpensive cafe stalls lining the street, serving Cambodian fare in an interesting, very local atmosphere a good place for a budget meal and a taste of real Cambodian cuisine.

Balloon Rides

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. Floats for a while and then descends. It isn't actually a tour and it only lasts about 10 minutes but it is enough to get some great pictures of some Temples on a clear day.The Balloon flies approximately
30 to 40 time a day from sunrise to sundown and carry up to 30 passagers. The Balloon is owned and operated by Sokha Hotel Company which own the rights to the entry tickets to Angkor Wat as well as meny other activities, such as helicopter tours.

Elephant Rides

During the day, elephants await customers near Bayon or  at the South Gate of Angkor  Thom. In the evenings, elephants are stationed at the base of Phnom Bakheng, ready to transport riders up the hill for sunset. $15-$20/person for a 25 minute ride

Cambodia Land Mine Museum & Relief Facility

The Cambodia  Landmine Museum has evolved from a small shack museum by  former soldier and deminer Akira to a formal museum and charitable organization. The museum exhibits a variety of defused mines, bombs and other ordinance as well as information on mines, demining and Cambodia’s mine problem. Located six km south of Banteay Srey.Website: www.cambodialandminemuseum.org

Cambodian Cultural Village

A unique, sprawling new cultural attraction in Siem Reap, intended to introduce the visitor to  Cambodian culture and history. Wax museum with scenes and figures from history. Fascinating 1/20th scale models of sites such as Phsar Thmey and the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and the hills and temples of Oudong. Full scale models of a variety of Cambodian architectural types, including different styles of huts and homes, hill tribe houses, pagoda and mosque. Live shows, traditional dance performances and music. Traditional Khmer wedding show twice per day. On Airport Road.