Angkor Wat

Well, I would be remiss to dedicate so many posts to temples in Cambodia without talking about the jewel of them all. Of all the temples built during the reign of the Angkor Empire, none are as large (or as well maintained) as Angkor Wat.

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The West entrance at Angkor Wat

We’d heard that, if you’re going to visit several temples in Cambodia, it’s best to see Angkor Wat last. So we saved it for the end of our trip.

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A lion protecting the temple from all the tourists

I guess it’s like that water slide at the community pool that you’ve been going to your whole life. It’s fast, it’s scary, and it’s a bazillion feet tall. And then one day you go to an actual water park and that little slide just never seems quite the same.

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This is the nicest vehicle I’ve seen in all of Cambodia

Yeah, I guess this is something like that.

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Random structure on the temple grounds
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This is the building in the worst state of repair, and compared to other temples we saw outside Angkor Wat, it’s in pretty good shape
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The west “porch” of the inner temple

Whereas the first temples we visited were ruins in various states of decay, Angkor Wat feels like it could actually be alive. The smaller temples of Preah Khan, Banteay Srei, or Ta Prohm had a very solemn air to them, as if it were appropriate to mourn the temples that once stood there.

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Footbridge crossing the moat into the temple complex

Angkor Wat shouts from the rooftops, “I AM MIGHTY AND I WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN!”

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Tomorrowland is on the other side of the temple

Most of the temples we visited we hit up late in the morning, and the heat and humidity caused us to peter out around one in the afternoon, retreating back to the hotel for a nap and a dip in the pool. That schedule made for some pretty difficult photography. Getting here in the late afternoon got us a little closer to that “golden hour” where the sunlight is working with you, rather than against you.

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Small alcove off the main temple where Buddhist relics are kept

I’d forgotten how much of a difference that makes.

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Inner temple walls

I think we could easily have spent a whole day here (apart from the heat and humidity), as there are a lot of side buildings worth exploring. We ran out of time pretty quickly, as the site was only open for another couple hours.

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This neighborhood totally has bars on its windows
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Sunset

Even so, we caught a few glimpses of the bas relief carvings that surround the walls of the inner temple. They tell the stories of Jayavarman VII’s many successful battles. The king himself is always depicted larger than life, a fearsome and wrathful god-king. His men fill the walls, on horseback, on foot, or onboard ship.

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The surrounding rooms that make up the walls of the inner temple are covered in intricate carvings
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Here’s a battle scene
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Most of the columns have a lot of detail left on them. Some haven’t survived as well as others.
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And of course, detailed carvings up high as well
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These are apsara dancers. They symbolize the ideal of femininity, a thousand years ago.

Reaching the top of the inner temple, we were blown away by the massive scale of the “temple-mountain” in the center.

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Peekaboo, I see you
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Impossible stairs
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No handrails either. Evidently visiting the god-king was a trial in and of itself.
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If you can make it without falling, you may have an audience with the king.

It reminded me of seeing that cathedral in Prague; just the absolutely awesome scale of the thing took my breath away.

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Just unbelievably huge
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A wall of windows
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The top of Angkor Wat

It was closed when we got there, but there are stairs to take you up to the very top. Had I known that I would have made a point to get here earlier.

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Another exterior hallway, covered with bas reliefs

We poked around a little bit until a guard yelled at us that we were to leave since the temple was closed. We still had half an hour, but whatever. We kept heading through, since we were meeting our driver on the other side.

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One of the interior “courtyards”, all stone. This one looks like it could have been a large pool.
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Skylight
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Angkor Wat in shadow

And eventually we found a long flight of stairs that led us out the back, to our driver.

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East entrance and tree
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Broken window

It was an unbelievably short visit, and I wish I’d had more time. Better an hour or two than not coming at all, I suppose.

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