Before I go into the day’s events, I want you to see the photo id all foreigners need to purchase before accessing any of the temples at Angkor. It cost $40 USD for our 3 days.
After breakfast, we headed to the ancient city of Angkor Thom (“big city”), the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire.”After Jayavarman VII recaptured the Angkorian capital from the Cham invaders in 1181, he began a massive building campaign across the empire, constructing Angkor Thom as his new capital city. He began with existing structures such as Baphuon and Phimeanakas and built a grand enclosed city around them, adding the outer wall/moat. He then constructed some of Angkor’s greatest temples including his state-temple, Bayon, set at the center of the city. There are five entrances (gates) to the city, one for each cardinal point, and the victory gate leading to the Royal Palace area. Each gate is crowned with 4 giant faces. The South Gate is often the first stop on a tour. (Angkor Temple Guide)
Once inside the walled city, we stopped at an active Buddhist temple to receive a blessing from one of the monks. This was another of those tourist “experiences” arranged by our travel agents.
Just a few meters from where we got our blessing, we came to the Bayon Temple at the exact center of the Angkor Thom city. ” Built in the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII as part of a massive expansion of his capital Angkor Thom, the Bayon is deliberately built at the exact center of the royal city. The Bayon is the only state temple at Angkor built primarily as a Mahayana Buddhist shrine dedicated to the Buddha. Following Jayavarman’s death, it was modified and augmented by later Hindu and Theravada Buddhist kings in accordance with their own religious beliefs.” (Angkor Temples)
The heads at this temple are remarkable.
We stopped for lunch at the Khmer Village Restaurant. Pat had Sweet & Sour Fish. I had Stir-Fried Khmer Noodle. We split an order of Deep-Fired Shrimp and both had a bottle of Cambodia beer. Once again, a good meal.
Our afternoon started with the Ta Prohm temple, “..original name was Rajavihara, meaning “monastery of the King”. It was built as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. The construction of the temple is dated to 1186 AD, but it is generally considered to have been added to and embellished over a period of several years.” (Ta Prohm, the Tomb Raider temple)
Although this temple is known as the “Tomb Raider” temple because parts of the movie were filmed here, that part of the site is just a tiny, although extremely popular, part of the whole experience. This temple has been largely left as it was found: overgrown with jungle trees and vines. These trees and vines have cause much of the temple to crumble.
After Ta Prohm, it was off to the very famous Angkor Wat, built in the early 12th century. Angkor Wat is constructed like a temple mountain symbolizing Mount Meru, home of the Hindu god, Vishnu. This temple is the one Pat wanted to see more than any other and is the reason for coming to Cambodia. It surpassed our expectations. Wonderful!
We then went back to the hotel to rest and clean up before taking a tuk-tuk into Siem Reap for the Night Market and dinner.