Sunday, July 11, 2010

100707 Siem Reap, Cambodia Pt2: Angkor Thom, Chao Say Tevoda, Thommanon, Ta Keo

Angkor Thom

After breakfast, we took our tuk-tuk to the grand walled-in city of Angkor Thom. Unlike the Angkor Wat which was only a single temple, the Angkor Thom was an entire city (just like Dubrovnik in Croatia) that had been preserved till today. The centerpiece of Angkor Thom is the main temple, the Bayon.

Like any other major site in old Angkor, Angkor Thom also has a moat surrounding the city walls, which are 3km by 3km, a perfect square, unlike that of Angkor Wat. On the bridge toward the main city gates, there are 54 gods and 54 demons. Many of these are made from green sandstone, and most heads have been stolen over the years (the Khmer people believe its the Thais who stole them), and restoration efforts have commissioned stone craftstmen to make copies of the heads to replace the stolen ones.

Entrance of Angkor Thom with the 54 gods (left) and 54 demons (right)

The moat of Angkor Thom

Upon entering the city gates, we climbed up the city walls and took a photo with one of the faces of the 4-faced stupas that are so quinticentially Bayonesque. Good photo spot if you know about it. Thanks Chay! :)

sitting on the wall of Angkor Thom

One can also get elephant rides in Angkor Thom for US$15 a ride. We didn't though, it was beyond our student budgets and its cruel for the elephants to be bullied by humans all day. We went directly to the central temple, Bayon, in Angkor Thom. There are 54 stupas in Bayon, one for each village in ancient Angkor. Each of these stupas had four faces that are the faces of King Jayavarman VII and Buddha combined. Each of the four faces of a single stupa are the same, but all 54 have different expressions.

Bayon temple

The layout of Bayon is similar to that of the Angkor Wat. It has three circles and also shaped like a big stupa. However, Bayon is made up of smaller slabs of stone unlike the Angkor Wat. This is because the stone from the Bayon temple is stolen from other temples as the supply of stone was running out during that time. Hence, the Bayon temple is not in as good a condition as the Angkor Wat.

along the walls of the Bayon temple

Smaller stones and less intricate bas-reliefs at the Bayon temple

Also, the bas-relief carvings at the Bayon temple is less intricate than those at the Angkor Wat because when Cambodia was fighting a war during the time the Bayon temple was being built, and stone carvers and artisans wanted to finish their work as quickly as possible, so they could return from the city back to the villages.

Emy and Leah @ Bayon temple

Nevertheless, the Bayon temple is amazing. At any one place, you can see many faces of Jayavarman VII looking out at you. Its a little creepy, but there can be many fun photo taking opportunities as well. Chay definitely knew some of them!

Leah, Emy and Jayavarman VII

Say hello!

After climbing all of Bayon, we exited from a side entrance that overlooked the entire Bayon temple. It was beautiful.

Side view of the Bayon temple

In and around Angkor Thom, there are several huge statues of Buddha. Some of these statues are really old, while others are made as late as in the 20th century. People used to pray to these statues, but less do these days. Apparently, there have been too many noisy tourists around these statues that the Khmer people are afraid that the spirit of Buddha will escape these statues. This is why they put yellow or gold cloths on these statues so that the spirits do not escape when there are noisy tourists around.

Large statue of Buddha

Chao Say Tevoda

Chao Say Tevoda temple is an old Hindu temple that predates the Angkor Wat and is in the same style as the Angkor Wat. It is one of the most recent temples to be opened to the public (late 2009), after restoration works were done by the People's republic of China. Chao Say Tevoda is also on route of the victory entrance of the Angkor Thom (east side entrance). It is also one of the few temples that have wooden inner structural beams, hence it is less well-preserved compared to the sandstone structured temples.

Chao Say Tevoda temple


Thommanon is directly north of the Chao Say Tevoda temple, and built during the time of the Angkor Wat, and also in a similar style as the Angkor Wat and the Chao Say Tevoda temple across the street. Unlike the other large temples, Thommannon, like Chao Say Tevoda is a single-towered temple.

Thommanon temple

Ta Keo

After visiting the Chao Say Tevoda temple and the Thommanon temple, we took the tuk-tuk to Ta Keo. Ta Keo is also nicknamed the 'unlucky temple' by the native Khmers as they believe that it was very bad luck for the temple to have been struck by lightning during its building. Built by Jayavarman V, this temple is now avoided by the Khmer people. Because of this, Chay did not want to take us to this temple, but said that we can climb it if we wanted to, warning us that this is also a steep temple to climb.

Ta Keo temple

the lightning struck here

As we got to Ta Keo, I realised that this temple was much less touristy than the others. There were few tourists around, and there were no wooden stairs to climb up this temple. This one was the original stone steps - steep, and very narrow. Its going to be a hard way up, and an even harder way down, but we still decided to attempt it. Good exercise you know!

thats how steep it was...

We made it up with the help of a young Khmer boy, who was apparently unafraid of the 'unlucky temple'. We figured that he was taking us around, and was just going to ask us for some money later. We were spot on, but its okay, we had fun climbing up and down. Thankfully we both survived coming down. It was particularly steep and hard, especially with the narrow steps.

Us on the way down from Ta Keo

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