The Cities of Angkor

On this trip, we had already visited 3 World Heritage Sites: temple and palace Vat Phou and the old capital Luang Prabang in Laos and the town of Hoi An in Vietnam. The big highlight we had left for the end of our South East Asia trip: the Cities of Angkor.

We have all seen the silhouette of the main attraction of Angkor Wat: the 5 towers, looking like giant pinecones. But seeing it in the early morning light with your own eyes is breath-taking. It doesn’t matter that hundreds of other tourists want to see the temple and that the sun already makes you sweat, this view is worth almost any trouble.

This painting represents the picture we did not get. In the morning the sun rises behind Angkor Wat, as seen from across the water from the main entrance. This turns the buildings into dark silhouettes. To get the light as we see it here you will have to visit the place an the afternoon.

Angkor was once the centre of the Khmer civilization. Between the 8th and the 13th centuries, several Khmer kings built their palaces and temples and cities in this area. What we see today are mainly the temples, they were built of stones. All wooden structures are long gone; many of the more recent buildings collapsed or even vanished in the jungle. There was so much construction going on, that after a few centuries, there was no quarry with quality sandstone left in the area.

ES making her way along the Elephant terrace in Angkor Thom. 

A lot of what we know about the temples and the Khmer history comes from carvings and inscriptions that can still be seen. For instance, several walls of the Bayon (the temple) at Angkor Thom are covered with carvings, so called bas-reliefs, that tell episodes of Khmer history but also about daily life. By the way, these reliefs are the second breath-taker. We came across a scene of a sea battle, where the crocodiles are eating the warriors that fall in the water. We later learned that this shows a famous battle between Khmer and Chams on the great Lake of Tonle Sap. The aggressors had come up the Mekong and thru the lake, just like we had done a week earlier. After several years of fighting, the Khmer got Angkor back. The new king, Jayavarman VII, wanted an even bigger, even more impressive city with many temples. Angkor Thom was build during this reign around 1200. Our Mekong cruiser was named after him.

The tourists run around all day making big eyes and taking pictures. The statues stay day and night. They are always calm, they have seen it all before.

Our guidebook listed 7 temples as must-see 3-star-sites. In two mornings we managed to see 4 of them. But we very much also enjoyed the little temples where you are on your own where you can study little reliefs and architecture features while listening to the sounds of the jungle. Feels like have having your private Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat is much more than a historic monument, it is also a working temple.

We had to restrict our visits to the mornings, at noon the temperature raised above 40 C, quite normal for May, but not for April when we were there. But, even with normal temperatures, we recommend to start your visit with the rising of the sun. And rent a tuk-tuk for the day. You can do guided tours. But we wanted to visit at our own speed and bought the guidebook “Ancient Angkor”, the extended edition of 2003.




3 thoughts on “The Cities of Angkor

  1. 1000 Dank für die sehr spannenden Berichte, die ich mit grossem Vergnügen lese. Meistens treffen sie bei mir über Mittag ein und so habe ich eine Mittagspause die mich auf eine grosse Reise mitnimmt.
    Bitte noch mehr davon!


    1. Unsere Reise ist so spannend, wir erzählen gerne davon. Und schön, dass es auch jemand liest.
      Wir waren 18 Tage auf einer Insel, praktisch ohne Internet. Wir haben es auch nicht vermisst. Dort haben wir weitere Beiträge vorbereitet, in den nächsten Tagen gibt also es mehr Lesestoff.


  2. WOW, thank you for the beautiful read. i am currently in school and i have an art project coming up and im surfing the web and im really influenced by your great knowledge on my culture. i hope to be able to visit my country again soon. thank you for being who you are and understanding our culture. art has no language barrier it is defiantly universal. Wishing you both safe travels. =)


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