Place of interest in Siem Reap

/ Angkor Wat

Siem Reap is the ancient historical city of the Khmer Empire of the 9th Century. Siem Reap is a small charming city with a river flowing through the center of town. While most tourists spend their time exploring the ancient temple ruins, there are plenty of other diversions in the city. The Tonlè Sap Lake is located here and boat tours offer visitors a glimpse into the traditional Khmer way of life. Floating Villages, sunset cruises and tour of the bird sanctuary reserve of Prek Tuol. Visiting the local stone and wood-carving school or the nearby Silk Farm are also interested options.

Angkor Wat: the “city which is a temple”
Constructed in the first half of the 12th century (1113 – 1150) by king Suryavarman II. Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Vishnu). Art style: Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat, the largest monument of the Angkor group and one of the most intact, is an architectural masterpiece. Its perfection in composition, balance, proportions, reliefs and sculpture make it one of the finest monuments in the world. This temple is an expression of Khmer art at its highest point of development. Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat and an exterior wall measuring 1300m x 1500m. The temple itself is 1km square and consists of three levels surmounted by a central tower. The walls of the temple are covered inside and out with bas-reliefs and carving.

Baksei Chamkrong: the “bird who shelters under its wings”
Constructed at middle of the 10th century (947) perhaps begun by Harshavarman I (910-944) and completed by Rajendravarman II (944-968). Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Shiva); may have been a funeral temple for the parents of the king. Art style: transitional between Bakheng & Koh Ker. Baksei Chamkrong is a simple plan with a single tower on top of a square, four-tiered laterite platform of diminishing size 27m at the base and 12m high. Three level of the base are undecorated,
but the top platform has horizontal mouldings around it that sets off the sanctuary.

Phnom Bakheng
Constructed at late 9th century to early 10th century by king Yasovarman I (889-910). Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Shiva). Art style: Bakheng.
The construction of this temple mountain on Phnom Bakheng (Bakheng Hill), the first mayor temple to be constructed in the Angkor area, marked the move of the capital of the Khmer empire from Rolous to Angkor in the late 9th century. It served as king Yasovarman I`s state-temple at the center of his new
capital city Yasodharapura. The foundation of Bakheng is carved from the existing rock edifice rather than the laterite and earthfill of most other temples. Bakheng`s hilltop location makes it the most popular sunset location in the area, offering a view of the Tonle Sap lake and a distant Angkor Wat in the jungle. Often overcrowded at sunset. Elephant rides up the hill are available.

Angkor Thom: “Great city”
Constructed at the end of the 12th century – beginning of the 13th century (1181-1220) by king Jayavarman VII. Religion: Buddhist. Art style: Bayon.
Angkor Thom is a 3km2 walled and moated royal city and was the last capital of the Angkorian 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 and 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 of each cardinal point. Each gate is crowned with 4 giant faces.

Constructed late 12th century – early 13th century (1181-1220) by king Jayavarman VII. Religion: Buddhist. Art style: Bayon. Bayon is located in the center of Angkor Thom. Bayon has 54 towers give this temple its majestic character and each tower with four faces oriented toward the cardinal poits.
The best of Bayon are the bas-reliefs on the exterior walls of the lower level and on the upper level where the stone faces reside.
The bas-reliefs on the southern wall contain real-life scenes from the historical sea battle between the Khmer and the Cham. Even more interesting are extensive carving of unique and revealing scenes of every day life that are interspersed among the battle scenes, including market scenes, cockfighting, chess games and childbirth. The surrounding tall jungle makes Bayon a bit dark and flat for photographs near sunrise and sunset.

Constructed at middle of the 11th century (1060) by king Udayadityavarman II. Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Shiva). Art style: Baphuon.
Baphuon is a single temple-mountain sanctuary situated on a high base symbolizing Mount Meru. A rectangular sandstone wall measuring 425 by 125 meters enclose the temple. A special feature is the long elevated eastern approach with 200m supported by three rows of short, round columns forming a bridge to the main temple. Note the unique animal carvings at the walkway entrance, and the large reclining Buddha on the west side which added to the temple at a much later period.

Terrace of the Elephants
Constructed late 12th century by king Jayavarman VII (1181-1220). Religion: Buddhist. Art style: Bayon.
Terrace of the Elephants is an impressive, two and a half-meter tall, 300m in length. It has three main platforms and two subsidiary ones. The orthern section of the wall displays some particularly fine sculpture including the five headed horse and scenes of warriors and dancers.

Terrace of the Leper King
Constructed late 12th century by king Jayavarman VII (1181-1220). Religion: Buddhist. Art style: Bayon.
The Terrace of the Leper King is supported by a base 25m on each side and 6m in height. The sides of the laterite base are faced in sandstone and decorated with bas-reliefs divided into seven horizontal registers. Exterior wall: mythical beings - serpents, garudas and giants with multiple arms, carriers of swords and clubs, and seated women with naked torsos and triangular coiffures with a small flaming discs – adorn the walls of the terrace.

Phimeanakas: “aerial palace”
Constructed at the end of the 10th century – early 11th century (941-968) by king Rajendravarman II. Religion: Hindu. Art style: Kleang.
This temple is associated with a legend that tells of a gold tower (Phimeanakas) inside the royal palace of Angkor the Great, where a serpent-spirit with nine heads lived. The spirit appeared to the Khmer king disguised as a woman and the king had to sleep with her every night in the tower before he joined his wives and concubines in another part of the palace. If the king even missed one night it was believed he would die.
Impressive laterite and sandstone pyramid. The lack of surviving carving leaves it artistically uninteresting, but it is the tallest scalable temple in Angkor Thom, providing a nice view from the top. To the north of Phimeanakas, there are two ponds that were part of the Royal Palace compound.

Preah Khan: the “Secret Sword”
Constructed at second half of the 12th century (1191) by king Jayavarman VII. Religion: Buddhist. Art style: Bayon.
Preah Khan, an extensive 56 hectares Buddhist complex was built in 1191 as a monastery and center for earning by the Khmer king Jayavarman and dedicated to his father Dharanindravarman. The temple, which is located a few kilometers to the northeast of the north gate Angkor Thom, served as the nucleus of a group that includes the temples of Neak Pean and Ta Som, located along the 4km long Jayatataka Baray – the last of the great reservoirs to be built in Angkor.

Neak Pean: the “coiled serpents”
Constructed at the second half of the 12th century by king Jayavarman VII (1181-1220). Religion: Buddhist. Art style: Bayon.
Neak Pean is located in the center of the Jayatataka or Northern Baray and placed on the same axis as Preah Khan. The temple seems to have served as a place where pilgrims could go and take the waters, both physically and symbolically – the Khmer equivalent of a spa. The central pond is a replica of Lake Anavatapta in the Himalayas, situated at the top of the universe, which gives birth to the four great rivers of the earth. These rivers are represented at Neak Pean by sculpted gargoyles corresponding to the four cardinal points. The temple of Neak Pean is set in a large, square, man-made pond 700m each side, bordered by steps and surrounded by four smaller square ponds.

Ta Som: the “ancestor Som”
Constructed at the end of 12th century by king Jayavarman VII (1181-1220). Religion: Buddhist. Art style: Bayon.
Ta Som is a single shrine on one level surrounded by three laterite enclosure walls. There are gopuras on the east and west sides, which are cruciform in shape with a small room on each side and windows with balusters. The superstructures are carved with four faces. Many of the carving are in good condition and display particularly fine execution for late 12th century works. A huge tree grows from the top of the eastern gopura. Ta Som is the most distant temple on the Grand Circuit.

East Mebon
Constructed at second half of the 10th century (952) by king Rajendravarman II (944-968). Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Shiva). Art 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 928. 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.

Pre Rup: “turn, or change, the body”
Constructed at second half of the 10th century (961) by king Rajendravarman II (944-968). Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Shiva). Art style: Pre Rup.
Architecturally and artistically superior temple-mountain. Beautifully carved false door 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 that 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.

Chau Say Tevoda
Constructed at the end of the 11th century-first half of the 12th century by king Suryavarman II (1113-1150). Religion: Hindu. Art style: Angkor Wat.
Chau Say Tevoda and Thommanon are two small monuments framed by the jungle, that stand across the road from each other. because of the similarities in plan and form they are often referred to as the brother-sister temples. Chau Say Tevoda is rectangular in plan, with a central sanctuary opening to the east and an enclosure wall with Gopura, originally providing central access points through the wall. Two libraries open to the west occupy spaces in the north-east and south-east corners.

Constructed at the end of the 11th century-first half of the 12th century by king Suryavarman II (1113-1150). Religion: Hindu. Art style: Angkor Wat.
Thommanon is one of a pair of temples strategically placed outside the east gate (victory) leading into Angkor Thom. Thommanon is rectangular in plan with a sanctuary opening to the east, a moat and an enclosure wall with two gopuras, one on the east and another on the west, and one library near the south-east side of the wall. Only traces of a laterite base of the wall remain.

Ta Keo: the “ancestor Keo or the tower of crystal or glass”
Constructed at the end of the 10th century – early 11th century by king Jayavarman V (968-1001). Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Shiva). Art style: Kleang.
Ta Keo is one of the great temple-mountains at Angkor. It was never completed and reason is unknown, although the death of the king may well have had something to do with it. The temple rises to a height of 22m to the sky, giving an impression of strength and power. An innovation at Ta Kao is a porch at each cardinal point on the five towers of the top level. Ta Keo was the first temple built entirely in sandstone as such serves as a milestone in Khmer history.

Ta Prohm: the “ancestor Brahma”
Constructed at the mid 12th century to early 13th century (1186) by king Jayavarman VII (1181-1220). Religion: Buddhist (dedicate to the mother of the king). Art style: Bayon.
Shrouded in jungle, the temple of Ta Prohm is ethereal in aspect and conjures up a romantic aura. Trunks of trees twist among stone pillars. Banyan and Kapok trees spread their gigantic roots over, under and in between the stones, probing walls and terraces apart, as their branches and leaves intertwine to form a roof above the structures.
The monastic complex of Ta Prohm is one of the largest sites at Angkor. A Sanskrit inscription in stone, now removed to the Conservation of Angkor, tell us something about its size and function. Ta Prohm owned 3,140 villages. It took 79,365 people to maintain the temple, including 18 high priest, 2, 740 officials, 2,202 assistant and 615 dancers. Among the property belonging to the temple was a set of golden dishes weighing more than 500 kilograms, 35 diamonds, 40,620 pearls, 4,540 precious stones, 876 veils from China, 512 silk beds and 523 parasols.

Banteay Kdei: the “citadel of the cells”
Constructed at the middle of the 12th century to early 13th century (1186) by king Jayavarman VII (1181-1220). Religion: Buddhist. Art style: at least two different art periods – Angkor wat and Bayon are discernible.
Sprawling, 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 interior grade of sandstone and using poor construction techniques, leading to much of the deterioration visible today. Combine with a visit to Srah Srang, which is just opposite the east entrance.

Srah Srang: turn “royal bath”
Constructed at the end of the 12th century by king Jayavarman VII (1181-1220). Religion: Buddhist. Art style: Bayon.
Srah Srang is a large basin 700m x 300m bordered by stone steps with an elephant landing terrace of superb proportion and scale. It is a pleasant spot to sit and look out over the surrounding plain.
Originally excavated during the mid 10th century, it has an elephant terrace and a small island near its center on which there are some sandstone remains.

Prasat Kravan: the “cardamom sanctuary”
Constructed at the first half of the 10th Century (921) by king Harshavarman I (910-923) dedicated to Vishnu. Art style is transitional from Bakheng to Koh Ker.
Prasat Kravan consists of five brick towers in a row on one platform, which are decorated with carved, sandstone lintels and columns. All of the towers open to the east.

Banteay Srey: the “citadel of the women”
Constructed at second half of the 10th century (967) by king Rajendravarman II (944-968) and Jayavarman V (968-1001). Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Shiva). Art style: Banteay Srei.
Banteay Srei loosely translates to “citadel of the women” but this is a modern appellation that probably refers to the delicate beauty of the carvings. Built at a time when the Khmer Empire was gaining significant power and territory, the temple was constructed by a Brahmin counselor under a powerful
King, Rajendravarman II and later under Jayavarman V. Banteay Srey displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art. The walls are densely covered with some of the most beautiful, deep and intricate carvings of any Angkorian temple. The temple’s relatively small size, pink sandstone construction and ornate design give it a fairyland ambiance. Banteay Srey lies 38km from Siem Reap.

Banteay Samre: the “citadel of the Samre”
Constructed at middle of the 12th century by king Suryavarman II (1113-1150). Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Vishnu). Art 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 same time 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. The trip there is a nice little 3km road excursion through villages and paddies.

Beng Melea
Constructed at early 11th century by king Suryavarman II (1113-1150). Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Vishnu). Art style: Angkor Wat.
Sprawling jungle temple covering over one square kilometer. The temple is largely overrun by vegetation and very lightly touristed, giving it an adventurous, “lost temple” feel. Trees growing from the broken towers and galleries offer some of the best “tree in temple” shots aside from Ta Prohm. Constructed in a distinctly Angkor Wat style under the same king that built Angkor Wat, Beng Melea preceded and may have served as a prototype of sorts for Angkor Wat. Though there are some lintel and doorway carvings, there are no bas-reliefs and the carvings are comparatively sparse. When the temple was active, the walls may have been covered, painted or had frescos. In its time, Beng Melea was at the crossroads of several mayor highways that ran to Angkor, Koh Ker, Preah Vihear (in northern Cambodia). Beng Melea is located 63km east of siem Reap.

Rolous Group
The Rolous 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 “Rolous Group” due to its proximity to the modern town of Rolous. The ancient capital was named for Hari-Hara, a synthesis of the Hindu goods 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 mayor temple at Angkor, Phnom Bakheng, and moved the capital to the Bakheng area.

Preah Ko: the “sacred bull”
Constructed at late 9th century (879) by king Indravarman I (877-889). Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Shiva); funerary temple built for the king’s parents, maternal grandparents, and a previous king, Jayavarman II and his wife. Art style: Preah Ko.
Six towers displaying set on a platform, all beautifully preserved carving. Originally surrounded by walls and gopuras of which only vestiges remain. Preah Ko was one was one of the first mayor temples of the empire at the early Khmer capital of Hariharalaya. Preah Ko derives its name from the statues of bulls at the front of the central towers.

Constructed at late 9th century (881) by king Indravarman I (877-889). Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Shiva). Art style: Preah Ko.
The most impressive member of the Rolous Group, sitting at the center of the first Angkorian capital, Hariharalaya. Bakong stands 15 meters tall and is 650 x 850m 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. Some of the lintel carvings, particularly on the outer towers, are in very good shape. Picturesque moat and vegetation surrounding Bakong.

Constructed at the end of 9th century (893) by king Yasovarman I (889-910). Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Shiva); in memory of the king’s father. Art style: transitional between Preah Ko and Bakheng.
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 Rolous 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.