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About Angkor

French naturalist Henri Mouhot hacked his way through the Cambodian jungle in January 1860, in search of beetles and butterflies and opened up this `lost city' to the world. The legend became fact and a stream of explorers, historians and archaeologists came to Angkor to explain the meaning of these vast buildings. The earliest of these scholars could not believe that Angkor had been built by the Cambodian people, believing the temples to have been built by another race who had conquered and occupied Cambodia maybe 2,000 years before. Gradually, some of the mysteries were explained, the Sanskrit inscriptions deciphered and the history of Angkor slowly pieced together, mainly by French scholars in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Mouhot wrote in his diary about sight of the ruins, made the traveler “forget all the fatigues of the journey, filling him with admiration and delight, such as would be experienced in finding a verdant oasis in the sandy desert. Suddenly, and as if by enchantment, he seems to be transported from barbarism to civilization, from profound darkness into light.”

Mouhot was not the first European to visit Angkor. A long line of traders, missionaries, and travelers had passed this way before him in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. In fact, Mouhot’s visit was inspired by the travels of French missionary Charle - Emile Bouillevaux, who visited in 1854. For some reasons, the reports of others had gone unnoticed by the West. Mouhot, traveling under the auspices of England’s Royal Geographical Society, was the most publicity conscious of the visitors. He died in Laos in 1861 from a malarial fever; his diaries and tale correspondence was published posthumously 1863 in magazine called “Le tour du Mond”, triggering European interest. Englishman John Thomson took the first photographs of Angkor in 1886, and the ruins exercised a powerful hold on the 19th century European imagination. The image of ruined temples emerging from thick jungle vegetation became part of colonial romanticism the lost city rediscover.

It was not until after World War II, when archaeologist Bernard Groslier made aerial surveys of the area, that the full extent of Angkor was comprises 70 monuments scattered over an area of 200 square Km. The complex tombs, temple, palaces, moats reservoirs, and causeway was built over a period of 400 years. There’s nothing like Angkor in Southeast Asia. Only two monument complexes come close: 9th-century Borobodur in Indonesia, and 11th century Pagan in Burma.

The inspiration for Angkor architecture come from a unique mix of Hinduism and Buddhism. The early rules of Angkor promoted various Hindu sects, mainly dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. Shiva was initially the most favored deity, but by the 12th century, Vishnu had replaced him. At the same time the king encouraged Buddhist scholarship; Jayavaman VII introduced Mahayana Buddhism as the court religion by the end of the 12th century. Layered onto these concepts was the tradition of deification of kings in sculptural form. This mix resulted in Angkorian structures that have no parallel, such as the fantastic South Gate of Angkor Thom and the bizarre Bayon.

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ANGKORIAN ARCHITECTURE

The caste system of the Khmers was similar to the hierarchy extant in ancient Egypt and Mexico when the Pharaohs and Maya erected their Pyramids. There was a line of kings, a class of priests and merchants, and a caste of thousands of slaves(captives of war), laborers, masons, sculptors, and decorators. Artisans, including architects, belonged to the lower echelons of society. They remain anonymous-nothing is know of the stone masons and sculptors who worked for the Angkorian kings.

Wooden buildings in Angkor area have not survived. The use of brick or stone was reserved for sacred temples and monuments. Architects must have worked with priests on the design of such buildings: a number of temple-mountains representing the paradise of Mount Meru, center of the universe in Hindu-Buddhist commonly. Rigidly geometric and symmetric pattern radiating in concentric circles compose the ground of plans of a number of Angkor buildings. The effect is similar to a mandala or sacred diagram of the cosmos, with Mount Meru at the centre.

East Angkor buildings were made of large bricks, with mortar of vegetable–based adhesive. From the 10th century on sandstone foundations were laid, and late rite was used in walls. Late rite is a red, porous material that is actually a kind of iron-bearing soil. It is easily quarried up, cut into large blocks, then left to harden upon exposure to the air. Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom rest on late rite foundations; the temples were mostly fashioned from sandstone quarried at Phnom Kulen, 45 km northeast of Angkor. The sandstone exhibits a wide range of coloration, from gray to pinkish, yellowish buff to greenish. The sandstone was floated down the Siem Reap river and dragged to the building site using ropes, roller, and winches. A bas-relief in the west inner gallery of the Bayon depicts the hauling and polishing of sandstone. The roughly dressed blocks were perfectly fitted, smoothed off, and the surfaces decorated with bas-reliefs. Some stones were held in place with bronze clamps, others relied entirely on gravity.

 

SURVIVED?

The name of “Angkor” surfaced in the 16th century - the place was called Anjog, Onco, Anckoor, Ongcor, Angcor, and Vat Nokor by Western explores. Angkor is believed to be a corruption of the Khmer Nokor (nakhon in Thai, and nagara in Sanskrit), meaning the Royal City of the Khmer Empire. Build  9th and 14th centuries as the administrative and religious center of the powerful Khmer Empire. Bas-reliefs like those at the Bayon and Angkor Wat provide clues about life at Angkor.

This capital of the Khmer Empire, was undoubtedly as splendid as many European cities. But much is missing today. No wooden buildings have survived, and all the residential compounds have disappeared. In 1431 the conquering Siamese killed, looted, and destroyed, carrying off thousands of slaves, tripping the palaces and temples of their statuary and ornaments encrusted with precious stones, and removing the gold coatings from towers and rooftops. Gone are the wooden palaces and dwellings with their terracotta roof tiles; gone are the sumptuous carpets and furnishings, Chinese pottery and ceramics, bronze weapons and cult objects, jewelry and utensils, silk beds and parasols.

What remains are the huge sandstone blocks that could not be carted away. Some artifacts-statuary, jewelry, ritual objects-are on display at the National Museum in Phnom Penh. The rest-the vast kingdom peopled by priests, celestial dancers, astronomers, ministers, and generals, and the court of Angkor with its banquets, music, dancing, rich tapestries and paintings, merchants coming and going-is left for you to conjure. In the haunting contrast between past grandeur and present decay lies the perverse pleasure of ruins.

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ANGKOR HIGHLIGHTS

You could spend an entire week in Angkor, sun rise to sun set, and still not see it all. Angkor and Siem Reap are the kind of places for spend time. If time is short, concentrate on the two main complexes, Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Options vary on the rest; everybody seems to have a personal favorite.

Following are the star sites:

Angkor Wat : Large and classical, this awesome site is the world’s largest temple, with the world’s longest bas-relief panels. On the second terrace are friezes of celestial dancers. Expect to spend at least half a day here, or make several visits.

Angkor Thom : This cluster of sites is another must-see, and will again easily consume at least half a day. The spectacular South Gate is the best-preserved entry to Angkor Thom. The central temple, the Bayon, is small in scale, but bizarre, mysterious, and imaginative-the favorite of many visitors. North of the Bayon are fine friezes at the Leper King terrace.

Aerial Views : A hike up Phnom Bakheng affords fine sunset views of Angkor Wat. North of the Bayon is a hike to a hilltop behind Baphuon temple. Both hilltops give you a sense of jungle and forest vegetation.

Jungle-locked Ruins : Preah Khan and Ta Prohm are romantic and spooky sites, covered by centuries of vegetation. The French left Ta Prohm untouched to give an impression of how Angkor looked in the 19th century, with tree roots and foliage winding through the stonework.

Artificial Lakes : To get an idea of the waterworks in the Angkor region, visit the ceremonial bathing sites of Neak Pean and Sra Srang or journey to the West Baray for boating or swimming.

Rural Living : Take a road in any direction from Siem Reap and you’re in the countryside. Best excursions are 13 km east to Rolous, where you can view village life, or 15 km south to Lake Tonle Sap to see floating houses waving over fish-holding pens.

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ANGKOR ROUTE STRATEGIES

Angkor Archaeological Park consists of about 70 ruins in an area of 200 square km, although the key ruins are clustered in a zone of some 60 square km. The French engineered routes of hard-packed earth around the Angkor area in the 1920s to facilitate visits by car. Several roads were later paved, and dubbed Le Petit Circuit (The Little Circuit) and Le Grand Circuit (the Grand Circuit), but there are really no set patterns. You can mix and match, or come up with your own routes.

Start early to avoid The heat but there are well-shaded sections, especially around the Bayon. By bicycle or motorcycle; It’s a good idea to take a siesta in a cool spot : find a food stall (opposite the main gates to Angkor or West of Bayon) or just go back to town and rest. Angkor Wat at the break of dawn is awesome. A little later, at the Bayon, it’s misty and mysterious, with the sun filtering through the forest canopy, illuminating enigmatic smiling faces; the chirping of birds breaks the silence. The last glows of the setting sun over Angkor Wat are dramatic, viewed from Phnom Bakheng.

Angkor Wat is overwhelming. The mind cannot take it in at one visit. Neither will your camera-attempts to fit Angkor into a standard lens viewfinder are frustrating. Visit to Angkor Wat in the late afternoon and monopolize your time.

Northern Axis : Siem Reap - Angkor Thom (South gate, Bayon, Baphuon, Leper King Terrace), Preah Khan, back south to Angkor Wat west entrance, Phnom Bakheng (sunset) - Siem Reap. Distance : 29 km.

Little Circuit : Siem Reap - Angkor Wat west gate, Bayon, Victory Gate, Takeo, Ta Prohm, Sra Srang, Angkor Wat east entrance - Siem Reap. Distance : 30 km.

North and East Axis : Siem Reap - Angkor Wat west entrance, Bayon, Preah Khan, back to Leper King Terrace, Victory Gate, Chau Say Tevoda, Takeo, Ta Prohm, retrace route to Elephant Terrace, Angkor Wat again - Siem Reap.: 38 km

Grand Circuit : Siem Reap - Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom (South Gate, Bayon, Baphuon, Leper King Terrace), Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Sra Srang, Angkor Wat east entrance - Siem Reap. Distance : 40 km.

Combination Circuit : Siem Reap - Angkor Thom (South gate, Bayon, Leper King Terrace), Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Sra Srang, Ta Prohm, Victory Gate, Elephant Terrace, Angkor Wat west entrance - Siem Reap. Distance : 45 km.

 

Follow are links from The Angkor Guide. As my browsing,  this guide is the most complete online guide. You can get free download such as map, about temples and so on.  Please click on temple name to view details.

ANGKOR WAT

Angkor Wat - the bas-reliefs
 

FROM ANGKOR WAT TO ANGKOR THOM
Ta Prohm-Kel
Phnom Bakheng
Baksei Chamkrong
Thma Bay Kaek
Prasat Bei
 

ANGKOR THOM
the external enclosure
the prasat chrung
the gates of Angkor Thom
the Bayon - the bas-reliefs
Monument 486
 

THE ROYAL SQUARE
the terrace of the elephants
the terrace of the leper king
tep pranam
prah palilay
 

THE ROYAL PALACE ENCLOSURE
Phimeanakas
Baphuon - the bas-reliefs
Prasats Suor Prat
the Kleang (south kleang)
(north kleang) the monument to the east of the north Kleang
Prah Pithu

 

MONUMENTS ON THE SMALL CIRCUIT
Monument 487 (Mangalartha)
Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda
Spean Thma
the Hospital Chapel
Ta Keo
Ta Nei
Ta Prohm
Kutisvara
Banteay Kdei
Srah Srang
Prasat Kravan
MONUMENTS ON THE GRAND CIRCUIT
Pre Rup
Prasat Leak Neang
Eastern Mebon
Ta Som
Krol Ko
Neak Pean
Prasat Prei
Banteay Prei
Prah Khan
Krol Damrei
MONUMENTS BEYOND THE CIRCUITS
Banteay Srei
Banteay Samre

THE ROLUOS GROUP
Bakong
Prah Ko
Lolei
Phnom Krom
Phnom Bok
Western Baray
Prasat Ak Yom
Western Mebon
Beng Mealea

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