An unscientific experiment to determine how many temples is 'enough'
14.11.2010 - 14.11.2010 32 °C
Let me begin by saying that the entire point of coming to Cambodia was to see the temples of Angkor. Over 1.5 days I was privileged to explore 8+. Based on the number of temples and the short duration of the visit, I posit that I am qualified - albeit in a very non-professional manner - to conduct this experiment. My conclusion is that there is no limit - each temple has something unique to recommend it. Read on if you are interested to find out more.
Our Sunday visit began with the surprisingly modern and efficient process of obtaining a photographic ticket, which was to be worn AT ALL TIMES while in the temple precinct. I should add that the temple precinct covers many, many square kilometres. For example it took almost an hour to drive from #1 to #2.
The first, and I think my favourite, was Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom includes two exceedingly worthwhile sights; the awe-inspiring Bayon and the charming Elephant Walk. Although not as famous as its neighbour Angkor Wat, you would be familiar with Angkor Thom from the enigmatic smiling faces of the Bayon. They tend to grace the covers of travel guides and form the basis of the majority of artistic souvenirs (ie paintings, sculptures and the like). The smiling faces ARE the temples of Angkor, and there are more of them at the Bayon than you could imagine, if you haven't seen them for yourself.
Also known as the Terrace of Elephants, the Elephant Walk is over 300m of almost life-sized elephants carved into a platform formerly used for parades. Sadly, the real elephants are long gone from this area, save for a couple that trudge around transporting tourists from one side of the Angkor Thom complex to the other, but the Elephant Walk allows us to imagine what once was. The elephant is still a really important symbol of Cambodian culture, despite their scarcity in modern times.
Banteay Srei, or the Citadel of Women, is a lovely, small temple carved from pink sandstone. I think our guide said it was the oldest temple on our visit schedule. My choice of unique features for this temple - although there are many - is the monkey-headed guards watching over the shrines. In the right light they might cause you to do a double-take, or look back over your shoulder to see who is watching you.
Preah Khan is structured around two very long corridors; east-west and north-south. As you move further along the corridor towards the place of the king, the doors become lower and lower, so that by the time you're in the presence of the king you have no choice but to be bowing your head. Carvings at Preah Khan include the most beautiful renditions of Apsara dancers.
East Mebon is small, but includes lovely elephant sculptures at each corner of the two main platforms.
Pre Rup is the temple we were taken to in order to prepare for our Angkor sunset experience. The sunset itself was nice but nothing special. The thing about Pre Rup that will stay in your memory is that it's built in the style of a mountain and is therefore very tall. The original, steep stone steps are still in use on all four sides.
If you make it to the top, you deserve to be able to sit a while and enjoy the view!
To be continued...