19 March 2012

Sundown at Angkor Wat

For many people traveling to Cambodia, seeing the famous temple complex of Angkor Wat is the centerpiece of their trip. Built in the reign of Suryavarman II in the first half of the 12th century both as the capital and the state temple, it is the world's largest religious monument and the grandest of all the Khymer temples. The scale of the site, which covers 82 hectares, is immense and so hard to capture in photographs. Below, we are standing in front of the reflecting pool which fills during monsoon season. The main temple is behind us.


The temple itself stands in the middle on a terrace that covers nearly nine hectares. It is amazing to think that this architectural marvel was completed during the reign of one king. The pyramidal towers, created by means of stepped terraces, are a major feature of Khymer architecture and are meant to symbolize Mount Meru, the centre of the Hindu universe. At Angkor Wat, the summit of the temple is crowned with five towers.

It is possible to climb to the summit, but we were discouraged by the line-up just to begin the climb! We opted to walk with our guide, Mr Thy, and appreciate more of the structures and sculptures.


As the light changed with the setting sun, we saw the warm red tones of the sandstone deepen. And the sculptured lions darken.



The sun pushed the library into sharp relief.


And then it was time to walk the wide stone causeway across the broad moat that surrounds Angkor Wat. We left through the king's gate which is always larger than the other entry gates. See, there's my king below, appreciating our day's exploration of a true wonder.



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