Angkor Temples 4
The largest and grandest surviving temple of the Khmer empire is Angkor Wat, built in the first half of the 1100s (a few centuries after the great Mayan temples of Central America and the same time as many of the famous cathedrals of Europe). Its design was intended to represent a microcosm of the Hindu universe in stone. Its great size (900,000 square feet), soaring towers (200 feet tall), walls covered in carved scenes of kings and deities, and imposing setting attest to a time when the Khmer empire was at the height of its power and grandeur.
The trusty tuk-tuk driver from our guesthouse speeding us to Angkor Wat
Part of the moat around Angkor Wat at dawn
The back door to Angkor Wat (the east gatehouse in the city wall) was deserted at 6 a.m.!
Approaching the main temple of Angkor Wat from the east gate
Most of this large area between the outer walls and the temple would have been covered with wooden city buildings
These are the first people we saw that morning!
One of the series of concentric galleries that ring the temple
A smaller shrine between the inner and outer galleries
Past the galleies, looking up at the series of platforms that rise to the center of the temple
The steps are steep to give the feel of climbing a mountain
The interiors were plastered and painted, probably in red and black and gold. In a few places, some pigment remains.
Six-foot-high carvings cover the walls of the galleries (this one showing a chariot at war)
A rare scene with women and children
This carving of an ascetic appears at the base of many pillars
Some of the carvings still have their original laquer (or have maybe been relaquered)
These turned stone pillars fill many window openings at Angkor Wat
A series of carvings depicting heaven and hell: In heaven, people treat you like a king
While in hell, you're devoured by wild animals . . .
. . . or treated like slaves
The huge carving showing the churning of the sea of milk; here, demons pull on the head end of the naga
Vishnu in the middle helps with the churning (with demons on the left, gods on the right, and apsaras hovering above)
Later in its life, Angkor Wat was turned into a Buddhist temple
By mid-morning, the crowds climbing to the top of the temple had grown
A view from the top level
The tower at the very center of Angkor Wat
Inside the center tower is a small room that now contains this reclining Buddha
Looking from the top out to the main (west) gatehouse
A Buddha sheltered by a naga (a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist elements)
Dancers in traditional Khmer costumes charge tourists a dollar to take a picture
We snapped them while they were still getting dressed
Back on ground level again, we looked at a Buddhist monastery located within the old city walls
A golden stupa (memorial to hold cremated ashes) at the monastery
The view from the west causeway at the 600-foot-wide moat that surrounds much of Ankor Wat
A reconstructed naga head (and lion) at the end of the causeway