Angkor Extended

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had seen the most famous temples the day before, but there were many left that have a reputation for being similarly beautiful but less overrun. Not that we had the impression to have been particularly overrun, our guide managed to successfully circumvent most of the crowds during our first day.
We decidOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAed to follow what is traditionally known as the “large tour” around the East Baray. We started our day with the sunrise at Sra Srang, the landing peer of the kings. It’s supposed to be a splendid spot for sunrises and much less crowded than Angkor Wat. This might have been true if the peer hadn’t been completely disassembled and the remaining area covered by a plastic sheet. As such it was quite a disappointment. If anyone wants to go there, I’d definitely recommend checking out the current status of the work there first.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
We continued with the temple right opposite of Sra Srang, Banteay Kdei. A lovely long stretched temple built in the short Buddhist period of the early 13th century. As with most other Buddhist temples, this one was also vandalised in the late 13th century when the population switched back to Hinduism as a religion. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll Buddha images are either scratched out or had their depiction altered to represent Shiva. (                This is conveniently done by adding a beard to the Buddha’s face). The temple was in quite a sorry state, mostly due to poor building techniques and inferior material. The king Jayavarman VII built many many temple in just 20 years of time, leading to a lot of the temples being of poor quality and the reliefs having few details. However the sculptures remain in most of their glory and I took a particular liking to the lion statues
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn we drove along the, now dried out, East Baray to Pre Rup, a pyramid style temple from the 10th century. Each level of the pyramid has several small Prasat on the corners and the stairways were lined by some impressive and more or less intact lion statues. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next in line was East Mebon, originally built on an island in the East Baray, it is now accessible by car. It has the same basic structure as Pre Rup and in addition to the lions along the stairs also large elephant statues on the corners are still intact. POLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAre Rup and East Mebon were the first temples to be built after the king returned from Koh Ker in the 10th century. About 10 years separate the two temples which probably explains their similar looks.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter that we left the East Baray to drive even further out and visit Banteay Samre. Banteay Samre is another long temple, with a somewhat intact ceremonial way. It is from the same time as Angkor Wat, so from the 12th century. We had a lovely time there, it was 10am,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA the sun had fully emerged but wasn’t yet killing us and we were completely on our own. There was a distinct Indiana Jones feeling to it as we roamed through the spacious complex, discovering carvings and sculpturesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA (also thanks to our very helpful guide book). There was a real peaceful atmosphere there and we spend well over an hour in the temple. The ride there and back led through lots of fields and many small villages and was in itself also very interesting and a welcome change from the temples. Once we reached the standard path of the “large tour” again, we had lost the head start we got by rising with the sun. We reached the next temple on our list, Ta Som and were disappointed. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt comes quite highly recommended because of a fig tree growing out and over the western gopura. I don’t know whether this recommendation or the time of the day was the reason, but the temple was quite overrunOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA. Maybe we also had been spoiled by the quiet and peace we had had so far, but I couldn’t enjoy the temple because there were too many people there. The tree growing over the entrance is spectacular and the temple has some nicely preserved carvings, but we were still in and out within half an hour. By then we had reached midday, it had gotten hot and we were slowly but surely growing tired. In addition my beloved camera ran out of juice, so no more pictures. But we soldiered on, the two remaining temples on our list had sounded awesome in the guide book. First was Neak Pean a water temple at the center of 8 small ponds and surrounded by over 50 lakesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA. When we arrived, a long bridge led towards the temple and we were looking forward to discovering something new and completely different. Unfortunately when we reached the temple we had to realise that everything but one side had been fenced off and basically no access to the temple was possible. We rushed through Preah Khan pretty tired and  thinking that we had seen it all and nothing could surprise us. That was until we stopped at the Terrace of the Leper King. The Terrace is surrounded by a relief, hidden behind a relief. It is not quite clear why this happened. TOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhe more mythological explanation is that the hidden relief shows the underworld of the dead and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to reach daylight. The more plain explanation is that the king wasn’t happy with the first relief and demanded a second one be built in front of it to hide it. The reliefs had us stunned, so much so that we would return to see them again in the next few days.


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