Finally, I've come to share to you the final destination of my solo travel in Indochina. It is inevitable but fitting to share to you my adventure at the grandest and majestic temple ever to exist in Siem Reap, Cambodia....
Angkor Wat is considered as Cambodia's national emblem mainly because it is a masterpiece of Khmer architecture, style and craftsmanship. It is the largest temple monument recorded throughout history with a land area of 162 hectares. It is also known as the best preserved temple among all that was discovered and a famous pilgrimage site for Buddhists around the world. No wonder, Angkor Wat is a must when you visit to Cambodia.
Before I actually came to this place, I've read about other blogs that suggests to visit Angkor Wat during sun rise and get photographs at the famous reflecting pond just after you cross the moat surrounding the temple. And I just did that. Anticipating the flock of tourists during this time. I rode my granny bike to Angkor Wat at around 3:45am. Yes, that early!
By 4:00am, a lot of other tourists were also starting to arrive and I've claimed my spot just near the tip of the pond where I also met with another Filipina traveler. After waiting for 1.5 hours, the sun began to rise and people started clicking away their phones and cameras just to also have that iconic shot of Angkor Wat. Well, here is my take. (Sorry, I just don't have the time to post edit these.)
Entering Angkor Wat and the Cruciform Cloister
After I bid my farewell to my new found friend, I went ahead and followed the crowd moving towards Angkor Wat's entrance. And just by standing along the cruciform terrace will already give you a stunning view of this imposing temple.
The steps on the third enclosure wall will then lead you to the Cruciform Cloister. This cloister structure has two perpendicular axial galleries that intersect in the middle which then forms like a cross with an outer square. These axial galleries have these dark mysterious feel to it. The columns or pedestals are filled with carved writings and beautiful devatas.
GETTING CLOSER TO THE SUMMIT
Just like the Bayon Temple, Angkor Wat was designed with Mount Meru as the reference. In Hindu mythical stories, Mount Meru served as the center of the universe. The central towers represents Mt. Meru peaks, the outer enclosure walls represent mountains at the edge of the world, and the moat represents the ocean.
Angkor Wat is build in three levels. Beyond the Cruciform Cloister is the second enclosure wall that leads to the middle or second level terrace with mini libraries. A bit of an open space that will give you a view of the Central Towers built on a platform. The platform measures about 332 m x 258 m and the central tower rises about 65 m high from ground level. What is noticeable is the detailed concentric patterns on the platform.
STROLLING ALONG THE BAKAN GALLERIES
It took about 20 minutes waiting in line for my turn to ascend the steps to Angkor Wat's Central Towers. Its a very steep stairway. Also, since the central platform is relatively small in size, they are controlling the number of people walking on this level.
The are 5 central towers on the third level arranged in what they call "quincunx". One on each corner and the last is the central most one which rises higher than the corner towers. What is astounding about the central most tower is the intricate sculpture on its exterior wall - devatas and other Hindu or Buddhist figures. Under the central tower lies a Buddha shrine which probably was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu back then.
Strolling along these Bakan galleries would give you a sense of awe. A sure glimpse of Angkor Wat's glorious past. Ancient artifacts are lined up along the way and beautiful carvings of Devatas are found on the walls. Although some parts of the structures have decayed or been destroyed all throughout the centuries, intricate patterns and floral design are still intact on the ceilings.
And last but not the least, the Bakan gallery opens you up to a stunning view of Angkor Wat's vastness and entirety which will leave you breathless...
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
Initially King Suryavarmann II's state temple was Baphuon which was dedicated to Shiva. However this King wanted to honor Vishnu thus he decided to build Angkor Wat as his new state temple in the 11th or 12th century. Besides being a temple, scholars believed that Angkor Wat also served as the King's mausoleum upon his death.
Angkor Wat means "The Temple City" or "The City of Temples" although it is said that this was not its original name. No stele or inscriptions were found that would have recorded Angkor Wat's past. The construction of Angkor Wat took place between 1116 CE to 1150 CE. About 30+ years in the making and was said to require about 300,000 workers but it was never finished.
Angkor Wat's style is of classical Khmer architecture. Most of the structure are made using sandstone just like Banteay Srei. Thus the well preserved carvings, bas-reliefs, and the structure itself. Other elements that distinguished Angkor Wat are its lotus-bud shaped towers, axial and cruciform galleries and its bas reliefs along the outer galleries that depict ancient Hindu myths.
The Chams then raided Angkor Wat in 1177 until King Jayavarman VII defeated the Chams and restored the Khmer empire. However, he chose to build another mighty city and temple which is Angkor Thom and Bayon Temple. Angkor Wat was then converted into Buddhist temple. Later on, there were foreign recordings that state there were still some activities in Angkor Wat during the 17th century with Japanese people visiting the place.
Fast forward to 1850, Angkor Wat was rediscovered by a French explorer named Henri Mouhot. In 1992, Angkor Wat was included in the UNESCO World Heritage. Then major restoration works commenced during the 20th century.
A SCENIC VIEW FROM THE LOWER GROUNDS
To end my short exploration in Angkor Wat, I decided to explore the lower grounds just between the 2nd and 3rd enclosures. And again, I was given a breathtaking view of Angkor Wat's magnificence.
Heading my way out, I took one last shot of Angkor Wat. True indeed, it was another amazing journey I will surely never forget. There is so much to explore within its walls, an ancient history that will always continue to intrigue our generation's curiosity of its glorious past and rich culture.
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