Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Explore Cambodia's other temples


As mentioned in an earlier post, there are thousands of temples in the Angkor region with Angkor Wat being the most readily recognizable. During the Golden Age of the Angkor civilization, the 9th to 15th centuries, this southeast Asia country was twice as large and much more prosperous than it is today.
Buddha statues adorn temple entrances
At present the government lacks resources to restore and maintain many of these temples, but here are two others that we would recommend to visitors.

Angkor Thom—the happy place
While in Siem Reap, Cambodia, we also visited AngkorThom, a striking temple complex known for sculptures, carved Buddhas, and tall structures. Unlike Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom was a large city--the last capital of the 12th century Khmer civilization--where people lived vibrant, active lives. Hospitals, roads, water reservoirs, and a detailed infrastructure were constructed during the period of high prosperity.

The Bayon Temple in the center of the temple city, is known for its many carved Buddhas with smiling faces—reflecting good times in Cambodia. Now we see only ruins, a skeleton of the historical city that fell when invaded by the Siamese (who looted all the gold and treasures). Later the Burmese invaded Siam and took those same treasured items.
Entrance to Angkor Thom, also a UNESCO site, is through a very elegantly carved gate. Cars, motorcycles, and foot traffic stream through this ornate gate into the complex. You’ll enjoy the smiling faces of rugged Buddha statues while imagining a pleasant daily life for the many inhabitants in those ancient times.
Smiling Buddhas reflect prosperous times in Cambodia.


Roaming monkeys were familiar sights as we explored massive structures and carvings on stone walls, including at the Elephant Terrace.

Jungle Temple--a wild place

When life circumstances deteriorated and people left Ta Prohm Temple, the jungle took over and destroyed many of the structures. Huge trees are now entwined in, through, and around walls of the so-called Jungle Temple. Tree roots tangle around rocks and stones, woven into the fabric of the deteriorating structures. They have become inseparable—one would fall without the other.
Enormous tree roots have wound their way around remains of this temple.
Centuries later, when the jungle was cleared, animals left (tigers, rhinos, elephants, and leopards among them), but many varieties of trees such as fig, banyan, mahogany, and rosewood were left. The temple area will continue to be left in this natural state to illustrate how nature adapts and reclaims the land when it’s undisturbed for a long time.
Roots and stones entwined in an inseparable structure.
Because the Jungle Temple is a messy jumble of stone and vegetation—and too many people crowded there--it’s easy to get lost when exploring the grounds, so we were told to follow the guide closely. A good thing, too, as we headed down a different path once after stopping to take additional photos. But we had been told to exit by the East Gate (we had entered the South Gate), so all turned out well.
It's had to imagine how imposing the roots have
become through the ensuing centuries.
Each of these temples illustrate different aspects of religious, social, and cultural life in ancient Cambodia and provide historical context today that is allowing the country to rebuild via tourism.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

 

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