Angkor Wat is one of the most popular archeological sites in South-east Asia. It features the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer empire. Siem Reap City has been called the “gateway” to Angkor Archaeological Park, a major attraction of Cambodia. Angkor Archaeological Park stretches across over 400 square kilometers and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The “lost city” of Angkor first attracted the interest of Europeans in the 1800s after Cambodia was colonized by the French. Today, Angkor Wat continues to draw thousands of visitors anxious to see this remarkable ancient temple in the jungle.
Unlike most of the temples of Angkor, Ta Prohm has been largely left to the clutches of the living jungle. With its dynamic interaction between nature and man-made art, this atmospheric temple is a favorite for many – who can’t help but feel a little like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft (which was filmed here) as they pick through the rubble.
Ta Prohm is well worth an extended exploration of its dark corridors and open plazas. This temple was one of Jayavarman VII’s first major temple projects. Ta Prohm was dedicated to his mother.
Ta Prohm was originally constructed as a Buddhist monastery and was enormously wealthy in its time, boasting of control over 3000 villages, thousands of support staff and vast stores of jewels and gold. Of the monastic complex style temples, Ta Prohm is a superior example and should be included in almost any temple itinerary.
Bayon is known for its huge stone faces of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, with one facing outward and keeping watch at each compass point. The curious smiling image, thought by many to be a portrait of Jayavarman himself, has been dubbed by some the “Mona Lisa of Southeast Asia.” There are 51 smaller towers surrounding Bayon, each with four faces of its own. The complex is located just to the north of the famous Angkor Wat.
The giant stone faces of Bayon have become one of the most recognizable images connected to classic Khmer art and architecture. There are 37 standing towers, most but not all sporting four carved faces oriented toward the cardinal points. Who the faces represent is a matter of debate but they may be Loksvara, Mahayana Buddhism’s compassionate Bodhisattva, or perhaps a combination of Buddha and Jayavarman VII. Bayon was the Jayavarman VII’s state-temple and in many ways represents the pinnacle of his massive building campaign. It appears to be, and is to some degree, an architectural muddle, in part because it was constructed in a somewhat piecemeal fashion for over a century.
Phnom Kulen waterfall
There are two main waterfalls in Phnom Kulen. Located farther downstream the first waterfall is 4-5 meters tall and 20-25 meter wide during the dry and rainy seasons respectively and the second waterfall, hidden in a beautiful jungle scenery is 15-20 meters long and 10-15 meters wide (depending on the season). It is possible to swim in either waterfall and it is a popular spot amongst locals for weekend trips. Across the footbridge over the river there is a small sandstone shrine. Near the waterfall is a small jungle-covered laterite temple called Kraol Remeas temple.