Sunday, February 17, 2013

Amazing Angkor Wat

There are ruins and then there are ruins. Angkor Wat in northern Cambodia has to be one of the most amazing ruin sites in all the world. It's tremendous size and fine detail all work to create a sense of awe about the prehistoric world. Built in the 12th century, like so many of our planet's other fantastic sites, Angkor Wat was completed in only 37 years. from 1113 to 1150 AD.

The entire site is surrounded by a huge square moat that is about 100 meters wide

View from the outside of the east gate

Here is my local guide who showed me the ruin complex on a busy afternoon. We entered the site through the east gate shown here. The outer wall encompasses 203 acres of land and from here to the west gate is one mile distant.

Here is a view of the vaulted ceiling on the inside of the eastern wall. Carved wood covered the vault on the ledge just above the doorway and some wood panels have been restored inside the site.

Practically every fa├žade on every wall has carving made into the stone. These were among the very first that I encountered on the inside of the eastern wall.

Stylized cobra snakes are everywhere in Cambodia

From the outer wall to the inner wall is perhaps 400 meters (1,300 feet) and is still covered in jungle vegetation. In Angkor Wat time, this was the site of habitation areas. Then comes the inner wall shown here.

Remember - this is a ruin!Inside the inner wall is a higher terrace, which is raised above ground about 10 feet all the way around. This wall measures 187 meters X 215 meters (about 600 X 700 feet). All of the walls here have detailed carvings inside of them.

Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple in the world and in fact is the largest religious structure as well. To learn more about this amazing place see the Wikipedia entry here.

More carvings on the way into the central temple area

The rock used is a grey sandstone which can be carved easily but is not all that friable. Here however, a portion of the wall is to the right of the well-preserved image. The rock was quarried about 25 miles away in the Kulen Mountains and brought to the site on a network of canals by rafts and roads by oxen and carts.

The blocks were cut in the quarry, then fashioned in place on site

Climbing to the central temple

View from the steps

View to the north
View to the southeast

The central tower complex. The ruin was covered in jungle vegetation and has been exhumed from its green veneer

Closer view of the central core

Ornately carved sandstone

A hidden corner away from the crowds. An average of about 16,000 people a day visit this site making it about 5 million people per year (same as the Grand Canyon).

The highest temple in the core of the complex

A steep descent

It was the end of the Chinese New Year and many visitors were from China

Inside some of the temples were giant Buddhas adorned with fabric. People were making offerings of incense and prayer while we were here.

Arriving at the western end of the inner core after two hours of exploring the ruin

A lake reflects the beauty of Angkor Wat, which means City of Temples in the Khmer language. We do not know what the inhabitants called this place but it is known that it is a shrine to Vishnu and it may have been called Vara Vishnu-lok, meaning Holy Vishnu location.
A last look. It was a great visit.

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