This is part 5 in my story about our family’s visit to Angkor with my brother- and sister-in-law. Part 1 has the maps and references.


On November 20th and 21st, my family visited the Angkor area north of Siem Reap. On the second day, we started out at Angkor Thom and then returned to Angkor Wat in the second half of the morning.

Now that I’ve visited Angkor and some of the outlying ruins twice, I have some that I consider to be favorites. However, none of the others can match Angkor Wat for sheer “Oh, wow…” factor. I might regard some temples as more beautiful or intricate or compelling or mysterious or romantic – however you want to define all of those terms in relation to stone ruins. But that initial emotion of amazement and anticipation when the towers of Angkor Wat come into sight is pretty much incomparable.

Youngest Daughter looks toward Angkor Wat
Youngest Daughter looks toward Angkor Wat
Approaching Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat from a distance

Angkor Wat means ‘the city that is a temple’; it is likely the largest religious structure in world. Unlike the other temples at Angkor, the main approach is from the west – the direction of the  setting sun, which is associated with death.  In addition, the bas-reliefs are viewed from left to right – a layout that in Hinduism is used for tombs. For these reasons, Angkor Wat is believed to have been used as both a temple and a mausoleum for King Suryavarman II. It was constructed during his reign in the first half of the twelfth century (between 1113 and 1150 C.E.).

There is a fairly long walk as one approaches the main part of the temple – time to take in the magnitude of this structure, but also time to feel the heat from the tropical sun. One crosses the causeway (that can be see on the left in the pictures above) and then passes through an entry gate on the main wall. After that there is another long walkway before reaching the main part of the temple…

The walkway to the towers of Angkor Wat

The walkway to the towers of Angkor Wat. The towers are shaped like buds of lotus blossoms. Note the restoration work in progress.

As we approached the central towers, Mr. Guest Complacent took us on a slight detour to see one of the libraries. These are intriguing little structures to the sides of the walkway and also found at other temples. (That they provide some shade and a photo opportunity is also a plus!)

The northwest library
The northwest library

Looking around the southwest library

My father-in-law and I looking at the architectural intricacies of the southwest library. Ordinary Spouse looking at us.

Exiting the library
Exiting the library. Ready to explore the central towers.
My in-laws and I leaving the library
My in-laws and I leaving the library
The view from the library
The view from the library
The central towers of Angkor Wat, viewed from the southwest library
The central towers of Angkor Wat, viewed from the southwest library

After our visit to the library, the fun really started. We entered to the right and enjoyed the south and east galleries.

Shade and a drink in the Angkor Wat galleries

Oldest and Middle Daughters are glad for a respite from the heat in the Angkor Wat galleries.

In the south gallery, the bas-reliefs depict the army of King Suryavarman II:

These are some of the important people in the army (including the king). The more umbrellas you have, the more important you are.

And in the east gallery, we saw the Churning of the Ocean of Milk (also depicted at the south gate of Angkor Thom).

We also played peek-a-boo for a picture…

Peek-a-boo
Peek-a-boo silliness in the gallery

Then we went further in and up into the central part of the temple:

Ten years ago, we climbed these stairs to the top of the temple:

The steep ascent to the top
The steep ascent to the top

This particular approach is now closed in the interest of conservation. Visitors can still ascend to the top, but there is now a new wooden staircase that has been built for that purpose.

During this visit, we didn’t go all the way to the top of the temple, since there were tired feet among us. Instead, we did some trekking around the inner courtyard…

Trekking around the interior of Angkor Wat
Trekking around the interior of Angkor Wat

We teased the Daughters that they had been carved in stone…

Apsaras
The Daughters depicted in stone as apsaras

Listened to the acoustics in the Hall of Echoes…

Hall of Echoes
Beating our chests in the Hall of Echoes

And marveled at things in general…

Interior pool
Pool for bathing

By this time, we had explored both Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat. Looking back, I’m not sure how we managed to do both in one morning. Youngest Daughter was reminding us that we needed to stop for lunch. So we made our way back to the van…

Looking out from the central area of Angkor Wat

The view from the central portion of Angkor Wat as we made our exit. The entry gate is the taller structure to the left in the background. From there, the walkway approaches (moving out of the photo on the left edge). In the center of the photo, one can see one of the two “libraries”.

For lunch, we visited a place that The Guests Complacent had been before. The last time they were there, they told the owner that they’d return, and the owner was thrilled when we pulled up.

We enjoyed one of our typical meals where we shared a number of dishes among our whole group…

Finally, we were ready for our final stop of the day: Ta Prohm. This temple received a lot of attention after the movie Tomb Raider came out. If you didn’t know that, just as well.


Next up: Ta Prohm

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