There is no doubt that the region of Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. For more than 500 years it was the centre of the Khmer empire and still today it is the spiritual heart of Cambodia. That the national flag has the main temple Angkor Wat in its design speaks volumes.
Go Asia Travel would like to introduce 4 temples you shouldn’t miss while visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia. They are Angkor Wat temple , Bayon Temple (belong to Angkor Thon ancient capital), Ta Prohm temple and Banteay Srei temple.
1. Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is probably the most well-known of the famous temples of Cambodia and holds a special place in the hearts of Hindus around the world as it is also the largest Hindu temple on the planet. It has a moat and an outer wall that stretches for 3.6 kilometres. Within the walls there is a large area of empty space with a long path to the main temple. Along the sides of the temple are detailed bas reliefs mainly showing epic Hindu stories. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple is designed like Indra Lok and its five dramatic towers represent Mount Meru.
The temple, which was built by the great king Suryavarman II, has beautiful scenes from Hindu mythology depicted on most of its walls and pillars, but the outer area with excerpts from Ramayana are particularly impressive.
There are eight water tanks within the main temple building which used to serve as bathing ghats for the royal family in earlier years.
Tourists particularly flock to witness the spectacular sunrises and sunsets which can be viewed from the temple in all their glory.
2. Bayon Temple
The Bayon temple of the Angkor Thom complex was built much after Angkor Wat in the regime of Cambodian king Jayavarman VII. The temple is more closely associated with Buddhism and has a network of corridors and small courtyards that can be reached by climbing up and down the maze of its steep staircase.
The Bayon also is best known for the massive stone faces carved into the sides of its towers. Although it’s unclear exactly how many there once were, it’s estimated there were about 200 of these faces. While the faces are believed to have spiritual significance, these nevertheless resembled the king Jayavarman VII who got the temple constructed in the first place. Although not nearly as large as Angkor Wat, this temple is much more condensed and you’ll need to walk through some dark and tight passages to see it all. At time it feels like you might get lost on the lower levels before you find stairs to the top.
Ta Prohm is one of the most popular temples for tourists in the Angkor region because of the atmosphere created by the trees and plants which have been left to grow in it. Unlike many of the other large sites, which have been restored, this has been largely left to show the effects of time. It was used as a set for the Tomb Raider movie and that’s only increased its popularity. There’s no climbing involved but it’s easy to get lost amongst the trees and piles of rubble.
The impact of age and time passing by is most visible in this temple, as most of its buildings can be seen in the grip of the tentacles of enormous trees that have grown in the area and overtaken it. The roots and branches may have claimed the temple for their own but the effect of the overgrowth is most dramatique and shows the power of nature over human endeavour.
4. Banteay Srei
Considered a gem of Khmer art, Banteay Srei, which is located on the outskirts of Siem Reap, is a temple devoted to Lord Shiva. Though small, the shrine has intricate carvings on its walls which have been built out of stone of a pinkish hue. The compound contains remnants of several Shiv lingas, which may have been removed later when Hinduism waned in the country.
Banteay Srei is one of the rare temples in the Angkor series which was not commissioned by the king but a tutor priest.
Besides these temples, which have been given UNESCO world heritage status, tourists can visit the night markets, the Cambodian Cultural Village, Angkor National Museum and the War Museum, take a boat ride in Tonle Sap Lake and see the charming Apsara Dances while in Siem Reap.