Note: The actual sunrise was covered in part 1 of this story. In case you missed it, you can view it here.
Leaving Angkor Wat, we had four temples remaining on our must see list. At Kimseng’s suggestion, we made a short fifth stop along the way at East Mebon, constructed in the 10th century and originally dedicated to Shiva. It is large and open. I liked the life-size stone guardian elephant I spotted off to the side.
Here then is the rest. ‘Spectacular’ might be considered understatement.
Known as “Citadel of Monks’ cells,” it was built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries It is in the Bayon architectural style, similar in plan to Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, but less complex and smaller. Banteay Kdei had been occupied by monks at various intervals over the centuries until the 1960s.
Ta Som is a small temple built at the end of the 12th century. King Jayavarman VII dedicated this temple to his father who reigned from 1150 to 1160. Like the nearby Preah Khan and Ta Prohm the temple was left largely unrestored, with numerous trees and other vegetation growing among the ruins.
We loved this place. Despite its relatively small size, we spent over an hour exploring, intentionally backtracking, and generally savoring the beauty and energy of this wonderful temple.
As we headed toward our next stop we passed Sras Sarang, also known as the King’s Bath. This very large Khmer-made pond is where I shot our sunset photos during our first evening in the park. Being the end of the dry season, the water level is unusually low. We spotted this crew cleaning the King’s Bath and Kimseng was more than willing to stop while I photographed. Mass tourism puts significant strain on Angkor Wat; however, the funding it provides does allow for extensive maintenance, litter control and local employment.
Preah Khan is translated as Royal Sword. This large mostly unrestored complex was built in the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII on the site of his victory over the invading Chams. It was home to almost 100,000 officials and servants. It contains shrine to around 430 individual deities! Preah Kahn contained a Buddhist University which included over 1,000 teachers and 1,000 dancers.
Since 1991, the site has been maintained by the World Monuments Fund. They have continued the cautious approach to restoration, believing that to go further would involve too much guesswork, and prefers to respect the ruined nature of the temple. One of its former employees has said, “We’re basically running a glorified maintenance program. We’re not prepared to falsify history”. (Source: World Monuments Fund at Angkor)
Personally, I appreciate this approach and it gave my overactive imagination free reign during our wanderings here.
Yep, this is the temple ‘made famous’ (like it wasn’t already) by the movie Tomb Raider. Ta Prohm is one of the most visited temples along with Bayon and Angkor Wat. Dedicated in 1186 A.D. by that king of construction, the one and only (drum roll please) Jayavarman VII, it is also the best example of thoughtful maintenance and stabilization without restoration. The trees growing out of the ruins are the most distinctive feature of Ta Prohm.
I shot quite a few additional photos of this amazing place. You can see some of them here.