09 January 2014

KHMER TEMPLES ANDROID APP

Now this one is a nice app!

We were contacted by the guy who wrote this application and took a look at it. I have to say that I really like it. It provides a good overview of a few temples at the moment and I am sure it is going to grow bigger. But it provides the casual traveller a good overview of each temple at the tip of their fingers on their Android smart phone. 

Well done, Tyler!


05 July 2013

BAS-RELIEFS OF ANGKOR WAT

 

I had listed several books, which I used to plan my various trips to Angkor in a previous post. One book, which I searched for and was told it was out of print in Siem Reap and in Phnom Penh finally laid in front of me on my way out of Cambodia at the Siem Reap Airport. 

"OF GODS, KINGS, AND MEN - The Reliefs of Angkor Wat" by Jaroslav Poncar and Thomas S. Maxwell. 

 
As the title indicates, the book focuses on the bas-reliefs of the magnificent temple of Angkor Wat. Those 1200 square metres of superb sandstone carvings along the inner wall of all four sides of the gallery.


Most tourists I have seen on my visits looked rather puzzled or confused when their tour guides took them through parts of the galleries, briefly talked about the reliefs and then walked on to the inner parts of Angkor Wat. In my mind, we are not doing these amazing carvings justice by neglecting them. They are simply too great and so much work went into their creation that I believe they deserve to be understood and appreciated by even the regular visitors of Angkor Wat. 

Dawn Rooney's book "Angkor, Cambodia's Wondrous Khmer Temples" does a good and brief job to explain the various parts of the reliefs. My still favourite guidebook from Michel Petrotchenko "Focusing on the Angkor Temples" goes into even more detail on a stunning 15 pages and familiarizes the visitor with essential terms like Vishnu, Krishna, Shiva and Hanuman. All too often have I stood amongst the crowds of visitors who had no idea who these important figures were. 


OF GODS, KINGS, AND MEN goes far beyond and gives the best explanations along with many great photos of the bas-reliefs and enables the visitor to truly understand what is shown here. Theoretically it would be ideal to read the book before a trip to Angkor Wat, but even after visiting the temple it will be of great benefit to appreciate this often overlooked part of the temple. 



20 June 2013

ANGKOR FOUR TIMES BIGGER - NEW LASER SCANS

Recent news covered in Phnom Penh papers have now even made it into European papers and they are indeed very exciting news. While we still have dozens of temples we visited but have not had the time yet to cover them here, they revealed that Angkor might have been four times bigger than previously thought. So, more temples might be excavated and will provide us with even more exciting locations to visit in the future. 

Two articles featuring those news are in the Phnom Penh Post and the German Spiegel

I guess we better go through our photo archives and get back to covering some of our already visited temples here ;-)

16 December 2012

BAKHENG - THE OVERLOOKED TEMPLE

Phnom Bakheng from the air
Bakheng temple, located on top of the mountain Phnom Bakheng is often left in the shadow of the sunset and the thousands of tourists who trample around the levels of the temple mount - which is a bit sad. After all, this temple symbolizes Mount Meru and the five peaks of the mythological mountain.

Phnom Bakheng and it's temple date back to the 10th century A.D. and is an important temple and part of the very early Angkorean culture. 

I had been up on the mountain twice. Once, years ago to view Angkor Wat in the distance and once to give the famous sunset a try. The first time, I had not even known anything about the temple. At that time it was not even under restoration yet and if at all it left a big pile of rubble and stones in my memory. The second time I just remember tourist everywhere and I had trouble to find all the spots of the temple I wanted to see. 


Bakheng temple before sunset
It is a huge temple mount, initially with five levels and 108 sanctuaries and located at the centre of the historic city of Yashodharapura. Today, heavy restoration work is still continuing, though much of it has been completed already. Posted sings on the way up will tell the interested visitor what has been done here. Despite the tourist craze the temple is definitely worth a visit, during non-peak hours!



View from Phnom Bakheng mountain

Central shrine


Shiva Lingam









15 December 2012

A SUNSET FOR THE MASSES

Bakheng temple
So, I did it!! A sunset on the famous Phnom Bakheng mountain. THE sunset that everyone sees when in Angkor!! 

And it wasn't even intentional but the group I travelled with wanted to do the elephant ride up and see the sunset. So, I went along. I didn't ride the elephant though. I felt sorry for the poor creatures who have to go up and down carrying tourists every day. 

Hiking up the mountain
Instead, I chose to walk up the mountain - Phnom Bakheng - with hundreds of other tourists. Mostly Chinese tourists. It was packed, like I had expected it. But I didn't think it would be that bad during the rainy season. I had already heard that it is hell during the dry season, hence I never did it then. 

I had been up on the mountain to enjoy the great view onto the rain forest and Angkor Wat years and years ago. There were no tourists and we also had a much steeper but shorter way to climb up. For the masses who walk up and down today an extra wide path had been created. 

Waiting for the next load
The amount of people allowed on Bakheng temple is now controlled and the stream of tourists is channeled in one direction only. One guy on one side keeps track of how many people climb up and one guy on the other side keeps track of how many people climb down, thus limiting the number of people on the top. I was told that everyone will make it up, though I have no idea what happens when it is too many people in the lines. 

Waiting for space on the top
The sunset? Well, I never waited for it. I saw the amount of people and went down the mountain before the sun ever set. I have seen the most perfect sunsets from other locations and was almost alone, or just with a few people. The sunset from Phnom Bakheng is not for me. Back during another trip to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat, I met a friendly guy from Spain. He told me that the sunset on the mountain here was one of the worst experiences he had during his trip. Tripods are not allowed because of the sheer mass of people crawling around on top of the ruined temple. His name was Jesus....I should have better listened to Jesus :-)

The view onto Angkor Wat in the distance
   
The line waiting to get up

Full even during rainy season



26 November 2012

A TRIP INTO THE JUNGLE - BANTEAY CHMAR

Banteay Chmar is one of the most exciting Khmer temples I have ever visited. It was long a dream to go to this huge temple, but because of it's remote location I had to put it off for almost 10 years. 

It was also not possible to visit the temple because of the remaining land mines, which have now been removed and because of it's bad state of conservation. 

Lots of efforts have now been completed and we decided to undertake the long day trip from Siem Reap to visit the temple during the rainy season, which was another risk! Had it rained on that day, we would for sure not have been able to get to the temple on the muddy dirt road, which was actually being worked on. 

We chose rainy season for our trip because of the lush green rain forest the temple is located in. Thank the Buddha, did we have a great sunny day all the way, with excellent light to view the many excellent bas-reliefs and pediments. We spent as much time in the temple as possible to enjoy every minute of this amazing visit.  There is not too much written about the temple yet, but as always I have my excellent tour guide with me and was accompanied by our amazing driver. 

Banteay Chmar is a huge temple, in the jungle and under restoration for years to come, so a proper plan to visit is an absolute necessity. It's an unforgettable experience though! 
 















 

11 November 2012

IT'S GREEN...SO GREEN!

To travel to Angkor during the rainy season was never my choice, but after consulting with my tour guide first, I decided to do it anyway. The information I got beforehand was that it will rain sometimes, but that everything will be so much nicer. More quiet and the colours will be so intensive. Yes, we might run the risk of flooding like in September 2011 or continuous rain for days, but the possibility of an even more beautiful Angkor Wat temple was too tempting to let it go. 


Ko Ker site during dry and rainy season
Even flying into Siem Reap showed us an amazing landscape below. Tonle Sap lake was huge and to the unknown eye it looked like the airport was close to the ocean. We also got our first "hands-on" experience and got wet to the bone within the first 30 minutes after our arrival, when it rained cats and dogs. 

The Kampong villages during dry and rainy season

We did have to cut short one trip to Ta Prohm temple because it rained so much, that it became unmanageable to walk through the ruined temple. We had a few showers here and there and some of the roads were too flooded to continue driving. Mud was another issue. But most of the rain came at night we we were all comfortably tugged into our beds. On the other side, we had days with really nice and blue skies and on most days the air was crisp and clear. No comparison to the dust I had experienced during the first two trips to Angkor, both during the dry season. 


Beng Mealea site during dry and rainy season
Besides more water in the ponds and lakes, the colours of the temples were more intense and the landscape was unbelievably green. The combination of the lush nature, the saturated sand stone and the (at times) deep blue sky was just what I wanted to experience. 

Besides the difference at the temple sights, I also loved seeing the difference to villages like Kampong Pluk or Kampong Klaeng, where the houses sit on huge stilts. During the dry season it looks surrealistic, almost like a scene out of the movie "water world", while it looked more like a floating village during the rainy season. Both seasons have their charm for the photographer, but the villages seem far more lively during the wet season. 
Ta Prohm during dry and rainy season

If I had to chose what season I would rather go back to Angkor, my vote would now be during the rainy season.