Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Angkor Thom is aptly named the "Big, Large, or Great City" (depending on who you ask). It is situated just north of Angkor Wat when you enter the Angkor Archeological Park. The most famous temple in Angkor Thom is Bayon and it also the first one you come to when entering the city by the south gate. Seeing has how we had we had already had a quick visit with Bayon on our guided tour and Cale is interested in less well-preserved ruins, we biked on past the Bayon and headed out to the Preah Pithu Complex of five temples (I would just like to say after reading the Wiki entry on these temples, I don't trust it very much, not very professionally sounding or well written).
It was a very enjoyable visit. Since we are here during the dry season the moats were dry. However, we had these temple ruins pretty much all to ourselves and they are located in much denser tree coverage than other temples, which made for a less hot experience.
We worked our way south visiting the Khleangs. The most exciting part of the northern Khleang structure was this spider that we noticed.
After that we bought an ice cream from a truck and then revisited the Terrace of the Leper King. At the top of the remaining structure is a replica of the original statue found at the site. Depending on who you ask (including Wikipedia) the sculpture was so named because it was damaged in such a way that it appeared to have leprosy and because there is a Cambodian legend about a king with leprosy. However, Wikipedia claims that the name of the lepros king was on the original statue, whereas our guide book and other sources don't seem to confirm this fact. The most interesting part of this ruin for us was the fact that it is in fact a double ruin. The original, highly-decorated, bas-relief wall was covered by a second, high-decorated, bas-relief wall not long after it was finished (on a historical timescale) and was excavated in the late 1990s. Needless to say, the one that had been hidden for centuries is in much better condition that the exposed one and was fascinating to see.
We briefly visited the Terrace of Elephants and Phimeanakas, which were once the site of the Royal Palace (most likely constructed of less durable materials).
We moved quickly to the Baphoun, which I was particularly excited to see. I knew the Baphoun as the jigsaw temple. Since its rediscovery it has posed a large problem for attempts at reconstruction. The original base for the temple was sand and it has most likely collapsed multiple times throughout history. The first attempts at reconstruction were stymied by multiple collapses and the Khmer Rouge (which I will get into in a later post). Since the fall of the Khmer Rouge, French teams have again been trying to restore the temple. However, they faced one big obstacle. Scattered throughout the jungle were all the cataloged pieces of the temple, left behind by the last reconstruction team. However, the actual catalog of these pieces was destroyed during the Khmer Rouge's rule. It was necessary for the teams to figure out what pieces went where. Further complicating this matter is that the back of the temple had been refashioned into a large reclining Buddha during the 15th century using many stones recycled from the original temple. The reconstruction of this temple is a huge undertaking.
After visiting the Baphoun we were exhausted. For the second time that day we biked past the most famous temple in Angkor Thom (Bayon), putting off a more thorough visit for another day, and headed home to the pool and relaxation.
Posted by Cale