11/2001 - Cambodia

5-day trip to Cambodia visiting Phnom Penh and Angkor ( Siem Reap) and the temples Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei , Pravat Kravan , Bakong , Ta Prohm, Bayon, Meban Eastern , Pre Rup , Sras Srang , Preah Ko, Solei , Banteay Kdei , Angkor Thom, Baphuon , Phimeanakas , Terrace of the Leper King , Terrace of the Elephants , Preak Khan, Preah Neak Peaus .

The capital city Phnom Penh welcomed us with a cloud of red sand because only the main roads are paved.
We visited the Royal Palace, the residence of King Sihanouk , and, in particular, the Silver Pagoda . It is paved with 5.000 silver tiles, which weight more than a kilo each. It also houses the “Emerald Buddha ” and a gold Buddha statue which weighs about 90 kg, encrusted with 9584 diamonds.
It was also interesting the nearby National Museum which contains an exceptional collection of statues , in particular the one representing King Jayavarman VII, who from 1181 to 1219, completely rebuilt Angkor.
The period in which Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge had the power (years 1975/1979) is reminded in the Genocide Museum located in the prison and torture camp of the time.
We ended the short visit of the capital going to the covered market.

We reached Angkor (Siem Reap) with a very old Antonov aircraft.
Angkor flourished in the period from 800 to 1400.
Angkor temples, built by the Khmer people, are numerically fewer but much larger and more distant one from the other than Bagan temples (in Burma). Later on temples were abandoned and they were overrun and completely overwhelmed by the forest.
The site of Angkor was forgotten until 1870 when the temples were “rediscovered” by French archaeologists.
We visited several temples: Meban Eastern , Pre Rup , Sras Srang , Preah Ko, Solei , Banteay Kdei , Angkor Thom, Baphuon , Phimeanakas , the terrace of the Elephants and the terrace of the Leper King , Preak Khan, Preah Neak Peaus .
The most significant temples are described here below.
Angkor Wat is the jewel of the site, the largest and the most spectacular temple.
It is surrounded by a moat. Beyond the front door, we crossed a long path on whose sides there were important buildings such as the library and the swimming pool.
The temple is structured on three levels with galleries that connect them.
The outer gallery is completely carved with bas-relief friezes depicting mythological histories and subjects; these reliefs are of fascinating beauty .

It took more than an hour by car to reach the farthest temple, Banteay Srei .
It is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva and dates back to the end of the tenth century. It has three central towers and beautiful bas-reliefs which are perfectly preserved.

The Prasat Kravan Temple is a Hindu temple and dates back to the beginning of the tenth century.
There are three large and beautiful bas-reliefs of Vishnu ( as Vishnu riding Garuda and Vishnu that takes a large step on the Universe ) inside the towers .
Quite beautiful is also the bas-relief of Lakshmi, Vishnu’s wife.

The Bakong Temple is the largest and most interesting of the eastern group of temples and represents Mount Meru .
It is dominated by a central tower and there are eight other smaller towers on a five-level basement.
Unfortunately all the elephants positioned at the corners of the temple are very spoiled and have lost their trunk.
It is quite interesting also the nearby Buddhist monastery.

The magic charm of Angkor lives intact in the Ta Phrom Temple, still surrounded and overwhelmed by the luxuriant tropical vegetation, such as it appeared to the first archaeologists in the second half of the last century. Huge trees wrap and seem to protect with their big and branched roots the sacred buildings of the twelfth century, thus creating a fantastic symbiosis between the work of man and the unstoppable creative power of nature.

The Bayon Temple is the “mysterious” temple mountain built by Jayavarman VII and is characterized by its 54 sanctuary -towers on whose top you can see, turning around towards the four cardinal points , more than 200 faces of the King – Buddha that rest their eyes and their sweet smile on the whole vast Empire .
We climbed inside the temple through endless and steep stairs and through long and dark inner corridors.

We finished our trip visiting the floating villages on Tonlé Sap Lake.
It is curious their way of life; it aroused our curiosity to see their boats, real floating shops, moving around to offer their goods from house to house even if the boat itself was not only a shop but also a house.

We met many people, all interesting from a photographic point of view, especially the children.
The children became friendly with us offering water lilies picked specially for us.
After enjoying a great meal of frogs and eels, we let Angkor.
The photos of this trip can be seen in the musical slideshow through the following link:  www.viaggiaresempre.it – Cambogia