Siem Reap Temple Tour Day 1-A A +A
Thursday, August 23, 2012
SIEM Reap (meaning “the flat defeat of Siam”) aka the seat of the Khmer Empire holds numerous temples in its domain and each is worth a visit – with a tour guide, preferably, for each place of worship has its own interesting story to tell. It’s pretty much like art appreciation. Grasping the rich history of each masterpiece makes the opus more fascinating. And to be able to enjoy the visit to the fullest, one must not rush and plan the day wisely.
As first timers we relied on the recommendations of our host and chose a few from the long list of temples Siem Reap has to offer. After purchasing our three-day temple pass, we started our first day of temple tour.
Banteay Srei. This 10th-century temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, was the only temple not built by a monarch but by a courtier name Yajnavaraha. Compared to the other temple constructions, the buildings in this temple are miniature in scale.
Banteay Srei, meaning “Citadel of the women” or “citadel of beauty”, maybe named as such due to the intricate bas relief carvings that decorate the walls, lintels and pediments of temple. Red sandstone that can be carved like wood, is the primary material used in its construction.
This is one of the most popular tourists stops and have led to its being praised as the "jewel of Khmer art."
Ta Keo is a temple-mountain (boy, this one is a steep climb up and even harder going down) and possibly the first to be built entirely of sandstone by Khmers. It is said to be the state temple of Jayavarman V, son of Rajendravarman.
Ta Keo has five sanctuary towers arranged in a quincunx (a geometric pattern consisting of five points arranged in a cross) built on the uppermost level of five-tier pyramid consisting of a step pyramid and surrounded by moat. The temple looks massive due to the absence of external decorations. The construction came to a halt just when the carving was about to start.
Ta Prohm (“ancestor Brahma”) was built in the Bayon style in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and was founded by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. The king constructed Rajavihara (the original name, meaning “royal temple”) in honor of his family.
Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found, unlike most Angkorian temples - trees growing out of the ruins. This is the temple’s most distinctive feature that made it one of the most popular temples to visit, and made more popular by the film Tomb Raider.
We thought we could cover a couple more temples for the day, but no. The photographers in us had a grand time maxing out every pixel in our camera’s memory card thus, spending more than the allotted time on each stop. We didn’t mind, we have a week in Cambodia, and we’re saving the best for last. Day two of the temple tour will prove to be more exciting, a fully charged camera battery will help prove that.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 23, 2012.