Bayon… At first it looks like a mountain-sized pile of stones. Then you realize — holy heaven! — there are over two hundred faces watching you from every surface of the temple!!
Look carefully at some of the photos or click to enlarge them. Can you see them looking back at you?
The four massive gates guarding the entrance to Angkor Thom complex also contain four faces looking outward in different directions.
That gate would have made a good teacher!
Banteay Srei is called the “Woman’s Temple” because its carvings are so gorgeously ornate, it is said they must have been crafted by a lady’s delicate hand.
I particularly liked the saucy monkey statue meeting at the middle!
It is shocking, given that these precious temples were built between the ninth and fifteenth century and are in somewhat shaky shape, that you as a visitor are allowed to tromp on so many of the stairs, passageways, and ledges.
Snaking through the misty halls of an inner temple, you can see the concentric rectangle upon rectangle upon rectangle of the doorways stretching off to the distance.
Sometimes you look to your right and see that the entire passageway is filled with collapsed giant stones.
Thick roots choke other passageways.
Sit where you like and ponder existence. Notice there is at least one active
Buddhist shrine inside each temple, incense wafting and orange-cloaked monks praying.
Everywhere there are stairs to climb, but each step is only three inches long, and the steps stretch up sometimes hundreds of feet!
The view is worth it, though.
Most of the temples are Buddhist, but some started out Hindu.
There are plenty of elephant sculptures, which always brings a smile. And then there are linga.
Do you know what a “linga” is?
Yes, that’s right — it’s a… male part.
And much of Angkor Wat is dedicated to honoring both the linga and the yoni (female counterpart).
Emerging from a jungle path, I saw a Cambodian couple being blessed by a monk with water that had been poured over an ancient linga sculpture and caught in a yoni sculptural cup. This blessing was — you guessed it! — to bring fertility.
Over a hundred stunning temples, all built when New York and London were nothing more than mud huts.
Siem Reap (the town next to the temples, in which nearly all tourists sleep… including me!) means “Siam (Thailand) Defeated” in Khymer.
This refers to the fact that the Thais took over and occupied Angkor Wat for centuries before they were defeated and driven out.
The fact that the town still bears this diss of a name demonstrates how fiercely Cambodians love Angkor Wat. And with good reason!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!