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Cambodia 2014: Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ancient Aliens

Bayon

Perhaps the most iconic of all the temples of the Angkor Wat collection is Bayon guarded by these huge faces. But I am ahead of myself, read on.

 

Angkor Wat  is only the largest temple of a huge number of temples you can visit when staying in the town of Siem Reap. Consequently Siem Reap is the main tourist destination in Cambodia. The city has hotels from 5 stars to hostels. It has a night life centered on lively Pub Street. In order to see a large number of the temples, a long stay is advised. In order to see them all, a much longer stay is needed.

Angkor Wat

This is the view most visitors want to see. The temple of Angor Wat at sunrise.

The guide books will tell you to get out of bed at 4 a.m. and join the multitudes to catch this view. It is fairly impressive and worth missing breakfast for. The books say to see the sunrise, then go back to your hotel for the breakfast spread and come back later. Most people do. But if you have a good guide, he will let you go hungry while you explore the temple almost alone, as we did.

Angkor wat wall

This is a partial view of one of the four walls surrounding the temple.

Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, and I am sure the most ornately decorated.

bas relief in Angkor wat

This is just one very small portion of a 1000 foot long wall, all of it carved with scenes like this one. There are four of them.  This wall depicts some epic battle between good and evil. The other three each tell an equally compelling story. Together these four walls make up the largest bas reliefs anywhere in the world. If you have a couple of weeks and the services of someone with a  PhD. in ancient Asian art, I am sure they are truly fascinating. I kept looking for evidence of ancient aliens. Oh, it is there, yes it is. Flying chariots and flaming arrows cannot be totally written off as mythology!

Sunrise

After exploring a while, the sun came along and lit things up.

hordes of tourists

Then the hordes arrived. After having the place to ourselves for a couple of hours, this was distressing. Somewhere in this photo is my wife, but I refused to climb up there with all those people. This is to the highest, the 4th level of the temple, reserved for the king and adventurous wives.

Yes we visited numerous temples. I was soon up to my temples in temples. The cynical part of me started thinking of them as another pile of rocks. They all had a back story. Built in the 12th, 13th centuries by kings whose names I cannot pronounce, even though they all sounded the same. Most of them are being or have been restored to some degree. Many by the French back when they ran the country. Most of the restoration is strictly to preserve the temples integrity. There are many places where the construction material of choice in the 13th century (limestone) is replaced with concrete. It lacks the otherwise ubiquitous bas reliefs and has no patina. But it at least keeps the roof up.

My favorite temple is called Bayon.

Bayon

Bayon is most famous for these giant faces.

Bayon faces

They surround the central part of the temple and are built in groups of four, each facing one of the primary directions.

bayon faces

Here I am getting up close and personal.

 

Bayon

Our guide made me pose for this shot.

Bayon

I like this one a lot more. Notice the resemblance?

Now I will take you to Angkor Thom. Don’t leave yet, this is good!

Tomb raider

Any fan of Angelina Jolie has seen the movie Tomb Raider. This is the doorway she enters at one point.

Most of this temple, nicknamed the Jungle Temple is overgrown with these giant fig tree roots. It makes the entire experience seem like you are in another world.

Because we missed some of Bayon the first time, we insisted on a return visit. You’ll see why, keep reading.

Bayon, like all the temples is surrounded by tall walls fully carved with bas reliefs. In Bayon, they are in three layers. On top depicts the life of the royals. The middle level is the lives of warriors and upper echelon government types. The bottom layer is the common people.

Bayon bas relief

This bas relief is from the bottom layer. It depicts the struggle of the little people trying to make the bas reliefs.

Now for my favorite moment temple exploring.

Before I left for Cambodia, I saw an episode of Ancient Aliens on the History Channel. As always they were talking about clues about the alien visitors left for us by the sculptors of old. I already mentioned the flying chariots (Chariots of the Gods) . They showed a bas relief from Bayon. Of a dinosaur! A dinosaur that had been extinct for 8000 years carved onto the side of a temple “only” 800 years old.

dinosaur on Bayon temple

This is an accurate depiction of a Stegosaurus.

There are many theories about this carving. One is put forward by fundamentalist biblical people to prove that yes, the entire world was created in seven days and dinosaurs and man walked the earth at the same time. Another is that maybe just one stegosaurus survived 8000 years and made his way to Cambodia.  Another is that it is a depiction of a pig with a palm tree behind him. And my favorite is that an alien had a stone carver put it on the wall just to screw with our heads. What ever is true, it is a favorite little spot to visit for tourists now.

OK, no more temples. Go to Siem Reap yourself and spend as much time as you want seeing the dozens of really intriguing works from a time when Europe was in the dark ages. The Khmer civilization was truly advanced. I think it was the Alpha Centaurians who helped them, but…

Please share this on FB, make a comment, email it to a friend. Anything but ignore me. This is a lot of work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Responses so far.

  1. Mary Ellen Watts says:

    Thanks Forrest, I have enjoyed your way of seeing the world and all the world you are sharing with us. Keep on keepin’ on! I will be reading.

  2. Dorreene says:

    Great photos and write up, Forrest. I’ve wanted to see Ankgor Wat since I was a child and my mother told me about it. Some day soon!

  3. Mike says:

    Nice work. And it’s a stegosaurus on that bas relief. Gotta be

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