After biking in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, we took a boat up the Mekong river to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and flew from there to Siem Reap. From our hotel there we biked all around Angkor and to Banteay Srei.

 

Our Cambodian bike tracks are shown in yellow and we covered 72 miles in 4 days. Naturally here we spent most of the time walking through the many temples.

 

In the picture above, Yvonne is at the southern entrance to Angkor Tom, the ancient city just north of Angkor Wat with Bayon as the central temple.

 

Angkor, which was the capital of the Khmer Kingdom from the 9th – 15th centuries CE is the largest archeological site in the world (400 km2). It’s also one of the most spectacular. In 2000, we spent 7 days visiting Angkor and are very grateful that we had an opportunity to return.

 

 

 

 

 

We biking tourists were three couples.

 

We had a van for us and a truck for the bikes and 6 people to take care of us. The tour was organized and guided by  Mike Smith (brown shirt). If you’re interested in future tours with him in the area click on his name. The local culture guide is to Juergen’s left. The lead biking guide is in front of Yvonne. As with our Mekong Delta bike crew, these guys were lots of fun. The two guys front left are showing off Lance Armstrong bracelets one couple gave them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stayed in Siem Reap at a very special “botanical” hotel (The Angkor Village Resort).

 

The rooms were more than plush and one of the features of this hotel was a 600 ft long swimming pool that wandered around the units. Yvonne can be seen swimming just under the bridge. The rooms are four to a building: two rooms downstairs and two upstairs.

 

 

 

 

We drove to the Phnom Bok temple which sits on a 700 ft hill and is rarely visited by tourists.

 

It is outside the main group of temples and the fact that it involves a 600 ft climb up stairs is not what most visitors to Angkor want. The majority of tourists come on tour packages and stay only 1.5 days –enough for only a few temples.

 

Phnom Bok dates from the 10th century and is well worth a visit. Since old-time pictures of the Angkor buildings are often in black and white or sepia colors, we thought we’d take this picture with the sepia setting that digital cameras offer.

 

 

 

Our first bike excursion was to the Roluos complex, the oldest in Angkor.

 

The Bakhong temple (left and below) was built at the end of the 9th century by the Khmer King Indravarman I to shelter the royal linga.

 

Shiva was the most popular of Hindu gods represented in Khmer iconography. Representations of Shiva were in the form of a linga, shaped like an erect phallus. The base of the linga is anchored in a square pedestal with a hollow channel on one side, out of which the waters of ablution flow, symbolizing a yoni, the vulva-shaped female emblem of power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sanctuary towers at Bakhong temple.

 

 

 

 

 

Angkor Wat is the largest, most famous, and best preserved of all the temple sites in Angkor.

 

It was built in the 12th century by the Khmer King Suryavarman II and is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu.

 

 Its perfection in composition, balance, proportions, reliefs, and sculpture make it one of the finest monuments in the world.

 

This was shot from a tethered helium balloon and only shows the center of the temple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The central tower symbolizes the mythical Mount Meru, situated at the center of the universe.

 

Its five towers correspond to the peaks of Meru, the outer wall the mountains at the edge of the world, and the surrounding moat to the oceans beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

The most famous panel of bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat is the “Churning of the Ocean of Milk.”

 

The myth derives from the Hindu epic Bagavata-Pourana and centers on gods and demons who have been churning the ocean milk for 1000 years in an effort to produce an elixir that will render them immortal and incorruptible. Vishnu intervenes and the gods are victorious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The long causeway leading up to the gates and eventually to the Angkor Wat temples was used by this local couple for wedding pictures. What a location!

 

 

 

Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Khmers (12th/13th century).

 

It was grander than any city in Europe at the time and was supported by some one million people. The architectural transposition of the ocean-churning myth described above can also be seen in Angkor Thom on a gigantic scale. The pivotal point is the Bayon temple (left) of multiple faces that echoes the gates of the enclosure, each preceded by causeways bordered by demons and gods churning the ocean. The title picture of this report shows Yvonne heading south from the southern entrance of Angkor Thom with the “churning” gods on left side of the picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s impossible not to feel eerily watched by the many mystical faces when one explores Bayon and other places (like the gates of Angkor Thom) that contain them.

 

Bayon was the state temple for the Buddhist Khmer King Jayavarman VII. The faces are thought to belong to the eternally young Brahman gods of the Buddhist cosmology.

 

The background of this report shows one of the faces. Yes, you too are being watched…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yvonne taking pictures under watchful eyes.

 

 

Just outside the Bayon temple, we found a group of monkeys. While the lady below left was busy with her baby, other members of the group inspected our bike truck, had fun looking at themselves in the rearview mirrors of the car and trying to get into the cab.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the famous elephant terrace at the royal palace in Angkor Thom.

 

(The thumbnail on the index site showed Yvonne and Juergen with elephant sculptures in the background).

 

 

 

 

 

The purpose of the group of 12 towers known under the name Prasat Suor Prat is not clear.

 

They were built under Jayavarman VII’s reign and may have been a viewing area for the large parade ground in front of the palace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ta Prohm is a Buddhist temple built by Jayavarman VII dedicated to the memory of the king’s mother and spiritual guide.

 

Because of the difficulty to extricate the temple from the vegetation it was left untouched by archeologists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Because of its natural state, it is possible to experience what early explorers found in the middle of the 19th c.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We biked to Banteay Srei which is a stunning temple some 16 mi north of the Angkor area.

 

The French archeologist who worked at Angkor called it a precious gem and a jewel of Khmer art. It dates from the 10th c. and is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva.

 

A special feature of the exquisite decoration was the use of a hard pink sandstone which enabled the technique of sandalwood carving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the towers of Banteay Srei.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The purpose of building on the left side of the picture (referred to as a library) is not known.

 

The pediment portrays a scene during which the giant Ravana shakes Mount Kailasa, the private dwelling place of Shiva.

 

 

 

Angkor was built in the heart of rich agrarian plains with its principal source of water supplied by the Siem Reap river called Ganges by the Khmer. It has its source some 25 mi north of Angkor at what used to be called Mahendra Mountain (Mountain of Shiva). There it flows over symbolic representations of Shiva, lingas sculpted in the rock of the river bed. Once the river has been sanctified by this contact with the god, it flows down the steep slope and irrigates the plains.

 

From Banteay Srei we drove some 10 mi NE and hiked to the place called 1000 lingas. In a temporarily dry part of the river one can see the symbolic linga representation below a sculpture in the rocks (left picture).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a submerged linga/yoni presentation that’s often found in temples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More unusual is this presentation with several lingas inside and outside a yoni.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banteay Samre is a Hindu temple dating from the 12th c.

 

It’s one of the most complete temples in the Angkor area since it has been restored.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The temple had an interior moat (now dry). The stairs leading to the moat are bordered by serpent balustrades with finely carved heads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preah Khan is considered one of the great monument symbols of Jayavarman VII’s reign.

 

It was consecrated to the cult of the king’s father, identified as Avalokiteshvara.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 12th c. Neak Pean Buddhist temple of is set in a large manmade pond (now dry).

 

The principal feature in the pond is the horse Balaha (right side of the picture) a manifestation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara rescuing the merchant Simhala and his companions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

East Mebon is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva dating from the 10th c.

 

Beautifully sculpted 6ft high, monolithic elephants stand majestically at the corners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stairways of East Mebon are flanked by lions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banteay Kdei entrance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banteay Kdei (above, left, below) was built as a Buddhist monastic complex by Jayavarman VII.

 

It has four entrance gates in the Bayon style, each with four faces looking in the cardinal directions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banteay Kdei.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We watched a beautiful sunset from the Preah Rup temple.

 

It’s a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva built in the 10th c. Pedestals flanking the stairways are adorned with seated lions.