"The Walled City of Amazing Temples" Angkor Thum by atufft
Angkor Thum Travel Guide: 248 reviews and 840 photos
For those sophisticated enough to find this destination, this much is probably already known--that the walled city of Angkor Thum is just a short distance from the world famous temple for which the Khmer region in Cambodia has come to be known--Angkor Wat. In fact, Angkor Wat is simply the largest and most spectacular Khmer Temple complex, while Angkor Thum is a city of temples constructed over a period of about a thousand years within an increasingly sophisticated and urbanized region known as Angkor. By the 12th century, when Angkor Wat was built, Angkor Thum was one of the largest cities in the world, having about one million people. But many temples in Angkor Thum are hundreds of years older than Angkor Wat, as the latter represents a peak in the evolution of Khmer architectural talent. While a some buildings within the walled city of Angkor Thum, like the Baphuon, are earlier representations of the Mount Meru theme found at Angkor Wat, many others are completely unique in their design and purpose. The Bayon--temple of a thousand faces--provides a recognizable theme for visitors as the vegetatively overgrown Ta Prohm, but then there are the landscape remains, such as the terraces of the elephants and of the Leper King, and other such beautiful constructions well worth browsing for several days at Angkor Thum. In addition to the notes and images on these pages, consider examining my Angkor Wat pages for additioinal details and images.
Pol Pot, Prime Minister of Cambodia, and leader of the Khmer Rouges, was hiding with rebel forces in the forested area along the Thai border at the time we visited. He died of heart failure shortly after we left Cambodia. We had been warned that landmines from the Pot Pot era could still be a hazard along trails within Angkor Thum. We were warned that Cambodia was an unstable country where we might be kidnapped. But in fact we found the place delightfully free of worry, and tourism resumming quite impressively. Some Japanese and Chinese tour buses visited the temples, but mostly we had the place to ourselves. Villagers bicycled along the mostly empty roads while cattle grazed around the ruins. Some doorways in some ruins were temporarily propped up with lumber, while major sites, such as the Bayon, were undergoing restoration by foreign concerns. On the main road leading to and from Siem Reab, new hotels were under construction, and the old French Angkor Hotel was alive with entertainment. In any case. we were able to climb the ruins and enjoy the many fine example of Khmer classical art.
Angkor Thum was the grandest of urbanized temples complexes, while Angkor Wat represents the greatest masterpiece of Khmer art, and these will keep a visitor busy for at least a few days. However, Khmer kings moved their capital around over the millenium and so scattered in the region are clusters of temple complexes. We visited the Roulus Group, which is about a half hour away over a washboard gravel road.
Since these temples were constructed between about 800 AD and 1400 AD, earlier temples are smaller and typically are fired brick architecture. Later temples were constructed of carved laterite and finished in sandstone or plaster. Sandstone was relatively rare in the area, but laterite is a soft material mined during the creation of canals, moats, and reservoirs, and the Khmer found that it could become quite hard after it dried. So, large temples of scale became possible due to the use of this local material in temple foundations. Angkor Wat and most of the great temples are mostly finished in the sandstone that seems so apparent everywhere. But, the production of laterite became common place and cheap, so after Ankor Wat poorer kings tended to be satisfied with laterite rock and plaster overlay over doorways and such. Thus, the range of temples provides many lessons in learning and financing of temples among the Khmer architects and kings, adopting a variety of methods of contruction all of which are devoted to Hindu and Buddhist mythology, as well as devoted to the grandeur of the Khmer leaders of the time. Unlike Egypt and MesoAmerica, few of these constructions are for burial of kings. Rather these were and remain places of solitude and worship. Because the written records of the Khmer have long since vanished in the tropical climate, much of the history and mythology is derived from the reliefs carved into the walls. Whatever paint may have adorned these temples is long gone, reservoirs and fountains are empty, but in places, holes suggest the original presence of wooden scaffolding for a canopy or other such protection from the sun and rain.
- Pros:Everything--these ruins are as good as it gets
- Cons:Nothing really, except the horribly humid weather
- In a nutshell:Angkor Thum is a necessary part of the Khmer culture
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