Siem Reap
Seim Reap
- Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor
- Guide to the Temples

Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor

Nestled between rice paddies and stretched along the Siem Reap River, the small provincial capital of Siem Reap Town serves as the gateway to the millennium-old temple ruins of the Khmer Empire. Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Angkor Archaeological Park encompasses dozens of temple ruins including Bayon, Banteay Srey and the legendary Angkor Wat whose artistic and archaeological significance and visual impact put it in a class with the Pyramids, Machu Pichu and the Taj Mahal. Unlike many other world class monuments, the ruins of Angkor are as yet unspoiled by over-development. This will not be ture in a couple of years. Though the major temples are relatively well touristed these days, it is still possible get away from the crowds, to explore the area and discover Angkor.

Siem Reap town is where you will stay during your visit to Angkor. The area has been receiving foreign visitors to the temples for over 100 years. The town is actually a cluster of old villages, which originally developed around individual pagodas, and was later overlaid with a French colonial-era center. Note the colnial and Chinese style architecture in the town center and around the Old Market. Nowadays, Siem Reap offers a wide range of hotels, restaurants, pubs and shops including several upscale hotels and dozens of budget guesthouses. Often missed are the many opportunities to experience traditional Cambodia: 'Apsara' dance performances, craft shops and silk farms, road tours through rice-paddy countryside, boat trips on the great Tonle Sap Lake to fishing villages and bird sanctuary, and much more.   
 
Guide to the Temples

The following is an alphabetical listing of the most often visited ruins in the Angkor Archaeological Park out side of Siem Reap, Cambodia. It includdes all major ruins and most of the easily accessible minor ruins. It also includes a few important ruins outside the Park area such as Sambor Prei Kuk in Kampong Thom. Use these listing in cambination with the temple map located in the center of this book. Purchase your ticket at the park entrance and keep it with you at all times. Park hours are 5:00 AM to 6:30 PM. Banteay Srey closes at 5:00 PM and Kbal Spean at 3:00 PM.
  
- Ak Yum
Constructed: Late 8th - Early 11th century C.E.
Religion: Hinduism

A visually unimpressive but archaeologically important ruin. The earliest elements date from the pre-Angkorian 8th century though inscriptions indicate that a temple dedicated to the Hindu 'god of the depths' was previously located on the same spt. Ak Yom is the earliest known example of the 'mountain-temple' architectural design formula, which was to become a primary design formula of the Angkorian period.

- Angkor Thom
Constructed: Late 12th - Early 13th century C.E.
King/Patron: Jayavarman VII
Religion: Hinduism
Style: Bayon

- Angkor Thom (Big Angkor) is a 3km2 walled and moated royal city and was the last capital of the Angkorian empire. After Jayavarman VII recaptured the Angkorian capital from the Cham invaders in 1181, he began a massive building campaign across the empire, constructing Angkor Thom as his new capital city. He began with existing structures such as Baphuon and Phileanakas and built a grand enclosed city around them, adding the outer wall/moat and some of Angkor's greatest temples including his state-temple, Bayon. set at the center of the city. There are five entrances (gates) to the city, one for each cardinal point, and the victory gate leading to the Royal Palace area. Each gate is crowned with 4 giant faces. The South Gate is often the first stop on a tour of the temples.

- Angkor Wat
Constructed: Early - Mid 12th century C.E.
King/Patron: Jayavarman VII
Religion: Hinduism
Style: Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is visually, architecturally and artistically breathtaking. It is a massive threetiered pyramid crowned by five beehive-like towers rising 65 meters from ground level. Angkor Wat is the centerpiece of any visit to the temples of Angkor. At the apex of Khmer political and military dominance in the region, Suryavarman II constructed Angkor wat in the form of a massive 'temple-mountain' dedicated to the Hindu god, Vishnu. It served as his state temple, though the temple's uncommon westward orientation his led some to suggest that it was constructed as Suryavarman II's funerary temple. Other temples of the same style and period include Thommanon, Banteay Samre, Wat Atwea and Beng Melea, which may have served as a prototype to Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat and an exterior wall measuring 1300 meters x 1500 meters. The temple itself is 1 km square and consists of three levels surmounted by a central tower. the walls of the temple are covered inside and out with bas-reliefs and carvings. Nearly 2000 distinctively rendered apsara carvings adorn the walls throughout the temple and represent some of the finest examples of apsara carvings in Angkorian era art. But it is the exterior walls of the lower level that display the most extraordinary bas-reliefs, depicting stories and characters from Hindu mythology, and the historical wars of Suryavarman II. It is in the viewing of the bas-reliefs that a tour guide can be very helpful.

- Banteay Srey
Constructed: Late 10th century C.E.
King/Patron: Rajendravarman
Religion: Hinduism
Style: Banteay Srey

Banteay Srey loosely translates to 'citadel of the women', but this is a modern appellation that probably refers to the delicate beauty of the carvings. Built at a time when the Khmer Empire was gaining significant power and territory, the temple was constructed by a Brahmin counselor under a powerful king, Rajendravarman and later under Jayavarman V. Banteay Srey displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art. The walls are densely covered with some of the most beautiful, deep and intricate carvings of any Angkorian temple. The temple's relatively small size, pink sandstone construction and ornate design give it a fairyland ambiance. The colors are best before 10:30 AM and after 2:00 PM, but there are fewer tourists in the afternoon. This temple was discovered by French archaeologists relatively late, in 1914. The temple area closes at 5:00 PM. Banteay Srey lies 38 km from Siem Reap, requiring extra travel time. Drivers usually charge a fee in addition to their normal daily charge for the trip. Banteay Srey is well worth the extra effort. Combine a visit to Banteay Srey with Banteay Samre.

- Wat Athvea

Constructed: Late 11th century C.E.
King/Patron: Suryavarman II
Religion: Hinduism
Style: Angkor Wat

South of town outside of the main temple area. Though lacking carvings, this laterite and sandstone temple is in relatively good condition. The Angkor Wat style is apparent in the towers. The temple is next to an active wat of the same name. Because it is outside the regular temple complex, it is relatively untouristed. Located 7 km south of town, 200 m off the main road from town to the Tonle Sap. Look for a white concrete arch/sign at the turnoof to the wat. For a countryside sunset, follow the dirt road for a kilometer or two past the wat. Palm trees and small huts lining the road open to rice paddies and Phnom Krom on the horizon. Nice place to watch the sunset.

- Kbal Spean
Constructed: 11th - 13th century C.E.
Religion: Hindu/Buddhist

A river of 1000 lingas is at Phnom Kulen. There are also carvings of Buddha and Buddhist images in the rock that date from a later period than the lingas. Entrance to the area close at 3:00 PM. Combine with a visit to Banteay Srey and allow a half - day for the two. Take the road straight past Banteay Srey about 12km. Look for the sign and parking area on the left side. Requires a moderately easy 45-minute uphill walk though the woods. 

- Boeung Mealea
Constructed: Early 11th century C.E.
King/Patron: Suryavarman II
Religion: Hinduism
Style: Bayon

Sprawling jungle temple covering over one square kilometer. The temple is largely overrun by vegetation. Constucted in a distinctly Angkor Wat style. Beng Mealea preceded and may have served as a prototype of sorts for Angkor Wat. Very few carving or bas-relief are evident and may never have existed. When the temple was active, the walls may have been covered. Painted or had frescos. In its time, Beng Mealea was at the crossroads of several major highways that ran to Angkor, Koh Ker, Preah Vihea(in northern Vietnam, Regular admission ticket not required but there is a separate $5 entrance fee. Beng Mealea is located 60km east of town an arduous 3-hour journey to get there. The area has only recently become available to visitors. Being demined just last year. Poor roads through beautiful countryside. And lack of visitors at the temple give the trip a real expedition reel. Graded dirt road with occational flooding in the rainy season. Consider contacting a tour guide that specializes in the distant temple such as Terre Cambodge.