Cambodia November-December 2016 (25 photos)
In the previous post, Lignum Draco and the Temples of Doom (5) we visited the northern Cambodian-Thai border. Now let’s look at a couple more temples before ending this series near the western border with Thailand.
Koh Ker is a former capital of the Khmer kingdom and a remote archaeological site in northern Cambodia about 120 kilometres (75 miles) away from Siem Reap. It is a jungle region that is sparsely populated. More than 180 temples were found in a protected area of 81 square kilometres (31 sq mi). The temples in this area were built in the 10th century. However only a few can be visited by tourists because most of the sanctuaries are hidden in the forest and the whole area is not fully de-mined.
We previously visited this region when viewing the pyramid at Prasat Thom in Lignum Draco and the Temples of Doom (4). Now let’s look at one of the smaller temples of this region, Prasat Pram.
Prasat Pram features five structures of which a couple are caught in the net of the jungle. I spent over an hour here with my guide and didn’t see another person at all in that time. Solitude is easy to find away from the main tourist sites.
As has been the case throughout this 6 part series, I’ve adopted a mixed processing style depending on the photo. The sepia tint seems very appropriate for these temples.
The Eastern Mebon is a Hindu temple built in the 10th century by King Rajendravarman II in honour of his parents.
Banteay Chhmar is a commune in Thma Puok District in Banteay Meanchey province in northwest Cambodia. It is located 63 km north of Sisophon and about 20 km east of the Thai border, about 160 km from Siem Reap. The temple complex of Banteay Chhmar, along with its satellite shrines and reservoir (baray), comprises one of the most important and least understood archaeological complexes from Cambodia’s Angkor period.
As at other remote temple sites, foreign visitors must pay a fee to enter. Here, I also had to enter my name and details in a book. The book entry immediately before mine was by a British couple from 2 days earlier. There was no other tourist there during the hours I was there. Being so remote, Banteay Chhmar is truly for those who want to get away from other tourists.
The inner temple is a jumble of bricks and collapsed buildings. There are no walkways. The only access is by scrambling over the bricks and buildings. This is one of the few temples where this is allowed. Above, the “path” is directly ahead. From personal experience, I can tell you that not all the bricks are stable.
But the rewards are great if you are able to make the effort to enter the inner temple.
This was the only temple of all that I visited where intact carvings of the image of Buddha still remain.
See the break in the wall just on the right. That’s the “path”.
Like Angkor Thom, the temple of Banteay Chhmar was built during the reign of Jayavarman VII in the late 12th or early 13th century. As such, the complex resembles Angkor Thom and other structures attributed to Jayavarman VII. It is one of two sites outside Angkor with the enigmatic face-towers that are characteristic of The Bayon.
Continuing through the temple, the outer gallery is carved with bas-reliefs depicting military engagements and daily life scenes very similar to the well-known ones at The Bayon.
A very well preserved image of the Hindu God, Shiva.
Because of its remote location and its proximity to the Thai border, the complex has been subjected to severe looting, especially in the 1990s. Despite that, many beautiful carvings remain.
About half an hour away from Banteay Chhmar, past the reservoir and through farmland is the deserted temple of Banteay Top. I’m not sure how much longer this one will be standing for.
“Waiting for tourists to arrive at Ta Prohm.”
Tourism is a two-edged sword. Cambodia is one of the poorer countries in the world, yet within its borders is Angkor, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The locals desperately need the dollars that tourism generates but in return, Siem Reap is being changed. It is probably already unrecognisable to someone who visited 10 years or more ago due to the continual development that is now occurring. The peak tourism season is from November to February. Over 2 million foreign tourists visited Angkor in 2015.
“One of the team of villagers who clears weeds by hand from the temples.”
The temples are a security blanket to the local population. They provide the nation with its identity and to many locals, they provide the security of employment.
“Behind the scenes.”
In particular, I am indebted to my very knowledgable, friendly and extremely patient local guide. I shudder to think the number of times we started walking away from a location only for him to realise I had stopped again to take more photos.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series of posts about the Temples of the Khmer Empire. It’s hard to imagine that after the fall of the Khmer empire, these temple sites were essentially lost and doomed to be overgrown by the jungle until their so-called rediscovery approximately 100 years ago.
I know I’ve only returned from holidays a few weeks ago but as I mentioned earlier I am heading off on holidays again soon. In fact, I’m leaving for overseas next week. I should be able to sneak in another post or two before I leave.