Siem Reap and Banteay Chhmar, Cambodia,
7 until 24 September 2019
We went to Siem Reap in Cambodia for a relaxing trip. It seems that we found a nice, warm, relaxed new place after years of visiting Langkawi and Bali. Although our goal was to relax, to swim, to read, we off course made some trips. New interesting Khmer sites, beside visiting some parts of Angkor again.
During this trip we walked a lot, much more than we did normal in Siem Reap. It gave us an even more nice impression about Siem Reap, local markets, new nice restaurants, coffee bars and even a snackbar where we could eat some typical Dutch specialities.
pictures Siem Reap
Off course we only present the interesting sites we visited and not our behaviour near the swimming pool. If you want to read more about certain things, just click the red texts. It is only once, but very interesting to read all the details, I think.
On 12 September we visited the temples at Phnom Bok, Banteay Samré, Chaw Srei Vibol and Beng Mealea. Phnom Bok is a hill in the northeast of Eastern Baray in Cambodia, with a prasat (temple) of the same name built on it. It is one of the "trilogies of mountains", each of which has a temple with similar layout. The creation of the temple is credited to the reign of Yasovarman I (889–910 between 9th and 10th centuries; after established Yasovarman moved his capital to Angkor.
The two temples, named after the contiguous hills, are the Phnom Bakheng and Phnom Krom. The temple is dedicated to the Trimurti of the Hindu pantheon: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. It was built in Bakheng style (893–927) and designed with individual sanctums, which have door openings to the East and to the West.
For more information about Phnom Bok
pictures Phnom Bok
Banteay Samré is located 400 meter to the east of the East Baray at Angkor and is built during the reign of Suryavarman II and Yasovarman II in the early 12th century; it is a Hindu temple in the Angkor Wat style. Named after the Samré, an ancient people of Indochina, the temple uses the same materials as Banteay Srei. The temple is excellently restored by Maurice Glaize from 1936 until 1944.
The design of its tower is immediately recognisable as Angkor Wat style. Due to this temple's similarity to some monuments of north-east Thailand, it has the appearance of a compact Phimai, see our trip in March 2019.
No inscriptions describes its foundation, but it seems likely to have been built by a high official of the court during the reign of King Suryavarman II.
For more information about Banteay_Samré
Chaw Srei Vibol (or Wat Trak) is built at the end of the 11th century and is located about 17 km. east of Angkor Wat, surrounded by huge moats (about 1450 meters east-west and 970 meters north-south).
The heart of the temple is its innermost enclosure, measuring about 40 x 50 meters. It stands on the summit of a natural hillock about 30 meters above the surrounding plain, suggesting that the location of the temple was determined foremost by topographic factors.
The temple is never restored, more or less ruined, and rarely visited by tourists. Some boys from the school nearby walk with us pretending to be a guide. It is not really a site to make interesting pictures but we took some off course.
For more information about Chaw Srei Vibol
pictures Banteay Samré and Chaw Srei Vibol
Beng Mealea or Bung Mealea ("lotus pond") is a temple from the Angkor Wat period located 40 km east of the main group of temples at Angkor, built as a Hindu temple, but some carvings depict Buddhist motifs.
Its primary material is sandstone and it is largely unrestored with trees and thick brush thriving amidst its towers and courtyards and many of its stones lying in great heaps.
The temple is oriented toward the east, but has entrances from the other three cardinal directions. The basic layout is three enclosing galleries around a central sanctuary. Structures known as libraries lie to the right and left of the avenue that leads in from the east. There is extensive carving of scenes from Hindu mythology, including the Churning of the Sea of Milk and Vishnu being borne by the bird god Garuda. Long balustrades with the seven-headed Naga are shown at the causeways.
For more information about Beng Mealea
pictures Beng Mealea
Tuesday 17 September we visited Banteay Chhmar, located in the north-west of Cambodia about 20 km from the Thai border. It is a long drive with our guide Tay and driver Bun Sord and not really touristic. The landscape is flat and dry, some rice fields, cassava fields, cows and water buffaloes. The wet season is late.
At the site the most tourist we see are local people and we can see why. It is really an amazing Khmer temple. Like Angkor Thom, the temple of Banteay Chhmar was accomplished during the reign of Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. One of the temple's shrines once held an image of Srindrakumararajaputra (the crown prince), a son of Jayavarman VII who died before him. The temple doors record Yasovarman I 's failed invasion of Champa. The long old Khmer inscription found at the site and now shown in the National Museum in Phnom Penh, relates how prince Srindrakumara was protected on two different occasions by four companions in arms, once against Rahu, and once on a military campaign against Champa.
A bas-relief states that Yasovarman II was attacked by Rahu, but "saved by a young prince”. The several bas-reliefs at this site found at the galleries are amazing, very detailed and tells also many stories concerning all the fights between Khmer and Cham and Khmer fighting Khmer. Several campaigns, the forest battle, the fights against the mountain people, were carved in stone, where the king Jayavarman and the prince Indra are well presented mostly in a carriage. Also king Suryavarman II is shown at the southern gallery.
The builders of Banteay Chhmar developed two of the greatest innovations of Khmer sacred architecture: the long gallery reliefs with scenes of daily life and the major political and military movements of Jayavarman’s reign, and the face towers very similar to the well-known ones of the Bayon state temple.
Very impressive are the reliefs at the western gallery from the 11-headed and the 22-armed Avalokiteshvara, to illustrate his supernatural powers and to indicate that the deity is a complex amalgam of Buddhist and Hindu concepts. While approaching the city of the dead, Avalokiteshvara emits 10 life-giving rivers from his fingers to revive the ghosts of their desolated after-life. The context of another Avalokiteshvara with 32 arms is less clear. It appears in a formal setting in which an offering is being made with two incense-burners or ritual braziers. Original there were 8 icons like this, nowadays only 2 remain.
Banteay Chhmar is left untouched for about 100 years, but since a modern highway runs from the Thai border to Siem Reap, this great site is in reach for tourists like us. Nowadays the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, with expert help from the Global Heritage Fund and the Friends of Khmer Cultural International has taken the restoration of the site. During restoration more and more is to be seen about the construction, hall of the dancers, hospital, sanctuaries, shrine and temples. There is still a lot of stones to be reconstructed.
Using a wooden bridge we can see very close the several impressive lintels with Hindu myths, the Ramayana epic and dancers with Garuda legs. Sadly the absence of security of Banteay Chhmar in the recent past has led to several damages and stealing of treasures. Nevertheless this site is one of the most interesting and beautiful sites of the Khmer.
For more information about Banteay_Chhmar
pictures Banteay Chhmar
Friday 20 September we took a tuktuk ($12) to visit Prasat Phnom Krom, situated near Tonlé Sap on a 140 m. high hill about 12 km from Siem Reap. Using the staircase we had a great beautiful view of the surroundings.
The temple is originally built in the 9th century during the reign of king Yasovarman. The temple has three towers, each dedicated to a Hindu god. The southern tower is dedicated to Brahma, the central tower to Shiva, and the northern to Vishnu.
Eleven hundred years of erosion have significantly weathered the temples. This isn’t surprising considering the building material is sandstone and the hilltop temples are subject to the constant winds blowing off of Tonlé Sap Lake.
Many of the carvings and detailed designs are lost. Some parts are just still standing because of the wooden constructions.
Phnom Krom hill is very rocky. The local legend says that the rocks were exposed by the monkey general Hanuman during a hunt for medicine in the Ramayana epic. At the surrounding forest there are a lot of mosquitos of the dangerous type, so just a short and quick walk.
For more information about Phnom Krom
pictures Prasat Phnom Krom
Because we cannot sit too much days too long, we also decided to spend one day at some already known Angkor temples. But still so much to see, so much to discover, so many details. So on a rainy day, Saturday 21 September, we planned a trip with a tuktuk ($15) around some temples in Angkor we have seen before. Bayon, Preah Khan and Preah Neak Pean, Ta Prohm.
And as a surprise and thanks to the tuktuk driver, we visited Ta Som, a small temple built at the end of the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII. This temple is located north east of Angkor Thom and just east of Neak Pean. The King dedicated the temple to his father Dharanindravarman II who was King of the Khmer Empire from 1150 to 1160. The temple consists of a single shrine located on one level and surrounded by enclosure laterite walls. Like the nearby Preah Khan and Ta Prohm the temple is left largely unrestored. The gopuras are cross-shaped and contain a small room on each side along with windows containing balusters. The main structure of the gopura are carved with four faces in the Bayon style. The eastern outer gopura has been overgrown by a sacred fig (Ficus religiosa) which has grown down through the blocks that make up the gopura and into the ground. The inner section of the temple consists of a central cruciform sanctuary with porches at each arm surrounded by four corner pavilions. Two small libraries sit on either side of the eastern entrance path.
pictures Ta Som
pictures some Angkor temples