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Angkor Wat  |  Angkor Thom and Bayon  Ta Phrom  |  Phnom Bakheng  |  Banteay Srei  |  Big and Small Circuits  |  Phnom Kulen  Rolous Group

 
 
 

Angkor Wat

There are few places anywhere on earth to match the splendor of Angkor Wat. The temple is one of the largest monuments to religion ever built and is truly one the wonders of the world. Believed to have been constructed as a temple and mausoleum for King Suryavarman II at the peak of the Khmer empire in the first half of the 12th century, Angkor Wat is probably the best-preserved of the Angkorean temples. As with other Angkorean temples and walled cities such as Angkor Thom, the central theme of Khmer architecture revolved around the idea of the temple-mountain.

By the time building on Angkor Wat was begun early in the 12th century, this had been elaborated to a central tower surrounded by four smaller towers. The central monument represents the mythical Mount Meru, the holy mountain at the centre of the universe, which was home to the Hindu god Vishnu. The five towers symbolise Mount Meru's five peaks. It is difficult to express in words the enormous scale of Angkor Wat, but it can be explained in part by a look at the dimensions of the complex. The temple is surrounded by a moat which makes the one around the Tower of London, built at roughly the same time, look like nothing more than a garden trench.

At 190 metres wide and forming a rectangle measuring 1.5 km by 1.3 km, it is hard to imagine any attacking force overwhelming the defences. But the moat was more than just a defensive bulwark, in line with the temple's Hindu origins it represented the oceans of the world. A rectangular wall measuring 1025 metres by 800 metres borders the inner edge of the moat. There is a gate in each side of the wall, but unusually for the mainly Hindu-influenced Angkorian temples, the main entrance faces west. This entrance is a richly decorated portico, 235 m wide with three gates. However, the temple's greatest sculptural treasure is its 2 km-long bas-reliefs around the walls of the outer gallery and the hundred figures of devatas and apsaras. This intricately carved gallery tells stories of the god Vishnu and of Suryavarman II's successes on the battlefield. The whole complex covers 81 hectares.

 
Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom
was built by Cambodia's greatest builder, Jayavarman VII. This ten square kilometer city is enclosed by an eight meter high wall and encircled by a hundred meter moat said to have been inhabited by fierce crocodiles. There are five twenty meter high gates in the wall in each of the North, West and South walls and two in the East Wall. Access is via causeways over the moat that are flanked by the statues of fifty four Gods on the left and fifty four devils on the right, all seemingly engaged in a game of tug of war.

Bayon is located in the geographical heart of Angkor Thom. The fifty four tower temple is a quite remarkable sight. Initially the temple seems to be a shapeless mass of grey and brown stone but as one approaches one realizes that each of the towers is in fact carved and there are over two hundred huge enigmatic faces of Avalokitesharva bearing down on you wherever you turn. The Bayon is easily the most popular sight after Angkor Wat and no visit is complete without a trip to see this amazing and unique temple.

 
Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm
was built in the late 12th century by Jayavarman VII as a shrine to his mother and is another must for anyone coming to Siem Reap. As a monastery there were nearly three thousand priests here including eighteen high priests. Ta Prohm is unforgettable due to the massive trees that were left here intentionally by the archeologists working on the site. While clearing back the forest it was decided to leave them in place to serve as a reminder of how the original discovers found it and other temples. Many of the trees have grown around and through the remains, and soar high above the temple. This temple, along with those of the Bayon and Angkor Thom form the core of any visit to Siem Reap
 
Phnom Bakheng

Phnom Bakheng served as the temple mountain of the first city of Angkor as opposed to the previous center of Roluos. The capital built on a lone hill offers panoramic views of Angkor Wat. Angkor Thom and the surrounding areas. It is best visited in the late afternoon for a spectacular sunset or in the early morning for sunrise over Angkor Wat.

 
Banteay Srei

While some of the temples are impressive because of their sheer size, Banteay Srei stands alone in the quality of its construction and decoration. Its pink sandstone wall are decorated with what some consider to be the best carving of all and in an amazing state of preservation. Built in 967 and dedicated to Brahma it is located twenty five kilometers North of Angkor Wat.
 
Big and Small Circuits

The Small Circuit takes in several of the major and minor temples in the area. Beginning at Angkor Wat and running for seventeen kilometers the circuit takes in the major elements of Angkor Thom, Ta Phrohm, and Banteay Kdei, and some of the minor but interesting temples such as the Baphoun, The Terrace of the Leper King, The Terrace of the Elephants, the Twelve Prasats, Spean Thma and Sras Srang before returning to Angkor Wat.

The twenty-six kilometer Grand Circuit is an extension on the little circuit but taking in Preah Khan, Preah Neak Pean to the Eastern Mebon and the various monuments like Ta Som, Preah Rup, before returnin to Angkor Wat and is highly recommended for anyone spending three or more days in the complex. The Big Circuit encompasses a good representation of the rich variety of architecture here.

 

Phnom Kulen

Phnom Kulen is widely regarded as the birthplace of the ancient Khmer empire and is some forty eight kilometers from Siem Reap. This hilltop site has the country's largest reclining Buddha and it was here that the King Jayavarma II proclaimed independence from Java in 802 A.D. It has only just returned to government hands after the fall of the Khmer Rouge and is currently fairly inaccessible due to the poor state of the roads especially in the rainy season. Cutting through the area is the River of 1000 Lingas. Just five cm under the water's surface over 1000 small carvings are etched into the sandstone riverbed while further downstream larger blocks of stone are carved with Apsaras, Vishnu, and other figures. All the sandstone used in the construction of Angkor was quarried here.

 
Roluos Group

Roluos Group
was the capital of Indravarman I (877 to 889). These were the first temples built to last and are made of brick with some carved plaster reliefs. The group is made up of the three temples of Preah Ko, Bakong, and Lolei. Many of the later temples in the Angkor group are based on these earlier temples though rather then brick.
 
 
 
 
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Hi Ha, I wish to thank you and all your staff so very much for the most wonderful holiday we had in Vietnam.  We would never have enjoyed ourselves so much if it hadn't been for all your efforts that your company did. I have to praise you on all your guides they were all really super, their efficiency, politeness, knowledge and pleasantness were wonderful. I don't believe anyone could have had a better organized tour than the one you arranged for us and honestly I cannot fault anything, the guides, hotels and itinerary were out of this world. I will highly recommend it to any one that I know who plans to visit Vietnam. I have attached some photos that we took and I am sending you another email to break up the photos so the file is not so big and I would appreciate it if you could please forward them on to the relevant guides. Once again many, many thanks Ha for all your hard work in putting together our wonderful holiday. Kind Regards. Ros and Alex from South Africa ........................................................... Dear PA Tours, Patrick and I had a wonderful time in Vietnam - a holiday to remember. We loved the whole experience from the beautiful scenery, the delicious food, the friendly people and all the different modes of transport! By the end of the holiday we'd travelled by plane, boat (stunning trip around Halong Bay), train, car, horse & cart!!! The tour was very well organized. Our guides were always on time to meet us (this was especially good when arriving at stations after long train journeys) and were well informed. A special mention must go to our guide for the central region around Hue & Hoi An, Mr Chun (can't remember the correct spelling). He was exceptional. He had an amazing knowledge of the history, people and area and really impressed us. All the guides were friendly and helpful, however Mr Chun stood out for us.
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