Angkor Thom – the ancient citadel

While the whole Angkor was a imperial city Angkor Wat was the largest temple of hundreds of temples here and Angkor Thom with its name means “Great city” was the royal citadel, the heart of the city. The ancient Khmer created a splendourous and magnificient capital, one of the most greatest city at that time exceeding many comtemporary European capitals in every aspect, but most of it had been ravaged by the time, the war and weather condition. Now a day, there are some desolate ruins laying in the deep forest.

Angkor Thom was founded by Jayavarman VII in the late of the 12th century with and probably remained the capital until the 17th century. There are five gates coming in Angkor Wat, and the most attractive is the south gate with 20 metres height and its towers with 4 faces pointing in each cardinal directions, preceded by the avenue of 54 gods and 54 asuras – name of the demon – lining the bridge across the moat. It is that gate and its impressive entrance produce the power for the royal citadel.

The south gate of Angkor Thom – by PhuocThao

 

54 gods in the left side of the avenue entrance of Angkor Thom – by PhuocThao

 

There are thousands of architectural achievements in many kinds inside the citadel, all of which point in the East direction. There are also golden works only for the King. It is difficult to picture the wealthy and splendour of Angkor reign in the past.

Bayon, the largest temple of Angkor Thom, the most famous architectural work of the citadel, is the important religious work. There are the large sculptures in the wall of Bayon temple describing the social life in the 12th century of the country, for example the festivals, the mountains and rivers, the soldiers, the combats….The Bayon temple itself is composed of two galleried enclosures which are almost square. Dominating the whole arrangement of the galleries and terraces are the face-towers. There are 54 face-towers with 216 faces of Bayon. The number of faces are in dispute. The actual numbers of towers do not have any symbolic significance. Their different individual heights combined with the different levels of the temple create the impression of a forest of towers rising towards the center.

The Bayon temple – by PhuocThao

 

 

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The smile of Bayon – by PhuocThao

The Indian civilization expanded to the East in the early of the Christian Era, and also its religious beliefs, Hinduism and Buddhism. Both religions became Cambodia’s national religion in succession. Angkor Thom was built in the reign of Jayarvaman VII. Although this King still worshiped the Hinduism but also was under Buddhism’s influence. Hence, Angkor Thom was not only a Hindu temple but also a symbol of Buddhistic belief, and Bayon is considered as a milestone of a turning-point of Khmer society when Hinayana Buddhism (the Lesser Vehicle) was gradually becoming the national religion.

In this temple you can see the linga, symbol of masculin creative power and the yoni, symbol of female creative power. Both, in Hinduism, represent the fertilization, the thriving, the creation expressing the desire of wealthy and development of Khmer people.

The Khmer culture has received the cream (quintessence) of Indian’s, and reformed (innovate) it in their own way to get a unique (original) national character. Hundreds of temples in Angkor are really the precious pearls of the architectural art of the world. The time elapses, the grandiose Angkor has been standing pensively here in thousand years, witnessing the rise and fall of a nation.

 

 

 

Yoni of Shiva

The linga and yoni in Bayon temple.

More photos…

 

The Ancient Angkor

Angkor Wat view in front surrounded by a moat

Angkor Wat viewed in front, surrounded by a moat – by Phuoc Thao

The Khmer civilization centred on Angkor was one of the most remarkable to flourish in Southeast Asia. Between the 8th and the 13th centuries, a succession of Hindu and Buddhist kings created magnificent temples in stone.

Siem Reap used to be the metropolis of Angkor monarchy, and now, this is a tourist city with many big and beautiful hotels and a lot of guest houses. It took us 6 hours to go to Siem Reap. On the way, I had chance to see the rural of Cambodia. I think this country is still poor, and the living standard is lower than in my country – Vit Nam. I found that they dont plant any thing on many fields in this season – the dry season, not the same in Vit Nam where the fields are always full of rice and and fruit-trees.

Siem Reap is a small city, but also noisy in the night although not as much as in H Chí Minh city. At the midnight, the streets are pretty deserted, most of the passengers on the streets are the tourists. I was told that there were 3 nightclubs in this town, and we decided to go to one of them. This was the first time I went to a nightclub, really exciting.

The Angkor region, bordering the Great Lake with its valuable supply of water, fish and fertile soil, has been settled since neolithic times. Angkor, a wonder aged over million years, is a grandiose work in the Cambodia history. This is a symbol of a short but great bloom in the Cambodian civilization.

We had a whole day to visit Angkor. It was a very short time to visit and discovery this wonder. The fee for one day – visiting Angkor is 20US$, only for the foreigners. The Cambodians are free to come in. Actually, you are free to come in Angkor, go around and seeing, but you have to pay money for coming in some big and main temples, for example Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bantey Srei, Ta Prohm…

Traditionally, the history of Angkor as we know it from inscriptions and the existing temples begins in the ninth century, when the King Jayavarman II declared himself the supreme sovereign and established his capital first in the Kulen Mountains. Hence, Angkor was started in the 9th century, and for a long time in seven centuries later, Angkor at that time was not only the great ambition of the Khmer Kings, but also the achievements from the deeply religious Khmer’s belief. Angkor was the colossal temple for performing religious servies (worship), and devoting to the Hinduism deities.

Beside of that, Angkor is a work of architecture and sculpture in Khmer civilization. You can’t find any smooth surface in these temples. All was carved (or engraved) showing the skill, perseverance and assiduousness of the Khmer people.

Angkor Wat:

Angkor Wat, in Khmer means Big Pagoda. In the past and now Angkor is the pinnacle of Khmer’s civilization which is a discontinuous civilization with many upheavals. In spite of all thing, now a day, Angkor is still standing here pensively in the full of pride.

The outer limits of Angkor Wat are set by its broad moat, faced in laterite and sandstone. They told that the moat where they kept the crocodiles (alligators) was dug with the purpose of preventing the enemy. Now a day, the moat is gentle with clear water and two rows of big trees along the banks.

Enter Angkor Wat city from the west by crossing the causeway over the moat. Behide the main entrance, Angkor Wat was used to be the Ancient Royal Palace, where the King lived and devoted to the God. In this temple, you can see the large sculpture, this is the very long wall, where they carved to tell you about daily life in the past, the interminable struggles, the Khmer legends.

The sculpture on the wall of the pavilion – by Phuoc Thao

The Angkor Wat temple proper combines two major features of Khmer architecture: a pyramid and concentric galleries. Pyramids, which in most cases were created by means of stepped terraces and were the Khmer method of symbolising the centre of the Hindu universe. Galleries, however, elvoled later, were the natural succession to a growing number of annex building surrounding the sanctuary. In the simple description, Angkor can be figured as a pyramid of three levels, each one enclosed by a well-developed gallery with fours gopuras and corner towers. The summit is crowned with five towers in a quincunx.

Angkor Wat with five towers behind – by Sambath

Angkor Wat in reflection in the basin – by Srijith K. Nair

The scale of Angkor Wat enabled the Khmer to give full expression to religious symbolism. It is, above all else, a microcosm of the Hindu universe. The moat represents the mythical oceans surrounding the earth and the succession of concentric galleries represent the mountain ranges that surround Mount Meru, the home of the Gods. The towers represent the mountain’s peaks, and the experience of the ascent to the central shrine, a fairly convincing imitation of climbing a real mountain. I don’t know exactly how high are these towers, but it is really exciting and thrilling when you climb these towers, very high towers with very narrow stairs. You can’t stand straight but bow down to crawl to the top of the tower, by this way, you express your worship to the Gods.

The uppermost level of the temple which carries the five towers and surrounding galleries, really looks like the final ascent of a great mountain. Their steep angle and proportion of the massif make the climb memorable. There is a wonderful view back to Angkor Wat from the top of the step.

Mysterious Angkor

Angkor Wat – in the sunrise – by Phuoc Thao

You also find here a lot of Buddha statues, seated and standing. There were many more, placed in the recent centuries by worshipper for whom Angkor Wat was a Theravada Buddhist pilgrimage site, giving this area the name “Hall of the Thousand Buddhas”. Most were remove for safety in the early 1970s, others were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge during the reign of terror.

A Buddha statue – By Phuoc Thao

It is frequently said that Angkor was discovered by the Europeans, but this is parently and simply reflects a Eurocentric view. The Khmer never forgot the existence of their monuments, and even if they neglectecd the majority of their temple, Angkor Wat always remained occupied and a place of worship. In 1863, Angkor was re-discovered, and from that time, Angkor, after a very long sleep lasting several centuries in the deep forest, appears suddenly and amazes the whole modern world.

Angkor Wat – viewed from one tower – by Phuoc Thao

More photos…

Cambodia 2007 : Phnom Penh life style

My trip to Cambodia took place in this Lunar NewYear. This was the first time I had traveled to another country – my first trip over sea.

In this country, I had nice days and met nice friends.

The first day in this country, I was suprised about Phnom Penh – the capital of Cambodia. It is a beautiful city with a lot of buildings in traditional style. This city is not as modern as the other cities of developed countries, but PhnomPenh is a calm and hospitable city. There are about 2 millions people living in this city, but I found that this city is not as crowded and noisy as HCM city.

There are many motobikes in this city – of course, the same in the others cities of the South East Asia, for example in Hồ Chí Minh city. But, I found that many Phnom Penh inhabitants have their own car for transportation. They said that the price of car in Cambodia is cheaper than in Việt Nam, so more people can afford for a car.

The Cambodian Assembly

In Cambodia, we stayed with a lovely family. Although the host is the cousin of my accompany- MissThắm, with me, he behave as if I were his relative. His two son are nice guys too. The older, named Leap, has graduated from the University, and now he is an English teacher. The younger is a student in the fourth year of mechanic and law. His name is Sambath, and he was our guide for the trip to Siem Reap.

Most of Cambodians I met are nice and intelligent people. I found that English is very popular in this city, and the Phnom Penh citizens can speak English very well. They use this language in their daily work, and English become very familiar to them. I was ashamed for my English in the first day I came here, and my first conversations in Cambodia were very difficult for me. Gradually, speaking English was acquainted with me day by day. This is also the reason why I decided to create this page for my English writings.

These other popular languages in this country is French, Chinese and Vietnamese. My Cambodian friend – Sambath can speak both English and French well, and his uncle Mr Sau Lai can speak English, French, Chinese and Vietnamese.

I can’t speak Khmer, of course. All my conversations there was in English, but I felt very comfortable when most Cambodians I have spoken can understand me, from a very young boy to a pagoda warden (bonze). Sok Kun is Mrs Chanthy’s son, he is a child, only seven years old, and in the second class of the elementary school, but he has been studying English for 4 years, now, he can speak English very fluently, with exact pronunciation. Sometime, his parents use English when they talk to him.

One of the reasons explains why English is popular in this country is the aspiration () having a good job in an international or in a foreign company of the Cambodian youth. I found that there are a lot of international companies or organizations in Phnom Penh, there are also many non-government organizations here. Their activities are most in health, rural developing, woman developing, education…

The Cambodian family

My accompany – Miss Thắm and the Cambodian family

The first night in Cambodia was so calm and tender with gentle sleeping. The second morning, we wake up early preparing for the trip to Siem Reap – 300km from Phnom Penh province with the most popular beauty-spot – The Angkor.

At the bus station, there were a lot of tourists and many of them were foreigners. And around this city I saw many foreign tourists walking on the streets, having meal in the restaurants, siting in the Tuc Tuc for sight-seeing. This time is the rush hour for tourism in Cambodia, this is the Lunar New Year holiday, and many tourists from the Asian country choose Cambodia for spending their holiday. They come from China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Việt Nam. The others come from Europe. I can see that the Cambodia’s tourism is developing speedy.

The Cambodian have their own calendar – Khmer calendar, not the lunar calendar. I would like to write some things about the Khmer New Year. These informations I found on Internet and i want to share with you. Khmer New Year is the greatest traditional festival, and also it is the greatest national holiday because it is three days of festival and sometimes can be four days. Khmer New Year begins on April 13th or can be on April 14th, depending on the “MohaSangkran,” which is the ancient horoscope. In fact, Khmer New Year originally began on the first day of the first month in lunar calendar, which can be in November or the beginning of December. 95% of Khmer population are farmers, and the period from November through March is the busiest season for Khmer farmers to reap or harvest the crops from the rice fields. Khmer people can find free time in April because there is no rain, and it is very hot, so Khmer farmers have the time to take vacation after they have worked very hard to gather the rice crops from their rice fields to get their income. Therefore, April is the right time for Khmer in Cambodia to celebrate New Year. The Khmer New Year festival originated from Bramhmanism, a part of Hinduism, which was a religion that Khmer believed in before Buddhism. Later on Buddhism became associated with the festival and then took all the important roles in the festivity.

There are many Cambodians whose origins are Chinese, Vietnamese so they also celebrate the Lunar NewYear holiday although the lunar NewYear is not a national holiday. You can feel that when you come here in these days. They ask their boss for day-off work and gather with their relatives, or travel.

The life prices in Phnom Penh ir more expensive than in Viet Nam, especially the prices of fuel, electric power, food, housing fee…- the most important things for daily life. For example, a small family with 4-6 members have to pay about 100 US$ for electric power per month. This is a very expensive fee for a Vietnamese family.

There are some things about Cambodia I got from this trip.