Sepia-toned ancient faces.

We spend the better part of three days staying in Siem Reap, from where we visited the temples at Angkor Wat, the spiritual and physical seat of power of the Khmer Empire for hundreds of years (from approximately 800 – 1400 AD). Angkor, with its sprawling complex of ancient temples and cities, is recognized as the largest pre-industrial city in the world, many times the size of the next-largest, Tikal. Angkor Wat is located in modern-day Cambodia, a country still recovering from the terrible rein of the Khmer Rouge — but one that we would already really love to go back to.

 

Outside view of Bayon.

Bayon, famous for the dozens of mysterious faces carved into its towers (look closely!), is the central temple in Angkor’s central walled city, Angkor Thom.

 

Towers of Bayon.

 

Bayon faces and blue sky.

 

Bayon's north entry.

 

More faces, close-up and background.

 

A well-preserved tower.

No one has come up with a satisfactory explanation for the meaning behind so many giant faces, which on each tower face in the four cardinal directions.

 

Broken tower face.

 

Dancing figures in bas relief.

Bayon is also famous for its well-preserved bas reliefs.

 

Going to war in bas relief.

 

Fish and prosperity in bas relief.

The reliefs around Bayon tell several stories about the Khmer Empire; this one seems to celebrate an extremely prosperous period (see all the fish!).

 

Stark towers.

We finally moved on from the enchanting, sometimes foreboding . . .

 

Glad face at Bayon towers.

. . . and sometimes happy towers of Bayon.

 

Baphuon colonnade entry.

Baphuon, whose main temple is currently under restoration, is another one of the gems of Angkor Thom.

 

View down the steps from a minor temple.

The steps to all temples were steep, symbolizing that the way to heaven is never easy, and functioning as a way to ensure that people’s heads were bowed as they arrived at the temple.

 

Terrace of the Leper King.

To one side of a large public square in Angkor Thom, the “Terrace of the Leper King” is famous for well-preserved carvings.

 

Terrace of the Elephants.

The aptly named “Terrace of the Elephants,” along with its signature sculptures, was built at the right height for mounting and dismounting its namesake animals.

 

Towers across from the terraces.

The function of these mysterious towers, across from the terraces, is still unknown, but one story is that acrobats walked on tightropes from tower to tower for the king’s amusement.

 

End of a giant railing.

Giant railings like this one had gorgeous ends.

 

Elephant in front of Angkor Thom's south gate.

Elephant rides are popular at Angkor Thom’s south gate.

 

Tree leaning over a pool.

 

Angkor Thom city wall entrance.

Many minor temples are mossy and crumbling.

 

Preah Palilay, a smaller temple being taken over by jungle.

While others are being taken over by jungle (more dramatic examples to come!).

 

Angkor Thom's east gate.

Lacey and I rented bicycles one day and found this gem, Angkor Thom’s east gate, which wasn’t labelled on the map and had no (paved) road or tourists. We passed a herd of monkeys and a lot of jungle on the way!

 

View through the east gate.

Lacey gazes up at the east gate.

 

Lacey relaxes on a bamboo 'dock.'

I climbed up for pictures of the north “face” of the east gate.

 

Close-up of the north

Including a close-up.

 

Angkor Thom's east gate once more.

A gorgeous find!

 

Banteay Kdei.

Our bicycles helped us visit some of Angkor Wat’s lesser-known temples, which are also gorgeous. Banteay Kdei was especially photogenic.

 

Swayed columns at Banteay Kdei.

 

Banteay Kdei entryway.

 

Crumbling ruins and blue sky at Banteay Kdei.

 

Lake across from Banteay Kdei.

Across from Banteay Kdei is a gorgeous man-made lake, although it is dwarfed by Angkor’s original lakes, now partly dried up.

 

Tall Ta Keo.

Another temple, Ta Keo, was especially memorable for the climb to the top!

 

Climbing Ta Keo.

 

View out the top of a tower at Ta Keo.

View out the top of a tower at Ta Keo.

 

Ta Keo tower from above.

Ta Keo’s towers had an especially surreal quality.

 

Broken tower face.

 

Dancing figures in bas relief.

 

 

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