There are far too many images to put in my blog posts, so here they all are in one place. Hope you enjoy them.
Angkor Wat – Early 12th century (between 1113 and 1150) with later additions
The history of Angkor traditionally begins in the ninth century, when the young king Jayavarman II declared himself the supreme sovereign and established his capital first near present day Roluos. Previously Khmer history had been that of small independent states occasionally consolidating into larger empires, but never for long. It took a conqueror to establish the beginnings of one of the largest and most powerful of all Southeast Asia’s empires.
To gain a proper understanding of what a Khmer temple is, it should be noted that it was not a meeting place for the faithful but the palace of a god, who was enshrined there to allow him to bestow his beneficence, in particular on the founder and his familiars. One of the largest is the central shrine of Angkor Wat.
I started my tour at first light, this being traditionally the best (and supposedly quietest) time to view the temple.
I arrived at 05:00 a.m. to be the first to set up my small travel tripod, but it was another hour before the sun came up.
Because the sunrise doesn’t actually illuminate Angkor Wat effectively at this time of year, it was necessary to return later in the day to capture some of these images. I actually walked the full perimeter of the temple complex looking for the best pictures, before going inside and braving the heaving mass of tourists. It was of course Khmer New Year.
Without doubt the best light to photograph Angkor Wat is at sunset, however crowds make it a little difficult to get good pictures.
Angkor Thom – Late 12th century
One of the largest of all Khmer cities (9 sq km in size), Angkor Thom was founded by Jayavarman VII and probably remained the capital until the 17th century. For most visitors (including me) the first sight will be the magnificent south gate, with it’s four faces pointing in each of the cardinal directions.
It’s actually very difficult to get a ‘clean’ shot of Angkor Thom at this time as there is so much restoration work going on, so I haven’t many pictures from this wonderful complex.
Preah Khan – Late 12th century (1191)
Much more than a temple, with over one thousand teachers it appears also to have been a Buddhist university and a considerable sized city. Set in a more remote area, it was (along with Ta Promh) my favourite part of exploring the temples, purely because the photographic possibilities were endless.
Little is known about the two tiered structure with round columns At Preah Khan, with architecture reminiscent of both ancient Greece and from the Roman period. It is certainly from a different historical period.
Ta Promh – Late 12th to 13th centuries
A temple monastery, it was chosen by the École française d’Extrême-Orient (a French institute dedicated to the study of Asian societies. Translated into English, it approximately means the French School of the Far East) to be left in its ‘natural state’, as an example of how most of Angkor looked on its discovery in the 19th century. The trees that have grown intertwined among the ruins are especially responsible for Ta Promh’s ‘jungle’ atmosphere and were the setting for the Hollywood blockbuster – Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.
That concludes this photographic tour of the big four. I’ll do another post later with images from the outlying temples and include any I’ve missed here as there’s an awful lot still to be edited.