Archive for the Sights Category

Angkor Wat – Monument of Superlatives

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Sights with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2013 by Thim Kwai

Doubtlessly the grand temple monument of Angkor Wat is the best known building and tourist attraction in Southeast Asia. For many Angkor Wat is synonym with Angkor; though, Angkor was a whole city and even more an empire and as such much, much bigger than Angkor Wat, what merely means ‘city temple’, ‘state temple’ or ‘temple of Angkor’.

There are about a hundred more major temples in the wider area around Angkor Wat. One of them is the Bayon, another and significant different temple which is situated in Angkor Thom.

Angkor Wat is a sight of superlatives. It’s the biggest religious monument in the world, the most visited sight in Southeast Asia, the best-preserved of the whole Angkor site, the most impressive monument for most of the visitors, the only religious site of whole Angkor which remained a significant religious center since it’s foundation until today, it represents the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture, it’s the symbol for Cambodia since 1863 and decorates the national flag of Cambodia, and maybe there is more to add…

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Angkor Wat’. Read here the whole article on Angkor Wat.

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Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

Angkor Thom and Bayon by Asienreisender

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Sights with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2013 by Thim Kwai

The first half of the 13th century might mark the zenith of the Angkorean empire. The capital of Angkor with the new centerpiece Angkor Thom reached a size bigger than all the European cities of the time, including London, Paris and even Rome. One has to mention here (again) that Angkor was still much bigger than the inner core, Angkor Thom, which was reserved for the king, the high priests, the new state temple (the Bayon) and for great representative events on the ‘Victory Road’ near the Terrace of the Elephants. Around this centerpiece the mass of Angkor’s population lived, the peasants, the craftsmen, more priests and the majority of the men who formed the army. Most of these people lived in the typical Southeast Asian shacks and stilt huts of the simple people, built of wood and bamboo, with grass or leaves forming the roofs. These buildings weren’t sustainable and therefore disappeared traceless over the time, eaten up by the tropical nature.

Representative Angkor Thom therefore was (and is) an area of three kilometers in both length and width. It’s four sides are aligned to the points of the compass. It was surrounded by an eight meters high wall made of laterite stone, of which was outside a 100 meters wide water trench digged out. At the inner side of the wall soil was accumulated to enforce the walls and enable soldiers from inside to reach the top of the walls. It’s still possible to climb up to the top of the wall and walk along on it.

Inside there is a road net, which is connected to the outer area by five city gates. Basically there are two roads crossing the area and meeting in the center point, at the Bayon’s position. From the Bayon these roads lead into the four compass directions to four of the gates. A fifth gate is placed north of the east gate. It’s called the ‘Victory Gate’ and it’s road, the ‘Victory Road’, is leading straight to the royal palace. Best known is Angkor Thom’s south gate, the one which leads to the road to nearby Angkor Wat (just 1,700m away).

The gates of the city wall are all very representative and show a giant head with four faces showing in all directions on the top of a towerlike construction (called ‘gopuram’). Their height is 22m, the gate opening is 7m high and 3.50m wide, and therefore high enough to move through it on the back of an elephant. The city gates are made of sandstone and can cope in their quality with the ancient buildings of the old greek. In their original state they have been probably equipped with two heavy wooden doors and a massive bar to close the doors from inside.

When approaching one of the gates from outside, one has to cross a wide naga bridge, which leads over the outer moat. On the right and left sides of the bridges are 54 gods and daemons placed, who carry two nagas.

The most important state buildings were concentrated inside the city walls of Angkor Thom. In the northwestern part was the king’s palace, together with a temple pyramide called Phimeanakas. This construction was then extended by the Terrace of the Elephants, the Terrace of the Leprosy King and the great (victory) square, alltogether a great areal for military parades or presenting great representative games and shows.

Also remarkable are the mountainlike temple Baphuon and the two buildigs called northern and southern Khleang, who were kind of halls. Opposite to the Terrace of the Elephants are two ponds and twelve towers called Prasat Suor Prat. In the geometical center of the whole square-shaped arrangement of Angkor Thom is the famous and most outstanding Bayon placed.

Besides, ancient Angkor was famous for it’s sophisticated canal system. A number of canals led through Angkor Thom. They partially served as a transport system, partially they were used as a freshwater source, as well as a bathroom and, not to forget, for wastewater disposal. The water flowed from the northeast to the southwest, drained eventually to the western baray (a rectangle-shaped, artificial lake) outside Angkor Thom. Probably the water was taken out of the Siem Reap River, using the natural gradient of the land towards the Tonle Sap Lake.

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Angkor Thom’. Read here the whole article on Angkor Thom.

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Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

Prasat Ta Muen / Thailand

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Sights with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2013 by Thim Kwai

At a very remote spot in Thailand’s Surin Province at the very border to Cambodia are three small remains of Angkorean buildings to find. Coming from the next village in Thailand, Phanom Dong Rak, where the last bus stop is placed, a lonely road leads one some ten kilometers south into the jungle. The first site one reaches is Prasat Ta Muen, which looks like a chapel with an intact roof and a hall inside. (…) Few tourists make the way out to here. Prasat Ta Muen is truly a hidden pearl in the jungle.

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Prasat Ta Muen’. Read the whole article on Prasat Ta Muen by Asienreisender.

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Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

Phimai / Thailand

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Sights with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2013 by Thim Kwai

In the heart of Phimai, a small town in Thailand’s northeastern Isan region, one of the most remarkable Angkorean cultural heritages outside Angkor itself is situated: Prasat Phimai. In 1936 it was set under protection by the Thai government and became step by step restaurated from the 1950s on. ‘Phimai Historical Park’ was opened in 1989.

Phimai town is a medieval Khmer foundation, became the first time fortificated in the 11th century and advanced to a spiritual center of the classical empire of Angkor. In the reign of king Jayavarman VII (1181-1206/1220 CE) the city walls and gates so far they remain now were constructed. The town’s name is derivated fro ‘Vimayapura’ or ‘Vimai’. The contemporary official name of the site is ‘Prasat Hin Phi Mai’.

Historical Phimai has a considerable size. The inner temple district is a rectangular of 83m to 74m, the middle district measures 272m to 220m and the surrounding town, which was formerly completely enclosed by the city wall, stretches over 665m to 1033m. Phimai must have been one of the most important cities in the Angkorean empire.

The central temple complex is not exactly aligned onto the north-south axis, but by 20 degree turned to southeast. It’s probably done to give it the direction facing to Angkor.

At the northern end of Phimai is a national museum placed, which displays a number of the site’s artefacts as lintels, Buddha images, nagas, pottery and jewellery.

Prasat Phimai is considered to be the most important Khmer monument in Thailand.

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Phimai’. Read the whole article on Phimai by Asienreisender.

Keep yourself up-to-date

Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

Phanom Rung / Thailand

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Sights with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2013 by Thim Kwai

Situated on top of an extinct volcano at a height of 381m, Phanom Rung represents maybe the finest monument of the classical Angkor period which is situated in Thailand. It’s full name ‘Prasat hin Kaho Phanom Rung’ is translatable to ‘Palace of Stone on the Hill Rung’; ‘Phnom Rung’ in Khmer language means somewhat like ‘broad hill/mountain’.

The nearest bigger city is Buriram, some 50km north, from which it is possible to visit Phanom Rung in a day-trip by public bus. Phanom Rung itself is located in a mountainous, forested area, surrounded by small villages.

History

Early inscriptions (7th/8th century) indicate that there was a predecessing temple on the site, dating back to Chenla era.

Between the early 9th to the 13th century the area was ruled by the Mahidharapura dynasty. This Khmer vassal principality preserved a certain independence from the grand Angkor empire. A remarkable personality is prince Narendraditya, who was a trustworthy vassal of king Suryavarman II (1095-1150 CE, who built Angkor Wat). Both were relatives and Narendraditya fought repeatedly victorious for Suryavarman II in war. Later in his life Narendraditya retreated to spent the rest of his life as a yogi and guru in spirituality. His son Hiranya took over state’s power and the eleven inscriptions of Phanom Rung, who tell us this story, were made under Hiranya’s supervision. Onother king of the principality was Dharanindravarman II (1150-1160), ruling in the time after the death of Suryavarman II.

The Phanom Rung temple complex was built, probably in significant phases, between the early 10th and the late 12th century. In these almost 300 years it was undergoing changes and extensions; particularly in the reigns of king Narendraditya and Hiranya the temple got considerably extended.

Architecture

Phanomg Rung has a recommendation for sophisticated stoneworks who consist of sandstone and laterite. There is for instance a war elephant to see which is trampling down an enemy (war scenes in temples are always remarkable). The elephant might represent one of the earliest artworks of the Angkorean civilization.

Most of the other depictions show hindu gods as Vishnu and Shiva, the destroyer of ignorance and illusion, practicing asceticism. The site symbolizes Shiva’s home mount Kailas (in Tibet, close to the Indian and the Nepalese borders), which is considered a sacret mountain in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The eleven inscriptions in Phanom Rung therefore describe a regional organization of Angkor.

Phanom Rung monument was connected via a Khmer road with Prasat Hin Phimai (also in Thailand) and further on to Angkor city.

From the lower part of the site, where is nowadays the visitor center, long stairways lead steeply up to the temple district. The first bigger building, ‘Phlab Phla’ or the ‘white elephant house’, is supposed to have housed the former dressing rooms for the king and his company. From there a 160m long prosessional walkway, made of laterite and seamed with some seventy sandstone posts to the right and the left leads to the first naga bridge. The bridge symbolizes the transfer from the ordinary to the sacred world, and the sandstone nagas are pretty impressive. Another stairway leads to four basins, who are connected by another bridge to the actual temple.

Restauration of the site took place in the years between 1971-1988. In 1988 then Phanom Rung became declared one of Thailands ‘Historical Parks’. In 2005 it was suggested to the UNESCO as a ‘World Cultural Heritage’.

Situated on top of an extinct volcano at a height of 381m, Phanom Rung represents maybe the finest monument of the classical Angkor period which is situated in Thailand. It’s full name ‘Prasat hin Kaho Phanom Rung’ is translatable to ‘Palace of Stone on the Hill Rung’; ‘Phnom Rung’ in Khmer language means somewhat like ‘broad hill/mountain’.

The nearest bigger city is Buriram, some 50km north, from which it is possible to visit Phanom Rung in a day-trip by public bus. Phanom Rung itself is located in a mountainous, forested area, surrounded by small villages.

Know…

This is only a part of the illustrated article ‘Phanom Rung’. Read the whole article on Phanom Rung.

Keep yourself up-to-date

Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

Wat Phou and Champasak Cultural Landscape

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Sights on April 12, 2013 by Thim Kwai

Wat Phou Champasak is not only an extraordinary Khmer temple (Angkor Civilization) but a whole, planned landscape from medieval times. It’s stretching from the Kao Mountain over 10km down to the Mekong River. It includes a large main temple complex with waterworks and an axis way and some side temples and two ancient settlements.

Read the whole article on Wat Phou and Champasak Cultural Landscape

Luang Prabang / Laos

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Sights on March 29, 2013 by Thim Kwai

The legendary town of Luang Prabang in the north of Laos is a centerpiece of the country for it’s cultural heritage and it’s attraction to international tourists. The historical Laotion architecture here consists of a number of temples, of whom only one is really old (Vat Xieng Thong Ratsavoravikanh, 16th century); the others were all destroyed in the 19th century and later rebuilt.

Read the whole article on Luang Prabang