Siem Reap Day 3 (21 Oct 10) – Temples Hidden in the Jungle : Kbal Spean, Banteay Srei, Pre Rup, Ta Som, Neak Pean, Preah Khan

The Ruins in the River – Kbal Spean

The day started with a track at Kbal Spean, some 1hr drive away from Siem Reap. As we were driving to Kbal Spean, we passed by some local countryside area. My guide pointed out to me that the scarecrow looking figure we seen in front of the houses are used to scare away evil spirits! The Kbal Spean is a holy ground that people worshiped for more then a millennium! This track does not lead to a temple, but carvings into the riverbed rocks. These carvings are made into the upper stream of Siem Reap river, which flowed into Ang Kor Wat. The walk to the (Siem Reap) river was by no means an easy task, there are certain parts where one has to climb onto steep slopes with rocks of various sizes scattered all over the trail. The track one-way is around 1.5km, despite certain parts are tougher to climb, it did not take us long to reach the carvings. Upon reaching, I could see carvings on the riverbed rocks. The one that impresses me the most is the one that depicts the god Vishnu lying on a serpent. The carvings were made taking into consideration the way the water flows to create the visual effect of the serpent that Vishnu sleeps on was floating on the water. This is an impressive piece of art, and was created more then 1000 years ago. This part of the river is more famously known as the River of thousand lingas, as countless lingas were carved into the riverbed blessings people using the water at the lower part of the stream. There is also a carving of the god Brahma sitting on a lotus as well as several carvings that depict part of the religious scenes. As we tracked further down we arrived into a waterfall, what greeted us was a group of 4 Caucasians in their swimming suits, enjoying the water there. Wow, they sure know how to enjoy life, having driven for about 1 hr, and tracked 1.5 km just to do this. My guide told me that in hotter parts of the year, only there are only 1 waterfall instead of the 3 we saw today. Compared to the waterfall I was looking for in Phuket earlier this year, this one is far more decent. This waterfall pool marks the end of the tour in Kbal Spean, soon we headed down hill and proceeded towards Banteay Srei.

On my way to Kbal Spean
On my way to Kbal Spean
On my way to Kbal Spean
On my way to Kbal Spean
We had to do a 15 min trek though the forest to get to Kbal Spean
Trekking to Kbal Spean
Trekking to Kbal Spean
Trekking to Kbal Spean
Arrival at Kbal Spean
These buddhist carvings survived the centuries
Carvings that survived the centuries
I like how precious these carvings are, giving the illusion that the Buddha is floating across the river
More carvings by the river
This Buddha carving is done on a rock by the river
Carvings by the river
Carving by the river
Carving by the river
Carving by the river
Spotted some tourists taking a dip at the river
Waterfall at Kbal Spean
Waterfall at Kbal Spean
More carvings by the river

The Small Temple Ruin – Banteay Srei

The drive to Banteay Srei was not a far one, as Kbal Spean and Banteay Srei are very close to each other. This temple is a rather small one in size, despite its size it is one of the most beautiful one. As my guide explained, this temple was not built by a king, but the king’s counselors, and was dedicated to the women. As we walked into the temple, the first lintel has carvings that shown a god sitting on his 3 headed elephant on top of the immortal demon head. The carvings are exquisite and well preserved despite being created in around 900 AD. As we were walking along the causeway towards the temple, 2 rows of statues were visible which were for the purpose of decoration. As we approached the 2nd gate into the temple, my guide pointed out the carving on the beam, which looked like a demon devouring a god.  My guide explained that it was actually Vishnu in his lion reincarnation clawing the chest of the king of demons. The liveliness of the carvings are very much visible and well preserved all these years. As we entered 2nd gate, we saw the main temple itself. It is a 3 building temple, constructed very close to each other. On top of one of the building is a carving showing Garuda at the bottom subduing the serpents, on top was a scene showing the fight between the 2 monkey brothers over the throne of the king of monkeys. There are several carvings of asparas on the outer pillars of the 3 shrines. What amazes me about this temple is despite its small size, the temple has everything! 3 shrines to worship 3 gods, 3 libraries and tons of carvings. Despite it age, the carvings are very well preserved, most of them still display its glory at the time it was built! It did not take us long to complete the tour of this temple. Soon it was time for lunch.

Carvings on Banteay Srei
Ruins of Banteay Srei
The carving on this temple are rather intricate
Carvings on Banteay Srei
Ruins of Banteay Srei
Ruins of Banteay Srei
Carvings on Banteay Srei
Close up of the carvings
Ruins of Banteay Srei
Ruins of Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei from the outside
Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei
Carvings on Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei
Intricate carvings
Ruins of Banteay Srei
Ruins of Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei
Carvings on Banteay Srei
Carvings on Banteay Srei
Outside the temple
Great picture point of the temple

The Temple Built for Rituals – Pre Rup

After having lunch, we headed to our next destination, Pre Rup. This temple was built in the middle of 10th Century and was used for cremation rites. There was a platform as I walked into the temple and my guide explained that it was used to support coffins for cremation. After the body was burnt, it was transferred to a small chapel to the right of it for cleansing. Sounds like it was built for the assisting the dead into the nether worlds. According to history, this temple was once a state temple. This temple was once the centre of a city. Climbing up the stairs of this pyramid temple was by no means easy. The steps are tall and narrow, making it a challenge for people, especially people with MacDonald-sized feet. As I reached the top (the temple is about 12m from the ground), the view around this temple is amazing. I can see rice fields and afar, a sister temple to Pre Rup. On the main building, I can see the god Indra sitting on a single headed elephant on the lintel. Despite the age of this temple, this carving is still very well preserved. Now it is time for me to descend and get to my next destination, the width of the steps seemed challenging for me to get down. Using what my guide had taught me, getting down is actually not as hard as it seems. The sheer size and height of the temple struck me of the significance of this temple in its hay days.

Khmer food for lunch
Ruins of Pre Rup
This altar is for burial purposes
Ruins of Pre Rup
Lion Statue at Pre Rup
Ruins of Pre Rup
Ruins of Pre Rup
Ruins of Pre Rup
View from the top of Pre Rup
View from the top of Pre Rup
Ruins of Pre Rup
View from the top of Pre Rup
View from the top of Pre Rup
Ruins of Pre Rup
Ruins of Pre Rup
Ruins of Pre Rup
Ruins of Pre Rup
Ruins of Pre Rup
Ruins of Pre Rup
Ruins of Pre Rup
Ruins of Pre Rup

The Twin of Pre Rup – East Mebon

Not far from Pre Rup (about 5 mins drive), we reached East Mebon. A temple that my guide described as the twin of Pre Rup. Twin it might be, but this temple was not as grand as Pre Rup and is definitely much shorter. East Mebon has only 2 levels. The difference as my guide has pointed out in terms of structure is the presence of elephant statues in East Mebon. This temple used to be on an island in a baray, in order to access it people used to have to travel via boat. This is to guarantee a constant water supply by the king then into his city. This reservoir has now dried up and the landscape is totally different from yesteryears. This temple has a 5 building design at its centre, similar to its twin Pre Rup but less grand due to its height.

Ruins of Eat Mebon
Ruins of Eat Mebon
Ruins of Eat Mebon
Ruins of Eat Mebon
Ruins of Eat Mebon
Ruins of Eat Mebon
Ruins of East Mebon

Ruins of Eat Mebon

Ta Som – Image of Ta Prohm

The next temple that we visited was a rather small one – Ta Som. This temple, similar to Ta Prohm, has 2 4-face Buddhas on each of its entrance.  This temple is built around 13th century has quite a number of apsara carved into its pillars. My guide had explained to me that this is probably one of the hated temples by the hindus as it has carvings that depict Lord Vishnu and Shiva as a consort of Buddha. It is kinda an insult to their believes. The temple just looked ruined as you walked within it. My guide brought me to the other entrance of the temple. From the direction we came from, it look just like a normal tower. However once you cross to the other side of the temple, WOW you can see tree roots growing around the entrance opening decorating the entrance. This is some temple entrance you would see on tomb raider, very similar to Ta Prohm. I am just amazed how mother earth chose to decorate this abandoned temple.

 

Entrance to Ta Som
Carvings on Ta Som that survived the centuries
Ruins of Ta Som
Ruins of Ta Som
A small temple
Ruins of Ta Som
Ruins of Ta Som
Looks like these carvings have been restored recently
Carvings on Ta Som
Ruins of Ta Som
View of the 4 faced Buddha structure from behind
Ruins of Ta Som
Ruins of Ta Som
Ruins of Ta Som
Ruins of Ta Som

Neak Pean – The Water Temple

Walking around Ta Som did not take much time, due to its compactness. We soon headed for the next temple – Neak Pean. Neak Pean is not your usual temple as one would see (certainly not the ones I have seen so far). Before even getting to the temple, the walkway leading to it was rather unique. I had to walk through some water pool, which look like mangrove swamp. As I walked along the road leading to it, I can see some locals building wooden walkways for visitors. At one place, near to the temple I can see tons of tadpoles which seem like they are in clans or families gently swimming against the current. Once I reached the entrance, of this temple, I did not even realised it. It is not like the other temples which has a entrance gate, this temple is rather open. The main temple building has 2 nagas statues surrounding it, facing a horse statue with people assisting the horse. It seemed that the centre building of this temple is not accessible unless you wanna get wet as it is built into a squarish pond. Surrounding the pond is 4 other ponds, with 4 statues on each chapel representing each element on each side. We did not walk around to inspect each of the chapel as there were a bunch of Italian tourists around (would be too hard to get around it). After resting for about 5 mins, we made our way back to the entrance through the “water pathway” and headed for our next destination.

Walking towards Neak Pean
Walking towards Neak Pean
Schools of Tadpoles
Tadpoles up close
Walking towards Neak Pean
Neak Pean
Neak Pean
Neak Pean
Neak Pean
Neak Pean
Neak Pean

The Charming Preah Khan

This would be our last temple for the day – Preah Khan. The first impression it gave me was the entrance of this temple looked alot like that of Angkor Thom. It had 2 rows of gods and demons on each side, leading to a 3-doored gate, similar to that in Ang Kor Wat. On the boundary walls I can see a statue of Garuda being embedded onto the left side of the wall and a statue of a lion on the right side of the wall. My guide had told me that this was once a palace of one of the kings, which was then converted into a temple and presented to his father as a gift. What we saw was just a small fraction of it, I can see after passing through the gate, a huge mass of land now consumed by forests. We walked further into the temple site, what welcomed us was an elaborated entrance with statues of Nagas and lions as well as the remaining 1 of 2 guardians of the temple. Though some of the statues are in ruined condition, the entrance into the temple still remains well preserved. As we walked through the gates into the temple itself, the carvings on the lintel, depicting a hermit praying with 2 followers sitting on the immortal demon head.

Walking further into the very centre of the temple, a stupa can be seen. I was told that this stupa was only added around the 16th century. The original figure at this location was a a statue of the King’s father. We then walked around the courtyard of the temple, there are more carvings that can be seen on the lintels. One of them depicting a group of apsaras dancing, Buddha sitting on top of the immortal demon head. There is also a wall with a group of hermits that seem to be meditating. As I walked around the temple, I can see trees growing onto the building roof with its root dangling out. The most visible one would be the wall facing a 2 storey building on the left side of the temple as one enters into the temple compound. This tree literally tears the building a part by stamping its roots into the temple walls. Perhaps the most significant building in this temple is not the main temple building, but this building that was rumored to holds the sacred sword. It was believed that for the king to rule the country, he must have this sword in this possession. This sword was believed to be held in this 2 storey building that was located on the left side as we entered the temple site. It was also believed that when the King then gave the temple to his father, together with it, the sacred sword for his father to safe keep for him. However when invaders came to loot this temple, the sword was not found inside. As my guide has explained, the location and the existence of this sacred sword remains a myth to date.

Entrance to Peah Khan
Entrance to Peah Khan
Entrance to Peah Khan
Entrance to Peah Khan
Wall of Preah Khan
Walking into Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Restoration in progress
Ruins of Preah Khan
Inside Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan
Ruins of Preah Khan

Sunset Over Ang Kor Wat

As we walked out of the building heading for our next destination (hang on did I say Preah Khan was our last stop??), which is to watch sunset near Ang Kor Wat. In order to see this sunset event, I had to take a small walk up a hill to see it. As I walked up the hill, on the top was another temple ruins! This insignificant yet visited by many tourists daily was Phnom Bakheng temple. This temple was the first state temple at Ang Kor. This temple imitates the temple of Bakong at the Roluos group, which was the 2nd oldest temple in the history of Cambodia. This temple is around 13m high and enables visitors to see as near as Ang Kor Wat, as far as the West Baray. As the sunset was in the direction of the West Baray, I find it rather disappointing to see sunset towards this direction instead of over Ang Kor Wat, which the scenery would be nicer. Perhaps there were a lot of tourists gathering on top of this temple to watch sunset, making the place noisy rather then serene. On top I could see what seem to be some celebrities from Japan seem to be filming some documentary program, also I can see a bunch of tourists from China setting up a make shift table and playing cards. Geez…. they can really enjoy life! I did not wait for the sun to set before heading back downhill as it would be very crowded and dark. On my way down, I passed by this area where I can see what seemed to be a daily migration of some flying insects. As I was passing through them, the bunch of aunties behind me from Hong Kong was screaming as they pass through the insects. I was thinking they are scaring the insects more then the insects scaring them. I ended my long and tiring day with a buffet dinner with the traditional Khmer dance show. I did not stay long for the show as I was pretty tired after a long day of temple visitations.

Waiting for sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Waiting for sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Waiting for sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Waiting for sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Waiting for sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Waiting for sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Waiting for sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Waiting for sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Sunset over Ang Kor Wat
Traditional Khmer Performance
Traditional Khmer Performance
Traditional Khmer Performance
Traditional Khmer Performance
Traditional Khmer Performance
Traditional Khmer Performance
Traditional Khmer Performance
Traditional Khmer Performance
Traditional Khmer Performance
Traditional Khmer Performance
Traditional Khmer Performance
Traditional Khmer Performance

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