The Temples of Angkor Wat – Cambodia

For Chinese New Year 2014 which was late January, we did something that had been on our family bucket list for a very, very, long time. We went to Cambodia to visit the Angkor Wat Temples. 

That trip was triggered by the fact that after being in Asia for nearly 20 years, my wife, Susan was being transferred to the UK to take up a new role.

We were based in Asia from 1997 to 2014. In 1996 I commuted between the UK and Indonesia working on the build-out of a new mobile telco start-up in Jakarta. In 1997 Susan was transferred to Hong Kong where we lived from 1997 to 2002 and from 2007 to 2014. For the period 2002 to 2007 we lived in Singapore. Our daughter was born in Hong Kong in 2001 and our son was born in Singapore in 2005.

With Susan’s transfer to the UK in early January 2014 we had a split move. The children and I moved in July 2014 once the school year finished. Between those dates we commuted between Hong Kong and the UK sorting out school places for the children and a place to live in preparation for the move.

William had inspired us to visit Angkor Wat . He visited us in 2004 while we lived in Singapore and did a side trip to Cambodia that included Angkor Wat.

Most of the Angkor Wat Temples are Hindu Temples that over time have been re-purposed as Buddhist Temples.

Having started her new role in the UK in early January, Susan returned to Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year break at the end of January and we all headed to Cambodia where we based ourselves in Siem Reap and visited:

  • Angkor Wat
  • Lake Tonle Sap and Kompoung Pluk and the Temples of Rolous
  • Pre Rup, Banteay Srei, Neakpoan and Preah Khan Temples
  • Ta Prohm and
  • Bayon.
Map of Temples of Ankor Wat
Location of Angkor Wat Temples

Below are some photographs from that trip to Angkor Wat in January 2014. Back then the kids were 13 and 9. They are now 23 and 19! Our daughter has just finished university. Our son is just about to start university. Boy have those 10 years living in the UK flown by!

In December 2024 it will be 10 years since William and I started BajanThings – those 10 years have also flown by. William and I often sit back and are amazed at the very broad range of content that we have amassed over the last 10 years!

Siem Reap

Siem Reap is the nearest town to Angkor Wat where we based ourselves during Chinese New Year 2014 holiday. We started the trip exploring and learning to cook Cambodian food.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat was built in the early to mid 12th century. King Suryavarman constructed Angkor Wat like a mountain with 9 towers which can be seen from afar.  Angkor Wat was dedicate to Hindu God Vishnu and was King Suryavarman tomb after he died.

Lake Tonle Sap and Kompoung Pluk

Kompoung Pluk is a lake side village where the houses are built on poles 6m to 10m above the water to avoid flooding during the Monsoon season. 

Temples of Rolous

Having visited Lake Tonle Sap and Kompoung Pluk we then visited the Temples of Rolous – Preah Ko Bakong  and Lo Lei.

Pre Rup, Banteay Srei, Neakpoan and Preah Khan Temples

Banteay Srei which was built in the second half of the 10th century was dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. Banteay Srei means “citadel of the women”.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is a jungle temple. The crumbling towers and walls are locked in the slow muscular embrace of vast roots from HUGE tall trees that have engulfed this late 12 century temple for the ancestor of the great King Jayavarman VII.  

The Ta Prohm Temple complex provided the backdrop for the 2001 film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

This root-riddled Ta Prohm complex continues to capture the imagination of tourists.

Bayon

Bayon was built in the centre of the city of Angkor Thom. It is famous for the smiling faces of Buddhisatva Lokesvara (more likely the smiling faces of King Jayavarman VII himself!)

A visit to the temples of Angkor Wat is a must do – before Cambodia becomes spoilt by mass tourism. We hope these photographs of our visit might inspire you to visit one day.

Our one tip – pace yourself. Otherwise you can become templed out! There are lots and lots of temples. Its also equatorially hot and humid. You need lots of water with you.


William’s visit to Cambodia in 2004 (10 years prior to our visit in 2014)

In August 2004 while we were living in Singapore William visited us. On this trip he travelled to Cambodia. Here in addition to visiting the Angkor Wat Temples, William also visited Phnom Penh and Tuol Sleng (S-21) which was the main political prison and its Killing field at Choeung Ek.

Between 1975 to 1979 during the time Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime ruled Cambodia between 1,200,000 and 2,200,000 people were killed and buried in killing fields.

These mass killings were part of a mass social engineering project. By the time the Khmer Rouge were overthrown in 1979 by the Vietnamese military, it is estimated that around a quarter of the population had been exterminated. The Cambodian journalist Dith Pran coined the term “killing fields” after his escape from the regime.

Killing fields dot Cambodia, with more than 20,000 mass grave sites containing more than 1.38m bodies, according to the Documentation Centre of Cambodia. The largest of the killing fields was Choeung Ek on the outskirts of Phnom Penh which today serves as a monument to all those who died – and those who survived.

Tuol Sleng (aka S-21) was the main political prison in Phnom Penh, and was where suspected enemies were sent. As Pol Pot and the top commanders’ paranoia spiralled, so did the number of Cambodians detained at S-21. Once inside, prisoners were either tortured to death or sent to nearby Choeung Ek for re-education – meaning execution. An estimated 12,273 were detained at S-21, with only seven known survivors.

Those sent to Choeung Ek made the 17km journey crammed into the back of trucks. Once there, many were blindfolded and, not wanting to waste bullets, Khmer Rouge soldiers smashed spades into their heads before pushing them into pits containing the dead bodies of thousands. It is thought that about 17,000 men, women and children were executed at the Choeung Ek.

This is how William remembers his 2004 Cambodia trip:

Siem Reap was a very interesting place to visit. The numerous temples have been used by different religions over the centuries. Today the temples are a major tourist attraction.

After Siem Reap I took the ferry down the Tonle Sap River to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. This was a very memorable trip. It was fast, and crowded with cargo and people.

Did you know that the Tonle Sap river reverses flow away from the sea in the rainy season when the Mekong River is in flood. This increases the water level on the Tonle Sap Lake. So the houses surrounding the lake are built on stilts to accommodate the changing water levels.

Phnom Penh would have been very beautiful with the buildings set back from the river allowing the residents some space to walk and enjoy. The palace is amazing. With silver tiles on the floor and statues covered in real jewels.

I visited the site of the S-21 prison where the ethnic cleansing by the Khmer Rouge took place. This was formerly a school named Ponhea Yat named after a former Royal Ancestor.

The name was changed to S-21, an abbreviation for Security Office 21. It was under the direct control of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime who oversaw the crimes. It was left unchanged when the Khmer Rouge were ousted. Even the many original instruments of torture and stains on the walls and floor remain.

When I visited in 2004, they were in the process of excavating the mass graves. It was a very sad and emotional experience.

The other trip we did before moving to the UK in July 2014 was in March 2014 where I accompanied my son Conrad on a school trip to Xi’an in China to visit the Terracotta Warriors. That was another of our must do bucket list trips.





Response to “The Temples of Angkor Wat – Cambodia”

  1. David Miles-Hanschell

    Hi Peter

    Good evening from the Costa Clyde.
    Where as of today Summer has disappeared and we are back to a dreich Scottish Winter.

    What an amazing trip to Angkor Wat you and your family have had.
    Journeying mercies there and back.

    Our son David who is in the Merchant Navy has links to South East, Asia. He is based in Bangkok and his next vessel is currently being built in South Korea.

    Kind regards.
    David
    http://www.haitirelief.org.uk

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