Angkor Wat – What An Amazing Place!

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Angkor Wat Temple  at Sunset

One of my favourite destinations so far was Angkor Wat Archeological Park, Cambodia. I loved every temple that we visited, and as my parents had bought tickets that we could use for three days, over a week we saw many. My most-liked temples in the park were Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm and Tep Pranam.

Angkor Wat Temple is one of the most known temples in the world and the biggest religious site on earth. My family and I visited this temple a total of three times, originally to see the sunset, another time to see the sunrise, and the last to explore Angkor Wat’s third level.

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Angkor Wat Temple at Sunset

Our first visit to Ankgor Wat was very brief. If you bought your tickets after 5:00, you had a half an hour to visit and see the sunset for free as the park closed at 5:30. During this first visit, we had to reach the west side before the temple closed. Therefore, we had to run through the temple, and didn’t really get to appreciate it’s magnificence; however, once we had gotten across the moat, we got to enjoy the beautiful sun setting in front of the temple and the wonderful skyline.

 

 

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Angkor Wat at Sunrise

Our next trip to Angkor Wat was the following morning, which would also be our first day at Angkor Wat Archeological Park. We had woken up before the sun at 5:00 a.m., so we could maximize our time in Angkor Wat Archeological Park before it got too hot to function. Although the morning was quite chilly, and I had to use my shawl as a blanket, the classic silhouette of Angkor Wat against the brightly coloured sky was amazing, and I really enjoyed it. Visiting Angkor Wat is a very common at sunrise, so there were many people like us watching the sunrise from across the moat. I was very surprised to see that there were already thousands of people arriving to enter the temple at this early hour.

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View from the Third Level at Angkor Wat

On our last tour of Angkor Wat Temple, there were also thousands of tourists streaming across the walkway, already exiting the temple at 6:00 a.m.! While we were pushing our way through the hoards of people, Matthew spotted a monkey eating a boiled egg! It was both a hilarious and an extremely bizarre scene. Once we had gotten to the interior of Angkor Wat, where the stairs up to the third level were, we found a line that wrapped almost all the way around the base of the third level! We ended up waiting in line for and hour to climb up to the top level. When we got to the front of the line, we discovered that you had to be over 12 to climb to the top. As Matthew was 10, he had to wait at the bottom for us. We thought that this was unjust, as children under 12 were allowed to

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Matthew and I at Angkor Wat Temple

climb much more precarious staircases in other temples, and yet they weren’t permitted to ascend the perfectly safe ones at Angkor Wat. I really enjoyed the view from the top floor, but I thought that the final level of Angkor Wat wasn’t nearly as impressive as people had made it out to be. I didn’t think that Matthew was missing out on too much. As we were exiting the temple my Dad noticed that there were bas-reliefs carved into the walls of the temple. They mostly depicted different war scenes, and gods. We followed them and discovered that they wrapped all the way around temple complex itself. My Mom later learned from our tuk-tuk driver that those carvings were the longest in the world.

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Bayon Temple

On our first day after the sunrise at Ankgor Wat, we decided to head away from the crowds to visit Bayon temple. This temple is situated in Angkor Thom, a city where 1 million people lived during the Khmer Empire of the 12th century. This temple is mostly known for two reasons: it’s 216 gigantic faces and the only known documentation, in the form of a bas-relief, of how the Khmer people built their temples.

 

 

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Two Giant Heads at Bayon Temple

I really enjoyed our first visit to Bayon temple. As it was early in the morning, there weren’t many people there yet. We could go wherever we wanted without a hassle. This meant that we could spend time on the second level appreciating each pillar which had four faces on it, one pointing in each cardinal direction – North, East, South or West. A few minutes after we had descended from the second level, my Dad came running over to my Mom, Matthew and I and said that he had found the relief that showed how the Khmer built their temples. Looking at it closely, I noticed that the relief depicted a technique similar to how the Ancient Egyptians built their temples – by rubbing two stones together until they were perfectly smooth, and the stacking them on top of each other (with no mortar). This technique meant that the stones sat perfectly level and is one of the reasons why the temple still exists today.

 

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How the Khmer Built their Temples, Bayon

Our second visit to Bayon temple was tons of fun. There are two ancient libraries located on the grounds of Bayon highly dangerous very steep staircases. It was a lot of fun to climb up and down these staircases, as it felt more like climbing a mountain then a set of stairs! The libraries were situated, more then four meters above ground, and didn’t have much in the way of railings. I found it odd that children under 12 were allowed to climb such dangerous stairs, while at Angkor Wat ascending much safer stairs with a hand railing isn’t permitted.

 

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Matthew and a Giant Tree at Ta Prohm

We also visited Ta Prohm temple which is known for two things: part of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was filmed at this temple, and because of how nature has reclaimed it. I loved that there were many trees roots that had taken over and had either broken some of the ruins or were holding some of the parts of the temple together. One shrine even had a dead tree growing on top of it! I couldn’t figure out how it had grown up there. Half way through our visit, crowds of other tourists started to arrive, and my Dad got separated from my Mom, Matthew and I. We (minus my dad) got a little bit lost, but made our way through the temple to see many other huge tree roots covering parts of the site. Eventually, though, we found my Dad near the exit where we were supposed to meet our tuk-tuk driver.

 

 

 

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Tep Pranam 

Tep Pranam temple is also situated in Angkor Thom, approximately one hundred meters from Bayon temple. We had tried to enter this temple on our first day, and found that it was closed until 8:30 am, and we didn’t want to wait an hour for it to open. We attempted to visit Tep Pranam again on our last day, and discovered that children under 12 weren’t allowed to enter this temple either. My dad and I decided to look around quickly, while my Mom and Matthew stayed at the entrance. As the temple was built to represent Mount Meru (the mystical mountain worshipped in the Hindu religion), there were many, many steep staircases to climb. The Khmer people believed that the stairs represented the climb towards heaven and thus one needed to work hard to reach

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The Lying Buddha – Look in the Top, Left Hand Corner

the sanctuary at the top. My dad and I were soaked after ascending numerous stairs in the blitzing sun, and I was kind of glad that we weren’t permitted to climb up to the top level of this temple. Our decent was much easier then our ascent, as we weren’t in the sun. Nearing the last staircase, I spotted a disguised lying Buddha that was carved, but hidden in the wall! This Buddha was huge, about twenty meters long, and the face was almost invisible. I wouldn’t have even noticed it if there hadn’t been a sign that had information about the restoration of this gigantic carving.

 

 

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An Amazing Tree at Ta Prohm

Although we were lucky enough to see eleven other temples besides the four I mention, the archeological park is over 200 kilometers squared and could possibly take many years to fully explore. If you ever get to visit it, you need at least three or more days to see the major sites.

Volubilis – The Furtherest Roman Outpost!

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The Forum at Volubilis

My family and I visited the archeological site of Volubilis on the 28th of October, as part of a day trip from Fes.

The Forum Volubilis

The Forum at Volubilis

Volubilis is an ancient town that was first inhabited about 5 000 years ago by the Berbers. It had been invaded and conquered by many groups throughout history, including the Roman Empire during the 1st century C.E. Volubilis became the farthest outpost of the Romans until 285 when it fell back to local control. By the 8th century C.E., the Idriss family took the town and declared it as the royal city. Two hundred years later, in approximately 1000 C.E., the city was abandoned, and the royal city was moved to Fes. The ruins were devastated in 1700 by a tremendous earthquake, and were later rediscovered and uncovered during the early 1900s.

Volubilis is located about 85 kilometers from Fes or 35 kilometers from the city of Meknes. This area has very fertile soil, allowing for a lot of olive trees and grains to grow. Volubilis was also strategically protected by the two mountain ranges on either side, making the city hard to invade. The mountains also gave the city water through its natural springs. These are some of the main reasons that people settled in this location.

As the town had so many resources, it flourished. At one point, during Roman rule Volubilis housed more then 20,000 people! As Volubilis had become such a large Roman town, it contained a basilica, multiple temples, triumphal arch, and a forum, all of which we saw. There are many coloured tile mosaics that were the floors of the larger villas that are in pristine condition that are still outside exposed to the elements. Most of the mosaics represented an idea or told a story, such as the Zodiac, the Four Seasons, and one of Bacchus and wife Adriane, with Eros.

Overall, I really enjoyed visiting Volubilis because I found it very interesting to see the layout of a Roman town, not just read about it (PJO/HOO anybody?), and it was amazing to see buildings that had survived since the 1st century C.E.! I also really loved how you could touch the ruins. The only objects that you couldn’t touch were the beautifully preserved mosaics in the historic villas. If you are ever in Morocco, I highly recommend visiting Volubilis.

Ruins at Volubilis

Ruins at Volubilis

Triumphal Arch

Triumphal Arch

Mosaics at Volubilis

Mosaics at Volubilis

Ruins at Volubilis

Ruins at Volubilis