Wednesday, 3rd August 2016
Cambodia's other Angkorian era temples
Angkor Wat may steal all the headlines when it comes to temples in Cambodia, but there are plenty of others that date from around the same time. What’s more, these alternative Angkorian era temples get far fewer visitors, meaning you can have a truly magical experience without tripping over fellow tourists.
This 10th century temple is now visitable after years of conflict between the Cambodians and Thai population about who owns it. Up near the border between the two countries, it is in fact a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.
The pink sandstone Banteay Srei temple is one of a kind and has well-preserved examples of stunning bas-relief decoration. It’s a 45-minute drive away from Siem Reap, meaning it attracts fewer visitors than many of the others, but this 10th century masterpiece, which is dedicated to Shiva is well worth going out of your way for.
Situated to the east of Angkor, Pre Rup was constructed in the 9th century by King Rajendravarman. It was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, and some theories suggest it could have stood at the centre of a new capital city, the rest of which has not withstood the ravages of time.
For something entirely different, head to Kbal Spean, which constitutes a two-kilometre trek through the jungle. This archaeological site features an intricately carved riverbed, where images of Hindu deities can be seen, as well as depictions on dry land.
Built by King Jayavarman VII for his father, Dharanindravarman II in the mid-12th century, Ta Som is smaller than many of the other temples, but just as interesting. A favourite photo opportunity is the huge tree that has grown over the eastern gopura.
The 10th century East Mebon temple can be found on an artificial island in the centre of a now dried-up reservoir. Five towers crown the temple-mountain form and it is guarded by a number of beautifully carved stone elephants. It was constructed under the reign of King Rajendravarman II, but clues at the site suggest it was never finished.
The vast nature of the complex of Preah Khan suggests it is among the most important of the Angkorian temples. There is a certain amount of mystery about its history, but it is known that Suryavarman II, builder of Angkor Wat, and Jayavarman VII both lived here at points during their lives. This suggests it could have been the Angkorian empire’s second city.
While many of the temples in Cambodia have undergone a certain amount of renovation, Beng Mealea has been left almost entirely as it was found. This means that the 12th century structures retain their slightly collapsed facades and are covered in vines
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