Whilst it may be the iconic towers of Angkor Wat adorning the postcards and guidebooks, there’s a lot more to the Angkor Archaeological Park than one famous temple. Located six kilometres north of Siem Reap in northern Cambodia, the Angkor Archaeological Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-east Asia.
We were surprised to discover that the ancient city of Angkor offers more than one thousand temple ruins and monuments over an area of 400 square kilometres, and is a photographer’s paradise.
We had read some information about visiting the major temples in the reverse of the usual order taken by coaches and tuk-tuks. This proved to be valuable advice, not only for better photographs but we also remained one step behind or ahead of the crowds (depending on the time of day), often finding ourselves entirely alone in shaded courtyards, free to explore Angkor’s secrets.
Amongst our favourite temples were Bayon, the spectacular central temple of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, with it’s many carved stone faces ; Ta Pronh, largely left to the clutches of the living jungle and where, at any moment, you might expect to see Indiana Jones come leaping out at you ; and Banteay Srei, the “Citadel of Women” where, it is said, that the reliefs on the temple are so delicate that they could only have been carved by the hand of a woman .
One modern engineer has estimated it would take 300 years to complete the building of Angkor Wat today – yet the monument was begun soon after King Suryavarman II came to the throne in the early 12th century, and was finished shortly after his death, thus taking no more than 40 years to complete. Amazing!