Elephants, Monkeys and Temples

8:13:00 PM Unknown 4 Comments

"Remarkable in scale and architectural ingenuity, the ancient city of Angkor Thom, which means 'Great City' in Khmer,  was founded by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. At its peak it had a population of one million." It is surrounded by a tall wall 7.5 miles long and around that, a mote.  As I mentioned in my post about Angkor Wat, the sites are much bigger than I realized.  Bayon is just one temple in the large Angkor Thom complex which took the entire morning to explore. The pre-determined path to the Bayon is through the south gate.  It is a spectacular approach and we did it riding an elephant.  

The approach is lined with 154 statues representing gods (left) and demons (right) holding the serpent churning the milky sea. This path leads to a massive four-faced gate representing Jayavarman VII gazing in the 4 cardinal directions.  As you can imagine, riding an elephant ($20/person) was an atmospheric experience, but it was much bumpier than I anticipated making it very difficult to get good photographs. 
Along the way we saw lots of monkeys going about their business, hanging out in trees, foraging on the forest floor or just making mischief.  This little guy on the van hopped off and helped himself to a ride on the back of a mini-truck passing by filled with workers. Their squeals of fear left me laughing, but glad I wasn't the one in the back of the pickup. We were told the monkeys are aggressive, not so much mean, but accustomed to getting food from humans and will snatch your camera, hat or sunglasses if you aren't careful.
I had to include this photo of the elephant so you can appreciate just how large these animals are. Honestly, I don't know if I should feel more socially conscious about the treatment of animals.  We enjoyed our ride, but I didn't like it when our guide had to prod the animal causing him to squeal.  
I took lots of pictures of these dogs bearing their teeth, they just crack me up like they are a cartoon character growling at something.
The battle bas-relief scenes at the Bayon Temple provide a record of the war between the Khmer Empire and the Kingdom of Champa.  King Jayavarman VII was victorious in 1181.  If you look closely you will see elephants being used in battle.  This temple complex was one of my favorites, yet the artistry it is considered by some scholars to be in decline from earlier work.  That may be, but I thought it was great!
I had to take this picture for my niece, Payton, who regularly puts her leg behind her head.  
These carvings are so cool because you can actually understand the story that's trying to be told here and you can identify the sea critters.
The Bayon temple is known for its 54 towers carved with 216 faces. It's amazing, and they are all smiling.  Who doesn't love the idea of the gods smiling down on you?

This poor fella has a tough job.  He climbed up onto this tower with no safety harness or any protection that I could see, to pull weeds.  You've got to love your job, love your monument or be absolutely fearless because if you didn't die in a fall you'd be awfully banged up.

The next temple we visited in the Thom complex is called the Baphuon.  It is reached by walking across a 656ft raised causeway.  It was recently restored.  Eden started getting sick right about this time so she and Eliza sat under a tree while Bob and I took a quick gander.
These little darling boys were taking a swim as we walked up on them.  They didn't mind us at all and even smiled at me when I took their picture.
This picture gives you a good view of the raised causeway.

This Hindu temple is called Phimeanakes.


  1. I love all of your photos. I'm going to live in Asia soon, so I've been thinking of all the places I want to visit, and Siam Reap is at the top of the list. Your posts confirmed that for me. I'm not sure if I'll ride the elephant or not; it seems ridiculously uncomfortable!

    1. Thank Jeff! Good luck with your move and happy travels. We had a great time and if you can be in Bangkok for Sokran ( New Year) it is a blast!

  2. It was interesting for me to see how some of the pyramid style temples resemble the Mayan and/or Aztec temples. Wonder how that came to be?