Angkor Khmer cultural reserve

Angkor Archaeological park consists of 400 sq km of sites that were developed between the 9th and the 15th centuries. There are more than a hundred temples in the architectural park. The complex was developed by the Khmer empire and by the 16th century was largely abandoned and engulfed in the jungle. Angkor Wat started as a Khmer temple and then became a Buddhist temple.

A satellite view of Angkor tom, the larger square and Angkor Wat below it

There are many temple and palace complexes but the most important are Angkor Tom comprising 1008 ha, Angkor Wat 199 ha and Ta Prohm which is 8.2 ha. Angkor Wat is the most visited and best preserved site. Ta Prohm has been partially left in its state when found with the jungle encroaching into the buildings.

Ankor Wat

Angkor Wat is formed in a square surrounded by a moat 200 meters wide, which is crossed in the west by a stone causeway. The temple grounds inside the moat is protected by a large 4.5 m wall with ornate towers and gateways. Inside the wall is an area of 820,000 sq m that contains where the city was ( was built of wood and is gone) and the temple itself. This area is the oldest part of the architectural reserve built in the 9th century.

The entrance to the site ,west gate.
From the entrance gate to the temple is about 350 meters.

Angkor Wat was built as a Hindu temple but later became a Budhist temple. It was built as a temple dedicated to the god Vishnu and represents the legendary mount Meru with the five towers representing the five peaks of mount Meru. The large moat represents the sea

The main temple buildings seen from the west
One of the two large lakes in front of the temple
The central raised path leading to the temple

The temple has an outer set of galleries in a square and then an inner set of galleries and finally the central most sacred part with the central tower. The towers are ornate and represent a lotus bud. The core of the building is laterite covered in sandstone panels. All the surfaces of the sandstone are decorated with carvings representing battles or scenes from history and with beautifully carved figures called Devatas.

Some of the many Devatas
In the inner temple original paint decoration can still be seen
The first courtyard
Carving above the gate into the courtyard
One of the four corner towers seen from the courtyard some laterite is exposed
Some of the detailed carvings are still preserved
The outer temple wall with the outer gallery
Views inside the temple
The library set between the outer and inner galleries.
Inner courtyards

All the surfaces are decorated either with carvings of figures about a meter high or with patterns carved into the surface of pillars

Decoration on the pillars with human figures and animals set into an intricate pattern each circle is about 5 cm

Another pillar with an even more detailed relief

Another surface with detailed carving from about the year 1000AD

And Devatas about one meter high ,each one different

Details of one Devata with hair style and jewellery

Tombs just outside the temple

Angkor tom

Angkor tom is a much larger complex and was developed by the Khmer after they left Angkor Wat. The site is only about a kilometre from Angkor Wat. It is again enter by crossing a causeway and passing through a gate. The causeway is lined by statues with very interesting faces

The gate into Angkor Tom is still used by tourists and elephants
This gate has a large faces above the gate
Bacon is the largest building complex in Angkor tom
Each of the towers has human faces on all sides
The inner walls have detailed carvings
The main building has internal corridors and rooms still used by Buddhists
The whole complex is set in the jungle which comes right up to the edge of the site


Close to the Bayon site is the palace with its steep sides and many steps. Baphuon is approached by a smaller causeway

The site is surrounded by carved stones that come from parts of the palace

Close by is the terrace of the elephants that is part of the entrance to other temple complexes. Here there are again beautiful relief carvings of figures

Figures above the many headed cobra
Detail of the figures at the elephant terrace

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is probably the most photographed part of the Angkor reserve. This part has been partly preserved as it was found with the jungle growing through the buildings. Work has been done to make the site safe for tourists and to preserve the structure from further damage but has been left to experience how it was when found.

Trees grow around and through walls

These tree are hundreds of years old

Many of the walls and buildings have collapsed

But the carved details persist

Even with trees covering them

Perhaps they hold the buildings up now

They cover almost everything

And give a different beauty

Which is why the site is so popular with tourists

John Ayerst March 2017

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