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Today you enjoy a full day of sightseeing in and around the site of one of Asia’s most magnificent archaeological ruins which were part of one of the most powerful kingdoms to rise in Southeast Asia.
Morning: Angkor Thom Complex — the Great City of Jayavarman VII
Today start your Angkor exploration with the ancient fortified city of Angkor Thom, built in the 10th century by the greatest of the Khmer rulers, King Jayavarman VII (1181 – 1201). With a population of over one million inhabitants, Angkor Thom covered an area of 10 square kilometers and was larger than any city in Europe at the time.
We travel to the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom. Then walk along the 8m-high laterite wall (500m) of the ancient city to the relatively unvisited and magical East Gate, also known as the “Gate of Death”. Then move on to Bayon, Jayavarman’s state temple at the center of the city. Start exploring the lower levels with bas-relief carvings and gradually make our way to the inner walls where unfinished carvings were later completed during the reign of King Jayavarman VII. The structure of the giant faces of the Bayon temple is staggering in its construction and most Angkor specialists agree that it is one of the finest examples of classic Khmer architecture. Its third level is stunning – 49 towers are adorned with 172 smiling faces of the omnipresent Avalokitesvara. Sixteen chapels inside the structure indicate its religious importance, while on the outer perimeter over 1,200 meters of exquisite bas-relief record scenes of daily life from 11th-century Angkor.
Wrap up this morning with the monumental Baphuon temple and the Royal Enclosure nearby. Baphuon is the huge Hindu temple mountain in the heart of Angkor Thom. It was built in the mid-11th century by King Udayadityavarman II. Note the unique animal carving at the walkway entrance and the large reclining Buddha on the west side, which was added to the temp at a much later period. Finally, take a brief stop at the Royal Enclosure to see the Elephant Terrace, the terrace takes its name from the exceptional depiction of elephants and of an elephant hunt, which takes up the majority of the frieze. A little north of the main terrace is another, known as the Terrace of the Leper King after a statue found above it.
A picnic Khmer lunch near Srah Srang “The Royal Baths”
Enjoy a traditional Khmer lunch at the beautiful traditional Khmer wooden house overlooking the royal bathing pool of Srah Srang regarded as the quintessential Angkor experience. In a serene setting amid the rural village atmosphere of Angkor, the traditional wooden house is the perfect private escape from the crowds and to wind down during the heat of the day while exploring the temples.
Afternoon: The magical Ta Prohm & Angkor Wat until sunset
Later this afternoon, we continue to discover the amazing jungle-entwined Ta Prohm also known as the “Kingdom of the Trees” or “Tomb Raider Temple”. Climb over its crumbling stonework and marvel at the tree roots dripping down the temple’s walls and see weathered Buddha faces appear in bas-relief and giant tree roots seem to flow over stone walls. Once home to 600 exquisite dancers, Ta Prohm is a wondrous site, with giant fig and kapok trees strangling the ancient stonework in a photogenic interplay of man and nature. This temple was built by King Jayavarman VII (1181-1219) as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. It has been featured in several Hollywood movies such as Tomb Raider, Indiana Jones, and Two Brothers.
Then move to explore the mightiest Khmer temple and the world’s largest religious monument of Angkor Wat until sunset. Angkor Wat is stunning at any time of the day, but sunrise and sunset are especially beautiful times to watch the play of light on the stones and sculptures. Lose yourself in contemplation as you catch the rays of the sun dancing off the bas-relief carvings at sunset.
Constructed under the reign of Suryavarman II (1113-1150), the temple’s greatest sculptural treasure is its 1-mile-long bas-relief that wraps around the walls of the outer gallery along with the 2000 figures of Khmer Devas and Apsara dancers decorating the temple, and the construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Angkor Wat is a representation of Hindu cosmology and is dedicated to the god Vishnu. The five towers of Angkor Wat are the representation of the five peaks of Mount Meru, home of the gods and the center of the Hindu universe.
Angkor’s Dress Code:
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Full Day (8.00 am – 4.00 pm)
Explore the countryside with an ox cart ride and offer alms to a Buddhist monk
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6 Hours (Morning / Afternoon)
Introductory briefing, Elephant meet and greet & observation trek. (2km)
Make enrichment and watch the elephants play by the pond